Hi there - we experienced night terrors when our daughter was 2/3. Here is some information on night terrors from the Berkley Parents Network...
Things That Go Bump in the Night
Coping with Night Terrors
It's 10 p.m. You're dozing on the couch and decide it's time to go to bed. Just about the time your head hits the pillow, a bloodcurdling scream from your toddler's bedroom propels you like a shot down the hallway. You find her sitting up in bed, wide-eyed. She's screaming and flailing her arms. It's one of the scariest things you've ever seen. As you rush to her, you see she doesn't appear hurt or sick. It must be a nightmare, you think. "I'm here," you say as you put your arms around her. But she pushes you away. The more you try to calm her, the more upset she gets.
What's going on?
Most likely, your child is having a night terror - a relatively rare sleep disorder that appears mostly in young children. Two or three percent of all children will experience episodes of night terrors. Yet by the time they reach school age, most children will have outgrown these generally harmless events.
It's a normal phenomenon of childhood," says Harry Abram, M.D., a neurologist with The Nemours Children's Clinic. "As the brain matures and a child's sleep pattern matures, the terrors go away. This usually happens by age six."
Night Terror or Nightmare?
A night terror is not the same thing as a nightmare. Nightmares occur during the dream phase of sleep known as REM sleep. The circumstances of the nightmare will frighten the child, who usually will wake up with a vivid memory of a long movie-like dream. Night terrors, on the other hand, occur during a phase of deep non-REM sleep - usually an hour or two after the child goes to bed. During a night terror, which may last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour, the child is still asleep. Her eyes may be open, but she is not awake. When she does wake up, she'll have no recollection of the episode other than a sense of fear.
Can I Help My Child During a Night Terror?
It's helpful to know that although these events may be disturbing for you, night terrors themselves are not harmful to your child. But because a child may get out of bed and run around the room, doctors do advise parents to gently restrain a child experiencing night terrors. Otherwise, let the episode run its course. Shouting and shaking your child awake will just agitate him more.
Can Night Terrors Be Prevented?
It's likely that if you or your spouse had night terrors, your child will too. Fatigue and psychological stress may also play a role in their occurrence. Make sure your child is getting plenty of rest. Be aware of things that may be upsetting to your child, and to the extent you are able, try to minimize the distress.
Children usually have night terrors at the same time each night, generally sometime in the first few hours after falling asleep. Doctors suggest you wake your child up about 30 minutes before the night terror usually happens. Get your child out of bed, have her talk to you. Keep her awake for five minutes, and then let her go back to sleep.
Night terrors are a normal, if frightening, phenomenon of childhood. If they occur frequently or over a long period of time, however, discuss this with your child's physician.
Fast Facts Night Terrors...
Are not dangerous.
Are most common between the ages of three-five.
Run in families.
Occur in the first third of the sleep cycle.
What worked for us was to go in 1/2 hour before the night terror was "scheduled" to start and rouse her from sleep - not enough to wake her completely - we would just sit her up and give her a small drink of water. I've also heard that you can dunk their feet into a sink of cold water but we never had to try that. Good luck!