Posted by: johno | 2004/10/20


18 month toddler with nightmares

Hi Doc,

Our 18 month old toddler has woken up screaming with a look of utter panic on his face. This has happened twice now about 3 months apart. He almost looks 'possessed' as his eyes are open but he does not see anyone, he looks straight through us. The 'attack' lasts for about 15 minutes and then he calms down and returns to normal. It happens about 1hour after going to bed. Please advise.

Expert's Reply



We do not always know why these things happen, but it is well described and sometimes called "night time terrors". The most important thing is that there are no accompanying signs like abnormal movements etc. that your child is not feverish and that his development is normal. The best advice is to provide some comfort without waking them. These episodes usually pass with time.

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

user comments


Posted by: robin | 2004/11/02

johno, my little girl is 5 years old now and i know what u are going through. what eventually helped for us, was to put soft, relaxing music on in her room. (majors for minors etc)

but try not too wake him up - they seem to be even more upset then. i also did what Lee did - and that seemed to work when they actually got the nightmares. good luck.


Reply to robin
Posted by: Lee | 2004/10/22


we had the same problem with our son when he was about a year old - it happened every night. now he's 16 months old it happens less.

i found that the best thing to do was to murmur softly to him and stroke him gently. He was usually sitting straight up or even standing up in his cot, so i'd gently lie him back down and stroke his tummy/chest and he'd fall back into a normal sleep without actually waking up. at the begginning, i'd pick him up and he'd wake up and it would be much worse. i thought that because his eyes were open, he was awake, but he wasn't.

it'sjust something you have to get through with the least amount of fuss possible.

Good luck

Reply to Lee

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