Solving Night Terrors Lickety-split

We’ve come upon a great solution for night terrors in my house (OK, my wife actually came up with it :) that worked with our son and thousands of others. If you’ve ever run in to this with your child, you’ve probably noticed that your kids are stuck in a state of unfamiliarity, making it not only scary for them, but for you as well.

One night when this was happening to our son, it occurred to Cheryl (whom may of you have chatted with in the comments – she’s ‘MsGreene’) that the issue may be related to potty training. The two often occur in toddlers at around the same age, there was certainly a decent chance they were related.

So we ran a little test, and of course she was right. Her idea solved our son’s night terrors instantly. It was pretty awesome. Watch the video below for our ‘secret’ solution to night terrors!

If your kids are experiencing night terrors, give this a try. It’s an easy, effective solution to night terrors without incident.

Has this tip helped you? Let us know in the comments. If your kids are having other sleep issues, feel free to drop us a question about those as well.

Published on: January 28, 2016
About the Author
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Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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Recent Comments

If people haven’t tried dream catcher oil it works amazing for terrors or any sleep issue. Id b happy to give more info but it stopped our terrors right away. Saved us so much horrible nights. My daughter has them from 18 months to 6 yrs. Now we use the oil eveey night.

This makes SO MUCH SENSE!!! About 2 months ago our 6-year old daughter started going to bed without pull-ups (a grand accomplishment!). Around that same time is when the night terrors began. She will say things like “my tummy hurts” but I bet that’s just her body telling her that she needs to sit on the toilet. I can’t wait to try this technique next time and see what happens.

Hi Phil,

Please let us know what happens!

Best, @MsGreene
Note: I answer a lot of questions on, I am the co-founder of, Dr. Greene’s business partner and wife, but I am a not doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

My son just turned 3 mouths and he has nightmares or night terrors. He just wakes up and starts screaming out of no where and cries and cries. It takes him about 10 minutes to stop and he’s trying to catch his breath after that. I don’t know what’s causing this. Help please.


Dr. Greene has a great Q&A on the subject of why and how to stop them. You can read the full Q&A for some solutions that may work for you — Treating Sleep Terrors.

Co-founder & Executive Producer, Mom
Note: I answer a lot of questions on, I am the co-founder of, Dr. Greene’s business partner, but I am a not doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

Our son is 20 years old now, he started at age 6 having night terrors. It’s been off and on ever since, seems like quite a few years now since one, but just the other night he had one. He just moved out with his girlfriend-gave her quite a scare.

The triggers that we also realized were the cause, besides going to the bathroom, were keeping his room cool at night, only putting a comforter on his bed with no top sheet, no socks He usually would have a terror if running a fever or over tired. I even started waking him up after he would go to sleep about a half an hour into his sleep…good luck

Wow, what a relief that we aren’t the only ones in this boat! Our 3-almost-4yr old has been having night terrors on & off for the past 6 months or so, but only a few days ago did it dawn on me what was going on. We knew she was waking because she needed to go potty (often because she had refused to go before bedtime), but if we tried to take her to the bathroom she would start screaming and kicking and hitting and generally thrashing all over the place. There’s no reasoning with her at all – it’s like she’s sleepwalking, sort of. Totally scary when you don’t know what the deal is. When we ask her to go potty, she always says no, but it’s obvious she needs to go.

The only thing we’ve found that sort of works (and only sometimes) is to ask her if she needs to go potty, and if she doesn’t say yes then we send her back to bed. Over and over and over again until she finally wakes up enough to be willing to go potty. And then she sleeps great the rest of the night. The other nights that she is about to pee all over herself or the floor so we try to carry her to the bathroom screaming and thrashing and attempt to get her to sit on the toilet…those are rough. Any ideas would be great!

We’ve been there. One thing that Dr. Greene suggests is not to ever ask a child if they need to or want to go potty. Instead he says, “It’s potty time!” in a cheerful voice and then take the child to the potty. This minor shift takes the decision making burden off the child and can help break the cycle.

If you give this a try, please let us know how it turns out.

We found your web page by chance after trying to figure out if it was night terrors or nightmares we were dealing with, with our 2y9mths son. We had tried numerous techniques over the five months we had been dealing with constant night waking every two hours for most of the night beginning around 9.30pm. We had started toilet training in earnest six months ago. We thought we’d give your wife’s idea a go as nothing else had worked and we had no other ideas, and were physically and mentally drained.
All we can say is – thank you, thank you, thank you! Our night terrors have started to stop recurring all night long, he settles back to sleep after going to the toilet. We wake to a happy little boy again who isn’t tired and irritable. We are slowly getting our little man back and feels wonderful! We now think your wife should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize :)

We solved the night terrors by getting rid of Yellow 5 and 6 in our daughter’s diet. And thank goodness, because night terrors are awful for both the child and the parent!

That’s really interesting. I’d like to know if anyone else had similar success as well.

Julie, I agree. Night terrors are traumatic for everyone. Thanks so much for sharing your solution.

What great advice! Has anyone else tried getting food colors out of your child’s diet to solve night terrors? If so, please let us know.

Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

Very interesting. My daughter only had night terrors a few times but I don’t think it was related to potty training for her. She had been nighttime dry since before her 1st birthday. She has just never peed at night. Now that she’s 7 she does occasionally get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom but she’s only ever wet the bed once.

For my daughter I learned to predict when she would have them after noticing it would be on nights where she was over tired and over stimulated, such as when she may have stayed up late running around with kids when we had company. Almost inevitably she would have a night terror as she came out of her 1st sleep cycle.

I had read that since night terrors are not nightmares, therefore kids usually don’t remember having the night terror. The first night terror was pretty scary for all of us. Now that I know what it is I usually just hold her (if she’ll let me), rub her back or her head while whispering quietly “Mommy’s here.” Trying to fight the night terror or wake her up was usually worse. The night terror would either be longer, or she’d wake up in the middle and be scared because she didn’t know why she was crying and screaming. Once I realized it wasn’t a nightmare, and is just a miss-fire in the brain as she transitioned from 1 sleep cycle to another it was easier to wait it out. Then it usually didn’t last more than 20-30 minutes… husband, of course, slept through it :)

That makes sense! Night terrors come from the clutch slipping (figure of speech) between the gears (cycles) of sleep – and several things can cause it. Potty issues seem to be huge, but being overtired or over stimulated can do it too.

Realizing that this is the issue – rather than a scary nightmare – makes it so much easier to handle.

Now, if we could just figure out a solution for husbands :) …

Your videos are fantastic! I have had night terrors since I was a kid, and STILL have them a couple times a year. But, if I am encouraged to get up, and go to the bathroom I won’t have another night terror that night. If I don’t get up, I will have several night terrors in a row in one night. Not fun! :(

Thanks, Dawn! Not fun, but really appreciate your sharing. Valuable insight from your experience.

That’s exactly what we discovered with our oldest daughter – starting when she was around 4 yo, she would begin to be agitated and cry and trash in the bed every night around midnight. She had been potty trained for a long time already (we practiced Elimination Communication), but still, I found out that if I could get her to the toilet, she would pee, go back to bed and fall sound asleep immediately. It was a struggle usually – she would kick us away, scream when we tried to touch her, answer no if we asked her if she needed to go pee and be totally incoherent. Sometimes we had to wait a while, and at some point we would be able to carry her, sometimes struggling a bit with her, or have her walk to the bathroom. Very rarely would she wake up and tell us she needed to go pee. Now she is 6 and since a few months, she usually sleeps very calmly all night long, or wakes up and goes to the bathroom by herself – it is so nice!

Ahhhhh! Julie, great you have made it though this stage – and powerful that you could get your daughter back to sleep by peeing, even though she had been potty trained and protested that she didn’t need to go.