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Has your child ever woken up at night, physically appearing to be
awake, but you were unable to get his or her attention? If so, then
you may be one of the roughly 20% of parents who have a child with
night terrors (also known as sleep terrors). We are conducting a
study at the Stanford Sleep Center on the use of a home sleep
management treatment for night terrors. Follow this link to learn
more about night terrors and available studies (including options if
you don't live in the San Francisco Bay Area):
For general information about participants rights, contact 1-866-680-2906.
Thank you for your help with this important research!
Sorry, but we don't have anyone who can answer questions about night terrors. This is just a parent-to-parent advice service and there's just one mom keeping this website up to date!
|Suggestions and comments from readers||Discussions by BPN subscribers:|
I've read most of the comments on here and almost all the issues you all wrote down, my son (whom just turned 6) has, except for one symptom. When he wakes up in the middle of the night around 1 or 2am his body temperature drops, he is not getting hot but cold and when the terror runs its course his temperature starts to go back to normal as well as his pupils; and he goes back to sleep and forgets whatever he was dreaming about. He has had these terrors since he was 3, about every 3 to 4 days un till he was 4 and half. Then they just stopped for a while and have recently returned about 3 months before his 6th birthday. I have no clue on how to help him, or what made the terrors come back, but hopefully they will go away again and not return. Michelle
My 11 yr old daughter's night terrors are almost certainly linked to overheating, so I'm hoping that maybe some of parents might get some relief by trying some of the things that work with us.
She has had them most of her life, and they are rarer now, but we have had a recent spate of episodes following a very high fever one night, and it has reminded me of our lessons. In retrospect, I believe I might have had something similar when I was a child, particularly when ill.
She has a very light duvet, or only a sheet - even though we live in England ! She only ever sleeps in a vest and shorts / pants at most. We tie her very thick, long hair high up every night. She always has her window open letting in a breeze.
If she has an illness, she has a dose of calpol / nurofen before she goes to bed to try and keep on top of her temperature whilst asleep.
I warn the babysitter or the parents of her friends if she is sleeping over, because it is very shocking thing to witness if you haven't seen it before, always leave your phone on if they are sleeping elsewhere so you can respond in an emergency.
We found the episodes so distressing because she seemed fully awake, but was looking for us and calling out in a blind panic, even if we were right in front of her. I know the sites say don't wake them up, but it seems that if you can trigger another part of the brain to start functioning, she comes 'back to herself' seamlessly from being within her terror, and she can begin talking completely normally with no memory of her anxiety moments before. We now bang the light on, talking very loudly and clearly, getting her to have a drink or something to eat, and something like counting backwards from a hundred (do it with them loudly at first), then we ask her to count backward in twos, or 'take away four' - her brain seems to start focussing in on the calculation and comes back to reality.
Last point, I agree with making sure they are fully awake first - even if they seem to be subsiding back into sleep as that might give you only a few minutes rest before they are back where they started and you have to go through it all again.
Re danger, in our experience, she can navigate stairs and obstacles as if she were fully awake even in the deepest night terror. Good luck!
Hi I have a little advice about night terrors.
My two sons (now 16 and 6) got these when they were about 4. My eldest son got randomly between 4 and 8 and he was very terrorized by the dreams . He wasn't awake although he appeared awake. They lasted 1.5 hours sometimes. He was acting psychotic and spooked. Eventually I worked out I had to make him shout out loud for the dream to go away. And we realised you can control your dreams in this way. First time took a little while and eventually we went straight to "GO AWAY DREAM " and they pretty much stopped after that.
When the night terrors started with our next son - they weren't as severe
but he talked about not wanting to go to sleep because of dreams. I
discussed how you can change your dreams if you don't like them.And I
told him how If he woke in the night we would change the dream and he
hasn't had many more episodes. He does get phantom night pains in his
foot before events which make him nervous which I am trying to work out.
Hope this helps
Debbie in NZ
After reading some of the comments here and some of the solutions to have tonsils and adenoids removed I am convinced that night terrors are allergy related. I used to suffer with night terrors but only remember one episode and my father was worried about it to his dying day. "You were so terrified of me, it was terrible, totally shook me." I simple said I was ill Dad, it was the high temperature. Later I had my tonsils and adenoids out and things improved. Now I am very allergic to milk and all its products and wheat and gluten. Now if I wake in the night it is with a suddenness and a feeling of doom and I can always relate this back to a consumption of something I am allergic to. Milk is a fabulous food if you can tolerate it so it is very unfortunate to have to avoid it and also a cause of further ill-health and magnesium and calcium supplement plus some animal fats will need to be sourced. Try avoiding milk and its products and see if there are any changes. I hope this helps
My daughter has had night terrors Scene birth. Now she is 6 and it's getting worse. The scary part for me is my Brother whom is now gone had them too. Had them his whole life. They plagued him so much that we belive it played apart in him taking his own life. It terrifies me to think about it. I've tried all the precautions before bed. Last night she sat straight up in bed and screamed that someone was in the room. Then she began hitting herself in the mouth. I don't know what to do. No one I know has been through this. My family and my friends tthink I'm crazy. Advice is all I need.
Hi my 5 year old daughter suffers from night terrors on and off for the last year. She used to remain in bed as these terrors happened up intill 2 weeks ago. She now ru s frantically about the house screaming , terrified and has no knowledge of this by morning. It happens an hour or two after falling asleep and is happening every night, I feel approaching her to help of comfort her makes things worse , by standing back but insuring she is safe reduces the terror from 15 mins down to 5 mins, it upsets me every night even after telling myself to be strong, she has hurt her self 3 times by banging into doors etc so my main aim at the moment is keeping her from anymore harm, until our paediatric appt comes thru we have to the ride this out, completely heartbreaking to watch as a parent.
My daughter has no memory of the episodes and is a happy child during the day I've tried to explore any issues that could be bothering her but nothing. I've tried many things which I have read on sites but havnt worked.stripping her down at night so she's not over heating , no joy , she has a normal bedtime routine no late nights so she isn't sleep deprived.
I feel talking to her makes things worse so I now remain silent and receive a cuddle if she gives one. My daughter has large tonsils and breathes and snores heavily in the night I am now waiting for appt to get this looked at,in case this is triggering terrors. I slept walked as a child and know that she has likely got this from me but I never experienced terrors.
I am concerned about how fast my child runs at night as I now have to act as a cushion as she throws herself about whist screaming mummy mummy mummy , I have had to speak with my neighbours so they understand what's happening as I have enough stress at the moment without worrying what my neighbours are thinking, I'm hoping this stops soon but infill then we all need to support each other and try and cope with this Rosie
I was looking for information on night terrors and the triggers and have found it really useful reading all the accounts from other parents. My son is 10, nearly 11 yrs and has awful night terrors. He seems to have them when too hot, or when stressed. He also often has them after something has upset him emotionally in the day. He can be very shaky during a terror, sometimes he can seem terrified but does not want to be touched or comforted, and other times he will cling to me and act in a very odd disorientated way?
He often speaks but not in a way I can understand. He also sometimes hallucinates during the terrors, and in the past has spoken of the walls moving , or teddies moving which can be really scary.
I have also noticed a link between medicines and his terrors. There is a certain cough/cold mixture which we can't give him anymore as it gave him terrors every time we used it. Would love to know if there is any official research into night terrors, and methods of prevention. I find it really upsetting watching him, and not always knowing how to help him. His sister is also sometimes upset if aware of the episodes, and finds it scary.
Im so glad ive found this page. Its currently 2am here in Scotland and i habe yet to get to sleep. Like the last post i have a 4 and a half year old daughter who has had night terrors for as long as i can remember. On a good night ita 1 on a bad its 4-5. I havent been to see my GP as thought it was something she would grow out of but now after seeing this page and others tonight im going to make an appointment as it really upsets me seeing her like that. When i was younger i would sleep walk and sleep talk and wonder if this is the reason why she has her night terrors but my family have told me that i wasnt like that and it was rare and when i was older. It has now started to get me down and her sleep pattern is being affected. I think its worse as she wont let you comfort her or even try and talk to her to sooth her as she just screams "Leave me" "go away" but tonight she was in floods of tears after her attack which upset me was its bad enough with her screaming and walking around the house yelling but the crying got to me as it was an upset cry. I have friends who are having babies and ask me when my daughter slept through the night and when i reply she doesnt they cant believe so i explain what happens with her and they dont quiet believe it. Hopefully our little onea grow out of it soon x x x
It is so nice to find a group out that there that actually understands what we are going through. My 4 year old daughter has suffered with night terrors for almost 2 years and they happen every single night. Sometimes she only has one a night but often she has 3-4 of them. Every night is different for us. Hers start very early in the night so it does not interrupt our sleep, thank goodness. Hers begin anywhere from 25 - 55 minutes after she first falls asleep in her Non-REM sleep. We used to be able to let her work it out herself when she was in her crib and just watch her on the video monitor and after 12-15 minutes, she would fall back asleep suddenly. It has gotten so much worse ever since we transitioned her to a big girl bed. The first one is always the worst and the most violent. For the last 8 months or so, she sleep walks with them so she stands/jumps around in her bed and then jumps off the end of the bed and comes into our room or the hallway screaming. She is profusely sweating, has her eyes open (but sees through us and doesn't recognize us)and screams. Sometimes she even hides behind something from us and tries to hit us if especially agitated. She has gotten hurt falling out of the bed and running into things. We did a sleep study that showed she has mild obstructive sleep apnea, she has very small tonsils and does not snore. We finally had her adenoids removed a month ago even though they were not all that big (only 50%) just to see if it might be the culprit or help in some way. So far, it has not helped but maybe it will with more time. We have run every blood test, tried prescription iron (as they are often associated with low iron or ferritin levels-if this can help anyone out there), tried prevacid (she had terrible silent acid reflux as a baby so we saw her old GI doctor to see if reflux could be causing the episodes), we have tried waking her up 15 minutes before we think she might have one but often that is hard because she has them at different times after she has fallen asleep, we have tried melatonin, we have tried nasonex in her nose before bed and now we have just had surgery. One sleep specialist wanted to put her on klonopin but we do not want to go that route. I have also tried to make her go to the bathroom during them as I have heard there is a link between a full bladder and night terrors. She will actually go while she is thrashing around and screaming but it is not much and I do it more so to trigger her brain into a waking up a little bit so I can calm her down some and I have found this technique shortens the length of her night terrors. Afterwards, I also make her drink water for the same reason... She has been potty trained for over a year but does still wear a pull up at night. I cant seem to find any case out there that is similar to ours (I feel like most kids snore, have large tonsils, etc so once removed it cures them or they don't happen every night or they only happen when the child is overly tired or sick or stressed). Hers are worse when she is sick but no matter what, sick or healthy, she has at least one or two a night with some confusional arousals thrown in there afterwards (where she cries out, sits up, and then goes back to sleep). My daughter goes to bed between 7 and 7:30 pm. As a side note, she had intestinal malrotation as a baby (twisting of the intestines) so I am wondering if there is a link. I have been to her ENT, GI doctor, 2 different pediatric sleep specialists and her pediatrician and still don't have any answers. I keep hearing she will outgrow them but we have been waiting for almost 2 years now for that to happen and night terrors have taken over our lives. But the good news is that she has no idea in the morning and it does not affect her behavior or energy level during the day. I am so worried that night terrors are really a part of an underlying health issue since hers are so severe and since she did have intestinal issues as a baby. I whole heartedly believe that there has to be more out there that can help us all.
Good luck to everyone and please post if anyone has tried something that has helped their child-I am willing to try anything!
My oldest daughter started having nt at age 4. The first time she would just wake up in bed and start yelling and crying for me. It was very odd because one min she wanted me and when I would put her down she would start crying for me and want me to pick her up. Since then she would wake up crying and come strait to my room and I would pick her up and put her on my lap on the couch and try to get her to go potty or get a drink. Then one night when she was 6 she put her coat on remind you should just got out of bed so she only had a shirt and panties on. I asked her where she was going and she didnt answer. I asked her if she needed to go potty and she said yes and we went to the bathroom where her shoes just happen to be and with her foot she flipped over the right shoe and tried to put it on. I told her we wasn't going anywhere and lets take her coat off. Now shes 7 and has had 3 in the last 30 days. The last 2 she has woke up and the first night went to the bathroom and got a bottle of lotion and was holding it like she holds her dolls or stuffed animal then she came to my room to get me like usual.. The next time she went to my sons room and got his pillow he uses for preschool then came to my room. Im putting a baby monitor in her room so I will hear her immediately before she starts wondering around the house. She has had several test ran and of course no explanation. Its very scary for a parent when they get this old because they know how to unlock doors. We are also placing a chain high up on the door.
My son started having all the classic symptoms of NT. They seem to worsen with change. We moved and my five year boy started having them again. After about six months and settle in our home, the NT have stopped. We have moved again and he is 8 and half and the NT have started again. I am a nurse and have researched in depth and have come to realized change has some trigger pt for NT. Has anyone else reached the same conclusion? Shari
Recently my 8year old great grandson whom we are raising has begun to
suffer NTs. He begins by whimpering, jerking and becoming agitated then
he either falls out of bed or jumps out. He then wanders about but
sometimes then starts to bang himself against doors and walls as he tries
to leave the room. He becomes very strong and jumps out of windows.
Last week he even climbed up into his tree house. We even called our two
neighbours (Drs) at that point, to come and help us; it was 6am. Neither of
them could help and seemed to be as much at a loss as we were. On
reflection it seems to us that more people near him were making him worse
- both doctors turned the lights full on and talked to him while one held him.
It did not work, only agitating him more. It was an hour and a half before he
began to come out of the state. He always begins these NT after 4 am and
mostly from 5-6am. This morning he called me at 5.45am and said he
wanted to go to the toilet but couldn't get out of bed. I thought he was
awake and helped him out. He got back in his bed and after a couple of
minutes began whimpering and jerking. I gently spoke to him and
suggested it was nearly time to get up for school (7am) and that perhaps
he would like to snuggle down in our bed for a while. He climbed in
between us but then said it was colder than his bed and got up. He went
into our dressing room, turned the light on, found a jersey of my husband
and to our amazement made sure it was turned right side out. While he
was doing this I suggested that it may be a good time to watch cartoons.
With that he went and turned the TV on and I settled him with a pillow and
blanket and his bed toy giraffe. He appeared to be watching but was glassy
eyed and not responding to normal stuff. I am sure he was not awake; he
made no effort to stop me turning the sound down as is usual. At about
7am he picked up his breakfast sandwich and ate it and then got dressed
for school. No memory of previous hour or so. He was properly awake by
this time and spoke about going to choir practice at school. This is the Very
Best way we have managed to get through these awful episodes with far
less agitation on his part. He even quietly said â€™OK' when I told him he
mustn't go outside because it was very wet. He said he had a sore ear at
7.15am and I now wonder if it may have triggered the NT. Does anyone
else's child have them at this time of early morning before it gets light? -
Our child is 3 years old and experiences night terrors about 1 every 2 weeks. I have noticed that these episodes usually occur when (but not always) fighting a cold or fever, has been taking cough or cold medicine.
It also seems to happen if it the temperature in our house is warmer than usual, feeling too warm and uncomfortable.
I have found the most I can do is make sure he does not bang into dangerous objects so we make sure his sleeping area is uncluttered.
I find that trying to reason or talk with him or only infuriates him. Sometimes if he says something I can understand he will respond to a question, but this really has only random results in calming him. It just seems to go away.
I used to have this when I was a young child. I was also a very active and functional sleepwalker. About 50% of the time I did not remember anything in the morning. Sometimes I would remember that something went on, but could not remember details. A few times I could remember what I was doing, but recall I really had no control, or it felt like what I was doing made sense at that time.
I have a very good sense of patterns, and I can remember some of the circumstances that seemed to coincide with my episodes. I also see some of these circumstances are coinciding with my son. I will share what in my recollection, seemed to be things that in some way contributed to my episodes. Again I am just speculating, but I do have an uncanny recollection of some of these episodes and patterns when I was a child. I will list them in priority of how much I think they contributed.
#1 Temperature: Being too warm seemed to precede this. Being in the sun a lot during the day seemed to have an effect on me. Likewise, if it was hot that night, I would be restless and typically have an episode.
#2 Stress: I know that when I was scared or worried, it would play out in my sleep.
#3 Illness: This tended to happen when I had a fever or I was taking a cough or cold medicine.
#4 Dehydrated: For the episodes I can slightly remember, I recall having this thirsty feeling, or was very thirsty. this usually coincided with late night snacks before bed, or with being out in the sun (maybe a little too long) during the day.
I can also remember this very vividly: When I was sleepwalking I got very frustrated, angry, and even physical if I became semi-conscious. Especially if someone tried to reason or ask me questions. I recall almost having some awareness that I was still sleeping, but could not snap out of it. If people were asking me questions it only made me angrier because I felt very vulnerable. again I am only speculating but I remember that reasoning with me never helped and usually infuriated me in that state.
I share this because I can remember these patterns so well, and I am seeing the same in my 3 year old.
He had a fever for the last 3 days, today he was feeling better and played outside in the sun. He also did not nap, and really had a full day of activity. Tonight I lowered the AC before bed, thinking the night temperature would cool down but it did not,and I was very uncomfortable. at about 11:00pm after about 3.5 hours sleep he had an episode. He became very frustrated with any conversation or reasoning, but seemed to like me holding and slightly bouncing him in a standing position, with his head on my shoulder.
I would like to note, he also had been taking children's ibuprofen for the last 3 days, and received a dose at about 5PM that night.
Again, I am sharing this from having had this issue when I was a child, and seeing my son suffer from the same thing. What I am really sharing, and interested in hearing is if any of the patterns, circumstances or potential catalysts I have noticed are being noticed by other parents.
My son is 10, when he was young age 3-7 he would have them quite often maybe 1 every month or so, sometimes more.
He hadn't had an episode for a few years until last night and Wow! it was the worst ever and scared me very badly.Which is why I am emailing it here. He had been asleep for a little over an hour.Suddenly, he was screaming like he was being severely hurt and yelling this continued the entire time which last 10 minutes or so. At first I thought he was hurt-it was the sound a mother only knows, the kind that has you run running towards your child. when I entered the living room which is right next to his room was sprinting around the house yelling momma momma help me, I am going to die, I am going to die. he was shaking uncontrollably, his eyes were wide open, pupils were very dilated and glassy eyed. I know he could see me I know this because he was dragging me around the house, he was super strong. He also was hugging me uncontrollably, I kept trying to hug him longer to try and keeps him safe from hurting himself, but he would then dart around the house. His dad came out of the room as well and his older sister and he was hugging them as well saying there names. He was defiantly hallucinating in my opinion. We could do nothing to help him or calm him down. He also was hurdling over the couch like it was nothing. It was I would say very weird-which is an understatement. Finally we coached him into his room on his bed where he seems to come back around, I got him a glass of water-when I returned to his room with the glass of water he was calm-his normal self.
He talked a little about his dream at that point but parts were hard to talk about to scary to speak of. He fell right back to sleep with no other terrors the rest of the night. I called his doctor today-waiting for advice.
This is a parents nightmare----I was so worried he was going to hurt himself, I can't imagination if a teenager did this-I would imagination they would be impossible to help manage due to strength... Laura
I am a soon-to-be parent, but my nephew and niece both experienced night terrors. They were horrible! They had them 3-5 times per week for several months on end, and were extremely disruptive to the parents (and us when we stayed there). They also were very difficult to watch, and even though we knew they do not cause harm to the kid, it is so hard seeing them like that. There is not much that can be done now, except to let them go, don't try to wake the kid...they will eventually grow out of them. The information online is not very good, either, but did find one interesting resource: www.caydian.com.
Also, most pediatricians are aware of night terrors, so if you are having trouble, you should bring it up with him/her. They can make sure they are night terrors, and not something more serious (which I think is rare), and may have suggestions to help...if not, though, go see another physician or a sleep medicine specialist who can help -- I know they helped my in-laws...
My daughter has had night terrors since she was a baby, but now at the age of seven she is having them 4 or 5 times a week and when she is having the night terror she runs around the house and screams and doesn't recognize us as her parents. They last from five to almost 15 min at times and when she finally does wake up she has no idea what happen or that she even had a night terror. It is very upsetting because I have no idea how to help her. We don't let her watch anything scary and she is fine in the day time. She loves school and is a very happy child. She is and has always been on a strict bed time schedule. I am making her an appointment with her doctor to try and get some help. I am just lost on what to do at this point.
Hello there. U guys have also been lots of help. It all started on Sept,20 2013 well I have been putting my lil 3 yr old girlie to bed in her own bed cuz she loves to sleep with me. This night everything was ok I put her to sleep on the couch and I slept on the other and then all of a sudden, My daughter is standing up a couple of steps away from the couch she was sleeping on just talking jibberish, almost like it was in tongues .So I said Mykain a loud voice a couple of times and then she finally snapped out of it. We asked what she was doing and who was she talking to and she said ( nothing ) then later she told me (daddy).But she looked so distraught and didn't want to talk about it and started crying saying her stomache hurt. ???? HUH SO SCAREY. NOW THE NEXT - She hasn't felt goood allday her stomach would hurt and fever and vomit. So an hr after bed and she on the couch again , her eyes are open and she's screaming bloody murder like someone is trying to kill her and her pupils are dialated just looking like something was attacking her and like she would like have a glitch or like she just got shocked or something.She was also talking to us like saying (I can't wake up.)She really looked pussested. All I know dad took her out side and she snapped out of it. The cold air I guess. She never liked being covering up anyways, that night I tucked her in. So I will try the methods and see.Please just let me know why they are having nt's . THANK YOU
Hi everyone. I just wanted to share my sons story on night terrors. His started around 9 months and he was having a few a night. Eyes wide open but glazed he would stare straight ahead and scream like someone was trying to kill him. It was very distressing especially because we didn't realize what they were until he was about 18 months when I saw an episode of the doctors on TV. We always just thought he had avery low pain threshold and they were caused by teething. He is now 3 and only has them a few times a week during his day nap. He is have a sleep study done tomorrow to see if he has sleep apnea. Hr has huge tonsils and wakes frequently during the night coughing and spluttering. We've found keeping him cool helps he will only sleep in underwear even in winter and trying to calm him down before the screaming starts really helps. Otherwise his terrors last about 20-30 mins the first 10 being in bed screaming kicking thrashing eyes.wide open and glazed and the last 10 mins him throwing down chairs overturning any furniture he can lift and thensobbing asking for juice. We are hoping the sleep study can give us more of an idea of what is going on with his brain and or breathing as we are worried as he gets older he could hurt himself. Afterwards he is back to his pleasant self with no recollection. We have been doing the failsafe elimination diet for the past few weeks and he hasn't had one terror. We've found since cutting bananas and chocolate and other fruit except pears have really helped him. Rachel in Australia
My son has had night terrors since he was 2 years old. He 'wakes up'
screaming and crying, to the point a neighbor believed he was being abused.
I was 22 years old when thisbegan, he is my first child and I've never heard
of NTs in my life. While screaming and fighting me he would scream out
'no,i don't want to play' or 'leave me alone' I swore it was because my house
was haunted (a rumor going back 40+ years) and that our house 'ghost' was
tormenting him. when he has NT episodes he truly looks ppossessed and
scary. Normally a boy who comes to me to make everything better, refused
to allow me to comfort him. I would sit on the other end of the bed hysterical
and lost because I could not comfort my son. It happens a lot when he's
sleeping somewhere else, and also when he's home. Recently we spent the
weekend at my Aunts house, and after a long day he fell asleep, shortly after
everybody went to bed he began screaming and throwing himself around the
room. My whole family came running down trying to help 'snap him out of
it'. WhileI i was trying to hold him, somebody put a wet cloth on his head
which seemed to help. 15Mins later he was laying down with me and it was
over. Other nights he will jump and push me away, kick and punch. It
seems to have calmed down in the last year, he gets them maybe once a
month, but the last few have been so bad that he vomits, and while iI'm
holding a bucket under him he suddenly wets the bed (which causes him to
wake up very upset). He has never had an accident other than during a NT
episode. This has to be one of the scariest experiences I've ever had, the
fact that my child is scared out of his mind, and there is NOTHING iI can do
to help him is very upsetting. As he got older iI also began mentioning the
NTs episodes which he never remembers. It wasnt until today that iI finally
gave up denying something was wrong and looked into it. I'm hoping he
grows out of it. So far so good, but it doesn't seem to last. I read on this
blog that making them use the bathroom helps, iI'm going to try that next
time. (Hopefully there won't be a next time :(
Hello all NT folks! I'm almost 40 and have had night terrors since I was about 11-12. And of course I used to sleep walk since a very young age. May have had NT younger but my family really noticed them when I hit middle school because I would scream bloody murder and sometimes run through the house until I snapped out of it. I still have NT today but I am in much better control of them if that makes any sense. I realize much sooner I'm having one. For me, being overtired, hot, and stressed all contribute to the NT.
I have a 12-year old son who also has night terrors which started at about 4 yrs old. I feel like they have really picked up in intensity since he hit middle school. For him it's essential that we keep his room and him very cool (we've even opened the window when it's snowing outside!). Also, fatigue combined with stress really trigger NT for him. He very rarely has NTs in the summer (no school) and almost always has them when he's got a lot of homework and late nights. Like me, his NT usually occur 1 - 1.5 hours after he's fallen asleep. Last night he had one of the worse NTs in a while (garbling, sleepwalking and panicky feeling) and it took about 5-10 min to bring him out of it. The one big distinction between his NT and my NT is that sometimes he vomits. He literally feels sick to his stomach. I wonder if his are more anxiety based than mine. We may seek counseling but not sure what to do. I'm trying to teach him what we are noticing to be the triggers so that he can help himself somewhat. Catherine
my son who is 9 years old has been having night terrors now for over 2 years , same time each night about 45mins after going to bed. sometime he even comes down the stairs wrapped in a duvet which is quite scary. i have done the the waking up thing after 30 mins just pro longs the attack to later in the night . i have tired giving him something to eat before he goes to bed and a drink non of these to work , i have also taken him to the toilet in the middle of attack thinking he needs the toilet . if i am upstairs when he has a terror starting now i can get him to lie back back down and stroke his hair and he goes back to sleep. i try to keep his room cool as he gets hot and sweats alot when asleep.
i have just read about tonsil that might cause a problem with this , my son does snore alot if he asleep on his back , so i wonder if this has anything to do with it , i am hopeful that he will grow out of this soon it was very distressing when he first started doing it i am now getting use it . Sharon in the UK
My name is Richard I am 24. I have had night terrors since I can remember. They have gotten more extreme the older I've gotten. Sometimes I have one once or twice a week or once or twice a month. I've come to realize having a full stomach before bed or sleeping on my back triggers most of it but sometimes just happens just because. Stepping on cold floors will wake me up but turning on a light or hearing someone talk to me works. Multiple voices and flashing lights like flashlights make it worse. It hurts sometimes because my heart is racing so fast from fear. Sometimes I am scared to go to sleep fearing I will have another night of bad awakenings and fear that there is something trying to get me. I am not sure how to help someone else that has this but hope who ever has a child that has this I pray you find a solution for them and they grow out of it.
I have an 11 year old daughter who suffers from NT. Her first onset was around 20 months. She would scream uncontrollably, eyes wide open, petrified of something, she could run around, thrashing about but without bumping into anything, she gas always been totally aware of her surrounding environment, but for years she couldn't recognise us and we couldn't console her. I tried every remedy under the sun and the most effective was to take her into the toilet and sit her on it, as soon as she had done the toilet she would wake up and fall asleep pretty quickly. The episodes initially lasted a lot longer and were more frequent, but i realised that they occured when she had been feeling ill, had a fever, overtired or stressed/anxious. Now age 11, this is still the case but she takes less frequent episodes. She now recognises me and wraps her arms tightly around me for comfort, she repeats mum, mum, mum and clings to me for help. I calmly reassure her, tell her mums here, mummy loves you, mummy will keep you safe. I direct her to the toilet, sometimes u have to sternly tell her to go to the toilet, but as soon as she has toileted she either wakens completely or almost conpletely, she lies down, I hold her hand or cuddle her, tell her she's okay, axknowledge that she's had a dream (she knows and remembers having these but cant explain them). She falls back asleep pretty quickly. She has been sick over the weekend and had more episodes than usual last night. A couple were her ordinary NT pattern but inbetween she would sit bolt upright and say a few bizzarre sentences then lie down and go back to sleep. I have never really told anyone about these as my mum just doesnt understand them and thinks they are abnormal, she even says things like the doctor will send her to a psychologist to see whats wrong with her. It will be put in her file. My husband, his uncle and grandma suffered from these. His stopped around the age of 12 and he remembers feeling afraid and seeing lots of colours and shapes. I have two other children and fingers crossed they never take a NT. Reassuring, toileting and walking on cold tiles would be my best suggestion. Oh and i just have a dim background light, only my voice talking, two voices is too much, keep noise to a minimal. A. in the UK
My 4 year old daughter has suffered from night terrors since right before she was 2. They are so frightening, and seemed to take me more than a few episodes to actually accept what was going on. It's difficult because I just want to hold her and rock her but she throws punches and kicks violently. She doesn't do the typical 'sit up in bed with eyes wide open' deal either. Instead she stays laying down, albeit thrashing around, and eyes shut and she will not open them. This made and still makes it sometimes difficult to recognize that she was indeed having a night terror. Neither my husband nor I can touch her at all anywhere to comfort her, can't even brush the hair from her face without being "attacked". She'll often scream out my name or even her sister's name, but doesn't say much of any other actual words. The screams are piercing to the ears and she cries nearly to the point of making herself vomit. The night terrors typically start maybe an hour to two after she falls out, and they last around half an hour to forty five minutes, but not all the way through. She'll calm down after 15 minutes or so, and them rears up again, doing this 3 or 4 times before the entire episode is truly over. Her night terrors are often accompanied by urinating, either in the bed or while standing in a daze. Once during a night terror, she actually was trying to hold it in and expressing an urgency. I was able to guide her to the potty and she went and then I took her back to bed and the episode was over. Since then, every time she has an episode, I try to calmly talk her into going potty, and eventually she'll aknowledge my existence and go potty. Also, now I have learned to absolutely make her go pee-pee before falling asleep every night religiously, because other than having an over stimulating, exciting day, her needing to badly go pee also are the root causes of her terrors I have learned. This really does help greatly reduce her occurrences of terrors I've found, by at least 75% probably. That's something I would strongly recommend to anyone who's child is having night terrors. Also, I make sure there is as little as possible lights on, sounds and movements, even footsteps.
My son started having night terrors when he was four. I have always managed to calm him down and eventually he came out of them. He stopped having them about 18 months ago and I had thought he had grown out of them. He is now 8 and has had four in the last week.(the last one just now) He screams and shout out for someone to help him. Although his words are clear non of it makes sense. I did not know this website existed. I know now I am not alone and shall read other parents experiences and hope I can be put as ease. This last night terror has upset me the most and I am feeling pretty useless that I cannot help him. kath
Hello, My child is now 7 and she is experiencing NT since forever. She used to be colic, and I am not sure when we got into NT, because for a long time, I thought it is just being colic. She used to have it every day (sometimes 2 times and until age 5 it was a pretty agressive NT) and we have tried everything. Since the last 6 moths the NT has changed. Now she can remember it, and she knows the feeling of it but she can not describe it. I would prefer her not remembering it. Sometimes she is kicking, walking, screaming, ..sometimes just crying very loud, and for a very long time. It used to be a terrifying 30 minutes, or longer, now it is 1 hour. We always makes sure that she does not eat fruits after 7:00pm or if she eats it is just a toast.
What we think triggers it: being overheated (now she is sleeping in shirts and shorts, and even then she can get overheated in a 22 C furnace setting), fruit, eating too late, going to bed after bedtime, stress, bed dreams?, not doing enough physical activity during the day when she has lots of energy. Today she would scream her sisters name for 30 minutes. Sometimes when the little sister is crying that helps the older sister to get out of NT. She feels so sad that the little one is crying and it is so difficult for her to come out of NT, I can see her trying. It is so great that I have found this web site. When we travel or someone hears it, they start to judge her, or me as it must be because we do something wrong or if she has a deeper problem. Even my mother would say something like that. People are so judgemental, it makes me sad. I hope she will outgrow it, because she is a very outgoing happy little girl, and I don't want people judging her because of this sleeping disorder that she has inherited from my husband (he had it as a child but not for this long) and her grandfather. Even if I tell people that it is in the family, they would over-analyze my child and try to read more into it . She is sensitive, but a very creative social butterfly with a pretty patient stable family. Many kids have been treated badly and they don't have sleeping disorders. So NT must be an inherited problem
Horrific! Terrifying and gut wrenching don't begin to describe the what seemed like endless nights of night terrors that we had with our 1-1/2 to 2 year old daughter. I won't go into the conditions and environment in our home, it is a loving, safe and nice place. She has loving parents who were/are trying their best. Just trying to figure out what this was took us a few weeks to diagnose as night terrors. She would wake up somewhere from 1:30 am to about 4:00 am screaming, kicking and thrashing. Nothing we did could console or stop her. We did some pretty tough things. I would not recommend some of the things I tried, some dumb ideas. Finally, we got a tip from a fellow pediatrician about a possible way to stop the night terrors.
I want to cut right to it so as to possibly help anyone out there experiencing this. Even if my email helps just one person, one family, whomever, I will feel better. I feel for anyone who has to go through this.
She would go down between 9:00 pm to 10:00 pm. Late I know. We tried getting her ready with the "routine": jammies, bath, brush teeth, book stories each night, but sometimes she just wouldn't go down. I am a night owl, so I am up late. The pediatrician suggested that I go in and wake her to break the deep sleep pattern. I did notice when I started doing this that she did sleep extremely deep. So, I would stir her enough so that I could see her move to some degree and come out of her very deep sleep.
Well, unbelievably, it worked! I don't think she has had an epsiode since. I gently woke her consisently for awhile, how long I forget, she's now 3 years old. I don't do it regularly anymore, but I probablky do it about 70% of the time, because I just don't ever want to exerience that again. And some of the stories I read on this blog make me be diligent about continuing this technique.
This blog really helped me when I was thinking all kinds of crazy thoughts about what was causing this. It was very comforting to hear the various ideas and experiences from others. I appreciate what everyone wrote.
I really hope this works for you and I meant it when I write, May God bless you wth this and I hope you can get through this to remain a loving parent while staying sane. Thanks to all the writers here.
My grandson started having NT at 9 months old after a severe ear infection. Three different antibiotics did not work so he ended up being sick with high fever (104 before tylenol) for 4 weeks. He is now 12 and no longer takes naps at home or daycare(we and daycare have tried everything and, even though other babies his age are sleeping, he just doesn't sleep) Because my daughter is so exhausted I started watching him one night a week and this is when I discovered it was NT that he was having. He has these 3-4 times per night EVERY night! The first one starts about 1 to 1 1/2 hours after bedtime and then he continues to have them every 2 hours or so until morning. They typically last 10 minutes to 40 minutes. He screams like he is in extreme pain, slaps, kicks, flails, bangs his head into us, his heart speeds up and he breaths fast. Sometimes his eyes are open but just staring. He will eventually take a bottle and that is when he crashes off into deep sleep. We feel so bad for him and everything I have read says there is nothing to do for him except comfort. From what I have read it seems that he is having many more per week than most and wonder if anything can be done if the episodes are more frequent or severe than usual. I have advised my daughter to tape one of the NT and show to Dr. at his well baby check in a month. Also, he has hearing loss in one ear (due to infection) and is to have tubes put in when they have an opening. I'm curious if this has anything to do with NT since they started about the same time as ear problems.
THANK YOU so much for your excellent web site. I have a toddler who was experiencing night terrors, and I found your site via Google. I followed the advice of one parent that recommended keeping her feet uncovered. We had just switched to footy-pajamas as the weather turned cold, and had not noticed the coincidence. As simple as it sounds, it was and remains a mystery as to how and why this solved our problem. I also appreciated reading about other parents who were dealing with this issue, as it is truly terrifying. I cannot tell you how heartbreaking it is to have your child screaming and thrashing uncontrollably, and be unable to console or comfort them. I had a college roommate who experienced night terrors, so I was familiar with them; otherwise I would have thought I was losing my mind. Nancy
By the way, I liked the "feet in cold water" trick. If my children ever develop this disorder, I'll give it a try!
Also, my episodes were definitely brought on by stress...as a young child I had them daily when school started each fall and they tapered off after a week or two. As an adult (in my thirties) I sometimes have an "almost" night terror...my mind seems to be able to signal me by way of a "spider" dream that I have unresolved stresses to deal with.
1) Graphic accounts by older NT victims helped me to understand the clear and immediate fear that my daughter felt during her episodes. This motivated me to protect my child as I would if the fear was real - because in her mind it was. I also shared that I had read these stories. Validating her experience, acknowledging that I believe her NT, and committing to help slay the dragons in her sleep gave my little girl tremendous confidence and did much to relieve the stress of going to bed (stress is bad.. it triggers NT).
2) Understanding the physiology of sleep and when the NT comes (usually about 60 mins after falling asleep) helped me to be pro- active. By staying close and paying attention I was there to catch the start of the NT, and in many cases was able to nip it in the bud - sometimes by interrupting her sleep, other times by talking to her in her sleep. One morning she annouced that I was her hero. She had dreamed that the Scary was coming and when it heard my voice it ran away.
3) Stress, anxiety and being overtired all trigger the NT episode. Before we found that out, my daughter would do everything she could to 'not go to sleep'. The bed-time ritual would get dragged out into a 2 hour affair (and stress was high). Then she would lie in bed trying to stay awake, eventually falling asleep exhausted. She was scared to go to sleep. These conditions usually led to an episode of NT. The next night she would try harder to not go to sleep - a downward spiral resulting in regular nightly episodes. Reading these advice colums together, my daughter was able to recognize the paradox and break out of it. Now she has (and follows) her own rules about not going to bed upset, not letting herself get overtired and not being up past bedtime.
4) I read somewhere about 'uncovered feet'. It struck me as an odd remedy, perhaps because it seemed so far removed from the brain(where the problem lies), or perhaps because it's so much cheaper than head doctors and medication. We tried it, and it works! No feet tucked in. No socks. Often the 'nip in the bud' is nothing more that pulling the sheets and blankets off her toes. Some mornings my daughter wakes up with cold feet - a small price to pay for a night without terror.
During this time, my daughter also became obsessed with lighting. They had to be 'On', all of them, or as many as she could lobby for. We all slept (after a fashion) with the lights on. She also became fearfull that we would 'move her' while she was sleeping, and again we had to reassure her several times each night that we would not. Somehow we figured out that she was aware of her sleepwalking, and believed that she needed the lights 'on' so that she would be able to see where she was going. 'Not moving her' was all about her waking up somewhere else and not knowing how she got there - perhaps by sleepwalking. A scary prospect. This was causing stress, and we know that's not good. We now have a standing agreement that if we need to move her, we wake her up and let her move herself - and I mean really wake her up, with sitting in the kitchen, having milk and a cookie and reading a few pages out of her favorite book.
We're both very motivated to find solutions that work for us. Working together has brought us much closer - she's my hero too. I've been writing in the past tense because I think (I hope) that the worst is behind us. I still walk the halls at night, looking for dragons to slay. I still catch my daughter sleepwalking, though not as much as before. Our home is getting darker at night, and we're all sleeping a little better. Thank you.
In regards to night terror advice. My son has experienced night terrors since infancy-he is now 9. My aunt also had them in childhood. We have found that 90% of the time if we place him in front of the toilet, pull down his jamies and tell him to go, he will relax enough to fall back into normal sleep. We have rarely been able to actually wake him. He is prone to have them when he is upset/worried about something, but equally prone when very excited about something. He never remembers them in the morning, but can be tired and grumpy the next day. I have found it necessary to inform key people (babysitter, teacher) so they can be aware when he has bad days. The night terrors also come in series, when he'll have several in a row, and then go a time without one. It is best to always remain calm (at times very difficult)and talk in a soothing voice. I do not agree with one parents advice to have your child sleep with you. That is not good for marriage, or for children. Additionally, movement of someone else in the bed could cause a night terror. Be on the look out for other behavior problems, such as anxiety, including nervous tics. My son has a nervous tic (clearing his throat) that occurs more often when he is having a series of night terrors. I am convinced they are inter-related. Angie
I read with much interest all the comments about night terrors and found the one that suggests cooling the feet of most interest. As we all know, you keep a baby's head and feet warm as thats where you lose body heat, so if you are over heated and having a night terror, cooling the feet would help. When my grandson was having NT, it was suggested not to have him over heated in bed, and that helped a lot with how frequently he had one. Of course as we know other things trigger them, as stress and being over excited before going to bed. My grandson is now 10 and seems to be over them but his little sisters, aged 2 and 4 are having them on occasions.My daughter now knows how to manage/try to prevent them.Thank you for all the information, I will pass it onto my son who now also has a 2 year old daughter suffering from NT. Marion
My son has had night terrors since he was a toddler and is now 12. It is usually when he is ill or if he is overheated in bed. I agree with you all that it is one of the most terrifying things that we can experience with our child. I feel his heart racing and getting faster, his eyes wide open and pupils totally dilated. He is absolutely terrified of something in his dream and it makes you feel useless because you are trying to save them from whatever it is.
As everyone says, I cool him down with a wet cloth, pull down his bedding and talk to him trying to calm him. It seems like they last an eternity. I will definitely try uncovering his feet next time.
One night he seemed so out of control I panicked, even though I had been through countless night terrors with him before. I actually slapped him across the face (not too hard) because he was absolutely hysterical. It didn't work I might add. We still just had too ride out the terror. When he eventually woke I asked if he remembered what the dream was about and he said he couldn't remember but he did remember a sudden pain to his face - I said sorry mate, that was when I slapped you. We all laugh about it now!
He has the flu at the moment and we actually had 2 episodes last night. I am dreading going to bed tonight, I feel like just sitting next to him in his bed and try to protect him if he has another one tonight.
I have never looked this up on the internet before and I am so glad I have. Now I don't feel so alone and know that it is not dangerous to the child. Somehow knowing that though won't really make it any easier to endure. Sharon
This website is a life saver. It has been two weeks and finally I reached out through the internet. My 8 yr old son has been having NTs, and it's been awful. Finally I observed the patterns, exactly an hour into sleep. It's summer, and he has no schedule, goes to bed lates, waked early. He has no memory of these events. We have been trying to wake him by splashing water on his face. That worked, and then didn't, so we started using a mist bottle, which works. Shouting made it worse. Cold cloth to the back of the neck helped. Going to check out that foot thing!
But check this out! Last night, I crawled into bed beside him 50 minutes after he went to sleep and waited. Sure enough, eyes popped open and he sat up. I gently put my arms around him, said, "I'm right here", and he laid back down. I was out of there in 3 minutes, and that was it. A great relief from the screaming and hitting at his eyes we'd been having. So maybe a little circumvention does help! Thanks! Lucinda
Hi I have a 9 yr old son who has suffered fron night terrors for at least 5 years. At first my husband and myself did'nt know what the heck was going on we thought he was having bad dreams, then one day I was watching Good Morning America (or one of those shows) and they had a special on about night terrors and had the boy and his mother on the show and they showed footage of an actual NT happening and it was so strange to see my sons nightly actions taking place on tv with another young boy. Everyone is so right you feel so helpless to your own child when this is occuring. But I have tried a few different tactics that I have read about-like waking him up about an hour after he falls asleep, having him use the toilet when he is having an episode, cooling his feet or uncovering them after he falls asleep-because I do notice he sleeps really hot, putting his hands is cool water. I am so thankful for seeing that show and for looking up NT on the computer to see of there was anything out there on the subject. So I want to give a big thank you to the Berkley parents for their web-site. I also love to read everyones stories and suggestions what a great idea to do this. Good luck to everyone who has a child who suffers from NT as my son does. I will continue to do the different suggestions that I have read about although he doesn't have tham as often, as before so maybe he is growing out of them. But I also agree with the fact that if they are worriers, anxious, or stressed that they occur more so than not because my son is the biggest worry wart there is....very unlike my daughter who luckily doesn't and has never had a NT. Dawn
My a 6yr old grandson has had NT since he was at least one yr old. If he is very warm while sleeping he will always have a NT. He likes to sleep uncovered and just in his underware. The other day my daughter took him to his pediatrician for his annual exam. She mentioned his NT's and his pediatrician doesn't think it is NT. His reasoning is while he is in his screaming thrashing stage he is saying go away, or don't do that, etc. The doctor said in a real NT the children do not verbalize anything. His therory is it is a type of migrane. He is thinking about sending him to a pediatric neurologist to be studied for sleep disorder. I find this very strange. My question is have any of your children said anything during their terror? I hate to put this child through anything unecessary. The talking is the only thing the doctor is going on. B.
Hello. My 2 year old daughter started having night terrors at about 18mos old. Then we could calm her with bringing her into bed with us, after awhile, I could just reach my hand into the crib and hold her hand and she would calm, and then they disappeared. The NT's have begun again, she starts screaming hysterically between 1 and 1:30am and again between 4:30 and 5am. She will not begin to calm until I pick her up, she grabs on for dear life and will only 'sleep' if I hold her, her Daddy isn't even good enough. She was always one who cries if her blankets are off, so overheating isn't it. But what I DO think is the problem---she had general anesthesia both last fall anf last week for surgery, but is it the anesthetic or the surgery memory???? Jacqui
My 2 year old son was just "Diagnosed" with NT. I since have read A LOT about it as well as talk to other parents and friends. One friend told me her best friend who is 33 still has them and has had them since he was 2. She said something that caught my attention. This friend of her's is clausterphobic. So when he feels trapped at night it is triggered. A simmulation to what most of you are saying and makes since. Putting the child's feet in cold water, leaving them uncovered, etc... Re-enforces the fact they are not trapped. Possible makes them feel like they are outside. I had wondered before if my soon my have a fear of small places because he doesn't like certin types of restrictions. Examples, his crib, playpen or a car seat we had that the sides came around on. He also really doesn't like closets or elevators. So thank ALL of you for helping me to figure this out! You have just given us our nights back!!! :)
Our 3-year-old son has been having night terrors for about 6 months now and it is the most difficult thing for us to deal with because we feel so helpless. I have found this website to be most useful with giving advice and support. I will definitly try keeping him a little cooler at night, especially the feet. Looking back, many of the NT's occurred during warmer nights, as well as a change in routine. Thank you all for taking the time to share your stories and experiences. Judy
Regarding talking during night terrors. My 7 year old daughter first had a night terror at about 18 months. She didn't have another for several years. This summer, for the past two weeks, she's had one nearly every night, about an hour after falling asleep. She calls out "Mom," and screams. She also says bits of sentences, like "no, I don't want to...." and "I have to find....." then she starts screaming and slapping the air, or me if I am holding her. It lasts about 5 minutes, then she settles back to sleep. At that point, she sometimes wakes up with no recollection of the event. She had another just 1/2 hour ago. I was with her the whole terrifying time. I asked her afterward, did you have a dream? "Yes," she said, "I dreamed about the most beautiful pony." "Was I there?", I asked. "No, you were asleep." "Was Dad there?", I asked. "Yes, he was making me breakfast." I don't believe her responses had anything to do with the NT, which really puzzles me. Maybe that's part of not recalling the episode. Maybe she was remembering a real dream from the previous night? I wonder if there is a personality profile? My daughter is intuitive, observant, and a worrier as well. Thank you for all your postings, it has been so helpful. Diane
I was a child who had night terrors for about 2 years on and off. At one point they started to become more frequent. My father put an old radio in my room and turn it on real low. (an oldies station) Never had a night terror after that. I think it kept my mind busy with the sounds? I slept with the radio on until I was about 20, and now being 32, I still know all the words to the oldies. It worked for me, give it a try. Good luck. Trevor
My 6yr old daughter started having night terrors six months ago, I would say she had one or two a week normally about 60 mins after falling asleep. She is currently having them nightly, probably due to the heat and school holidays. She is a worrier and gets very irrate if she does not get her own way (spoilt some people would call it), we are working through this at the moment but her attitude is new to us as she was always polite, quite placid and easy going. We have tried all manner of things, cool feet, cold water bath to put feet in during terror, keeping bedroom ventilated, we have spoke to her about it but has no recollection. She was very upset to see me one morning with a split lip where she jumped up into my face, I now try not to go too close as she seem's to have adult strength when going through this. What I have found that helps is like Trevors notes before me, If I Press Play on her cassette recorder relaxing music is heard by her I do not need to approach her! and she calms down almost immediately, sometimes she does a second little cry out, but generally falls back to sleep and I let it play until the tape ends. I hope this helps for someone else & continues to work for me as I do find it hard to live with. At present I would not consider getting in a babysitter or having her friend to sleep (Yes sleepovers have started at this young age!) until we have a long spell without this. Good Luck to us all, Tina...
Last February, 5 months ago, my then 18-month-old daughter started having what her pediatrician calls night terrors. She has had them every single night since the first one. Hers, however usually start about 4 hours after she goes to sleep (around 12:30) and last until 5:00 or so. They occur every hour or, like two nights ago, every 10 minutes (I'm not exaggerating.) I've tried every "trick", I've untucked and uncovered her feet, I've run her feet under cold water, I've let a light on, I bought her a noise machine, I've brought her into our bed, I've let sleep in her brother's bedroom (luckily, he slept through it all.) Nothing is working. It doesn't seem to be bothering her during the day but my husband and I are running on very little sleep. Any more advice? Thanks. Christelle
Just found this website today..for the past 3 nights my son has been experiencing night terrors combined with sleepwalking. He is 8 years old and has never had this problem before. He is walking down about 15 stairs to get to our back door, which he has opened. The only thing keeping him from going outside has been the chain on the door. After the first night we proped a chair up against the door, but he moves it out of the way with no problems. It seems that when he can't "get out" is when he starts screaming for me! He has no memory of this the next morning and even asks me why I am sleeping with him. I've read all the letters on this webpage and I'm wondering if anyone out there has found night terrors in children related to starting a new sport? My son has just started football and school starts in a couple of days. These are the only things that could be considered stressful in his life right now. He is very active in sports (Plays baseball, does wrestling in the winter) so he is used to the physical part of football. I just can't think of any other reasons for him to be experiencing night terrors. Would love some input and will try some of the recomended "cures" on this wabsite. Lori
My daughter, now 25 months old, has been having Night Terrors since she was just a few months old. We didn't know about Night Terrors and were horrified in the beginning. Reading the comments on your web site has made me realize that she probably is hot or slightly feverish (still teething). The most recent Night Terror was two days ago. She would not take her usual 2-hour nap at 1:00 p.m., so by 6:00 p.m. she was exhausted and fell asleep on the couch. I moved her to her bed where she slept another 15 minutes before the Night Terror began. I picked her up and brought her into the den, sat her on the couch, kicking and screaming the whole time. As usual, she didn't say any words, but was pushing me away as if I were the Boogyman. However, this episode was different because she moved around. She threw all the pillows off the couch. Then she got up and hid (standing) behind a dining room chair. I just watched and let her scream. After about 45 minutes, she came out from behind the chair and said, "Mama home." This was confirmation to me that she was not aware of her Night Terror nor of my efforts to help. For the next Night Terror, I plan to attempt to put her feet in water or wet them down with a wet cloth. We'll see how that works. Jan
... Tried the feet in water trick. It worked. My daughter woke up fully within about three minutes and was back to sleep shortly thereafter. Doesn't seem to have any memory of waking up. Thanks for the tip. Jan
We have a 3 and a 5 year old son. My 5 year old never had night terrors, but recently, within the last 6 months our 3 year old has been having these terrifying episodes approx.1 to 2 hours after falling asleep. He sits up in bed, or whereever he is eyes open wide, fixed stare, screaming crying, thrashing around wildly, lasts anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes and then he falls back asleep. We pondered if it might be a seizure activity of some kind, but now, after much research on NT, I am sure this is what it is. He is completely unresponsive to my calling out to him or trying to protect him, and cuddling or carrying makes it worse. once he awakens, he wants to be cuddled and falls back asleep exhausted with little accurate recollection of the episode. I plan to try the wet feet suggestion next time, it seems like it will shock him into reality. I have definately noticed it happens more when he is overtired or he falls asleep in an unusual place besides his own bed. Betsy
My son began having NT at age 5 years,he is 7 now. We we're in an automobile accident that put him in the hospital. He had one that very night. We took him to a therapist, waste of time and money! Sometimes he goes a couple months without one, then all of a sudden he has them for several weeks. In reference to the grandmother asking about speaking during a NT...my son usually speaks. This week he has had two episodes. During one he said "that scares me", during another he said "it's you!". I've never really known what to do except hold him and try to soothe him. He has never been violent, he has tried to get away and get out of the bed. One night during a really long NT he woke both of us screaming and crying and my husband tried to console him and he kept backing away from him and wouldn't let him touch him...he acted like he was a monster. It was very disturbing. I have noticed they seem to occur when we let him stay up too late or he is really excited about something. And I noticed too that he is sweating profusely when these occur. I apprecite everyone's story and advice. this has been the most helpful website I've visited. It helps to hear other stories...good luck and God bless these children. Karen
My youngest son has suffered from night terrors since he was about 3 years old. It really scared us the first time! We did not know what to do when he would start screaming and rocking back and forth, arms flailing in the air, calling out "daddy, daddy" at the top of his lungs, sweating, and acting as if he was being attacked. We spoke to his pediatrician and learned that he was suffering from night terrors and indeed they are "night terrors" it is horrifying to see your baby in that condition especially if you don't know what is going on. We read everything there is on night terrors. The following worked for us, please try it! Don't cover your child with many blankets or excessive clothing for the first part of the night, if they happen to fall asleep on the couch or some other "safe" place in your house "do not move them" let them sleep, because we found out that when we moved our son within an hour after falling asleep and took him to his bed, it was a sure thing that after we laid him down, we would hear his screams within 5 minutes or less! Also when your child begins with night terrors, sooth him and place a cold compress on his head and on the back of his neck and rub his feet with a cool towel, this will wake them up slowly, and comfort them as much as possible. I would sing the ABC's to my son because that's one of his favorite songs. After my son goes through his night terror he is completely exhausted and does not remember a thing, and falls back into a deep sleep. Since I have tried to keep him as cool as possible for the first part of the night, the night terrors have become less frequent, maybe only once a month compared to every week. We have installed a cieling fan in his room and only use sheets to cover him, and he also sleeps with no socks. Keeping them cool really helps! Of course I would get up during the night and checked on him and after the first part of his sleep I would add a blanket and he was fine. I hope this helps.
My son is 5 years old and his night terrors have turned into a nightly event. Looking back, he's probably had this since infancy, but because the NT were so infrequent, I didn't think anything of it. I should mention that both my husband & I have a history of sleep walking & possibly NT when we were younger :( Guess our son didn't have a chance! I see some people talking about heat and stress/excitement as a possible factors for bringing on NT. Our weather has been unusually hot this summer, and he had been doing some traveling this summer to visit his grandparents. When I read the part about the child being claustrophobic it reminded me of something my son had said during one of his last night terrors. I took him into the bathroom to splash a little cold water on him to try and wake him up (he was running around my room and I was afraid he might get hurt). This did NOT help and he began thrashing around even more. He said the he needed to get out of there, and that he couldn't breath. He sooned calmed down and went back to bed. Of course I didn't! We decided to try something different last night. My husband woke our son up about 45 minutes after he fell asleep. He kept him awake for about five minutes, then let him go back to sleep. He didn't have a NT thank goodness, but my husband was a little tired this morning. We'll try some of the other suggestions if this doesn't keep working. Rhonda
My 3 1/2 year old had her "worst" NT last night to date. It lasted approx 20 min.+/-. She has had alot of "trauma" or maybe Post-traumatic Stress within the last year ie. death,house fire, birth of sibling and a move. I became worried and have been searching the internet all night. A person told me it was not fear-related but psychological. This upset me tremedously. Upon reading these messages, I have been reassured-Thank You!!!! I then called my sister and see said 2/3 kids have had NT' s and expects the third too when he turns 3 or so.
My daughter will be 2 yrs. old next month. I am not certain that she has NT, but from everyone else's accounts, it certainly sounds like the same thing. She has had maybe 10 of them, starting since she turned one. She has recently had several of them within the last few days, and I suspect that it may be because we have just moved her into a bed (from her crib). She likes the bed and wants to sleep in it, but I imagine that there must be some stress associated with making the adjustment. She has always moved around in her sleep a lot, so most of the time she sleeps without covers, even in winter, and she has never seemed to wake up from being cold. I am going to try putting her feet in cold water during the next episode (or maybe her hands). It is awful to lay in bed trying to fall asleep, wondering how long it will be before you have to face your screaming child? I wonder if the "Terror" part is more reflective of how the parents feel after an episode??? It is very helpful to read other parents' accounts and advice. Thanks everyone. Rita
My daughter started having night terrors at age 7 following kidney surgery. it took years before i discovered what was really happening. in reply to the parent whos doctor said children do not verbalise - my daughter says similar things but they are not directed at me. My daughter has just turned 12 today. She still has the occasional terror almost always following a stressful time or when over tired. At their worst they occured nightly and lasted around 45 mins. she jumped furniture, hid under tables etc. she has also tried to leave the house a couple of times. I used the waking therapy for 2 weeks and then stopped. her terrors stopped too and since then only occur now and then. Many of the web sites do not explain that the waking therapy does not need to happen indefinatly and i didn't get her out of bed. I got a cold flannel, stroked her face with it, sat her up slightly and tlaked to her until I was satisfied she was really awake then settled her down. She was older and she understood why this was happening. one other thing that has helped us is understanding that even the slightest sound or movement at the wrong time of night can set off a terror. I never go into her room or make noises near her around that time. As she has got older it has become easier to settle her. i think that getting in there when the terror first starts is important. at the slightest moan or grizzle i try to talk to her and settle her back once she has woken up. Lesley
Thank you all for sharing your experiences and suggestions for coping with the Night Terrors.
Last night was the first episode. My 21 month old daughter started out by quietly whimpering in her bed. This has happened in the past, so there was no immediate concern on mine or my wife's behalf. Then the crying began. So I went into my daughter's room, to comfort her, and found her sittig up in her bed. I reached over to pick her up, and then, her entire body just stiffened and she began to scream. Needless to say, I completely freaked! I had no idea what was happening. I picked her up, but there was no consoling her. She flailed and screamed (that blood curdling scream). After a few minutes passed of trying to ease whatever discomfort she was experiencing, we then realized she was not even awake. We called the Pediatrician's office ( who, can you believe it, forgot, on this particular night, to switch their phone system over to the answering service). So there we were, utterly helpless. We were going to take her to the hospital, not having even heard of the Night Terror s before, and made arrangements to leave my eldest daughter with a neighbor. I dropped my eldest off at the neighbors while my wife got my youngest ready to go, and by the time I returned, it was over, and she was sleeping soundly. Of course, the rest of us were up for the duration. So, when she woke in the morning, at around 5:30 or so, breakfast was ready, the cats were fed, the beds were made, the house was dusted, the lawn was mowd, etc etc etc. All kidding aside, it was a very frightening experience for all involved. Your sight, however, has been and invaluable tool for understanding the experience of last night -- and, yes, it happened agan tonight; hence my foray onto the internet. I'll try some of your suggestions for minimizing the experience. Whoever thought that the ol' college prank of dipping someone's hand or foot in cold water while they were sleeping would actually turn out to be a positive thing in parenthood? Good thing she's still in diapers, I suppose.
I had mild night terrors as a young child that continued into my late teens. I did not thrash around or have hallucinations or see bugs as many people do, but I would wake in a panic on a regular basis and spend sometimes hours of the night in a state of terror, either falling back asleep and waking repeatedly in terror or being too terrified to go back to sleep at all. I found that keeping a radio on or the TV on and even the lights if I felt uneasy about sleeping in the dark helped tremendously. I am 27 now and I still sleep with the TV on. A couple of years ago I tried to sleep with it off once to see what would happen and I awoke about every 15 minutes in terror until I turned the TV back on. I think that the noise keeps my mind from wandering to wherever it does when I have the terrors. Jennifer
My (nearly) 4 year old son recently started waking at night time, screaming, thrashing (alternated with going rigid) and yelling 'mummy, mummy, mummy' over and over again. Sometimes he says he wants things (such as toys, a drink etc...but if given to him they don't help) and other times he says things that I can't quite distinguish. Sometimes the episodes last 10 minutes and sometimes much longer. They are nearly all associated with being very hot and sweaty. My son keeps his eyes closed the entire time and towards the end of an episode he is able to communicate with me a little (while sobbing). I've tried different tactics but none seem to work much at making him feel better. At the moment I just try and hold him and reassure him. Do you think that what he's experiencing are night terrors? Until now I've thought they were just tantrums. I find them very emotionally/physically draining, particularly when several occur in one night. Katie
My 3 1/2 year old had her "worst" NT last night to date. It lasted approx 20 min.+/-. She has had alot of "trauma" or maybe Post-traumatic Stress within the last year ie. death,house fire, birth of sibling and a move. I became worried and have been searching the internet all night. A person told me it was not fear-related but psychological. This upset me tremedously. Upon reading these messages, I have been reassured-Thank You!!!! I then called my sister and see said 2/3 kids have had NT' s and expects the third too when he turns 3 or so. Stacey
My daughter has had night terrors for as long as I remember she is noe 9. Two or three times a week she will cry out shout or just talk uncomprehensible rubbish. I always talk back to her reasuring her that I love and she will go back to sleep. However, last night she could have caused herself significant halm. I was in bed when she suddenly shouted out, as I got out of bed to see to her she screamed and yelled, flew out of bed and ran out of her room to the top of the stairs in shear terror and panic.I grabbed hold of her and yelled at her to wake up. She was kicking and screaming in terror.When I got her to wake up She new she was scared but had absolutly no recognition of her terror. She spent the rest of the night clinging to me and both of us totaly shaken up.(my son slept through it all).next time she could fall down the stairs does any one have any advise? Katy
BUT the thing i am worried about is no one mentoins the start if these untill 18 months or later and with us thats not the case. i am glad that i have some info on this now and i just wanted to share that it happens earlier for me than 18 months for all those other parents that are worried about there little baby.
thank you for this sight and your help. Gary
Hi,our 5 1\2 yr. old son has had night terrors since he was about 3yrs. old. We have gotten his night terrors lasting about 1 to 2 minutes tops! They used to last alot longer. We turn the lights on and I quietly keep asking if he wants mommy to hold him and he'll either keep crying or finally say yes hug me and go back to bed. But, we definately ask questions and make sure he answers them correctly, that way we know he is fully awake then we let him go back to bed.Otherwise we found if he wasn't fully awake he might have more episodes that night. It is'nt half as scary anymore now that we have figured out his solution. But I've found every child has different reactions, just keep trying something till you find yours. Good luck, hope this HELPS somebody else!!!! Lori
My 6 year old daughter suffers from NT just as many of you have described. Something that we've found that stops the terrors is to give her Children's Benadryl before bed. When we do this she does NOT have night terrors for that night. We don't do this everynight since we don't want to medicate her all of the time, but we do give it to her if she had a very busy day (overtired) or was having a sleepover at a friends house.(so she wouldn't have a NT at someone elses house) It works like a charm. Susan
My son turned 5 yrs. old two weeks ago. He has been waking and screaming and freaking out in the middle of the night every two to three hours every single night since he was a year old! This has always been a major concern of ours, because it frightens me to death, and has been mentioned every time we visited his pediatrician and his heart specialist and no one ever mentioned the possibility of night terrors.
Today a grad student in child psycology from Kent State University told me to check into night terrors, and I found this website - it explains exactly what is happening to our son. Thank you for enlightening me and giving me hope that he will be o.k.! Cathy
I have Just started to look into this. My daughter is 7.5 and has been having what I called bad drams for a ong time going on 2 yrs. now. I am not sure if they are NT or not. She goes to sleep fine usually with her tv, her closet and bubble light all on and would rather have the bedroom light on as well. She sleeps well up untill sometime between 12am and 3am, then she comes running and shaking with fear into our room where she stays the rest of the night. Over 90% of the time she remains awake untill it is time to get up she is so scared. She seems to be okay during the day and not to tired, it does not seem to interfer with school or any other activies. All though it does take a toll on my husband adn I. Any how I still am not sure what this is if this is NT or not. We have consulted with the Ped. and have tried a few things not much works at this point. I know this is not a web site for help but at this point any advise would be great. My daughter has these 7 days a week! all the time. Are they NT?? Can you give any suggestions? Desperet to know what is going on. Please feel free to e-mail me anytime all of your help will be much appreciatted. Thanks Melinda
Since that time we have repeatedly gone through a more typical NT experience with screaming out/crying in his sleep for periods between 10 min-1 1/2 hours once or multiple times a night. These episodes typically run every night for several weeks to months, then disappear for a few months only to return again about the time we think they're gone for good. I haven't seen any commonality between these bouts. He doesn't seem particularly overstressed or overtired (at first!). He doesn't remember anything in the morning. Is completely uncommunicative during the episodes even if he appears "awake". Last night I got him out of bed and walked him around the house for 20 minutes with the lights on, talking to him, feeding the hamster, drinking a cup of milk, etc. and he never really was awake. It's such a bizarre, surreal experience.
Does this sound like NT's to you? The thing that confuses me is that I've read that they occur in Stage 4 of sleep about 1 1/2 hours after the child falls asleep. His don't typically occur until about 5 hours after he falls asleep (bedtime at 8 pm, they start consistently at about 1 am and last off and on until about 4:30 am). Does this time frame rule out NT's? I'm going to try some of the tips on this site tonight, but would love any input you have.
p.s. He has been evaluated for seizures and of course he was symptom free that day! So the test came back negative.
My son, who is now 11 years old has had night terrors on and off for the past 7 years. I have read a lot of the stories and appreciate all the information. His night terrors have not lessened in the actual experience. Lately however, I have noticed that he continues to shake his head as if to try and pull himself out of the terror even though he still does not recall having the night terror the next morning. At times, mostly lately, he seems as if he is trying to tell me something but then holds back...I try very hard not to read too much into this. However, there are many issues with his father (we divorced when he was 2)that concern me during his visitation/exeriences while with his father. Experiences and environments that are completely unacceptable.....to what extent I am not sure of at this point.(dilegently working on) I guess my question is, has anyone experienced something similar to this situation that has, as crazy as it may sound, considered hypnotism or other treatments to ensure there arent deeper psychological issues? Thank you.
Over the last 2-3 years the NTs have lessened but with age he remembers more and more of what has occurred. He will tell me about them in the morning. Yes, he talks during his NT although usually it is nonsense or jibberish and always wants to get outdoors. Last week when he had a NT he told me in the morning that he remembered having one and that he wanted to get outdoors to see the moon. I wonder now if that is why he has wanted to get outdoors all the other times. We had to get ADT security because we were afraid that he would go out one night and we wouldn't know.
He does not, especially now as he gets older, necessarily scream or make any noise but you can definitely tell he is very scared and acts almost as if he is trying to hide from whatever it is that is scaring him. I have found the triggers for him are 1)fever 2)stress 3)excitment 4)going to bed too late 5)heat. He mostly gets out of bed during a NT so I get up, put on the lights, try to convince him to use the washroom - this works 99% of the time. I talk calmly to him and try to get him to watch TV and find something that he might like on TV (for young children, turn on a calming video or taped TV episode). While he watches TV he will calm and within a short amount of time he will be awake and tell me that he realizes he had another NT. We usually cuddle on the couch for a few more minutes and he then wants to go back to bed. I know that his NTs are not as severe or as often as they used to be and I hope he outgrows them. I hear that some people never do.
Thanks to everyone for sharing their stories on this site, it will definitely benefit someone else.
I really appreciate this web site. I have been myself terrified over what is happening with my son. He is now 20 months, but has been having what I guessed were night terrors since 8 months. I asked the pediatrician about it, but she completely dismissed it. Maybe she has no experience with it. For a long time I agonized over what we were doing wrong as parents to make him feel so horrible as to have a night terror. I found that they come and go, but had found no glaring "cause" of the problem. In the last 3 days, he has had 4 NT's. Last night he had 2 in one night. I am going to follow some of the advice I read about not putting him in footed PJ's and see if that helps. He also has a cold right now, so maybe it's that. My husband thinks this is all silly, but I will do just about anything to keep my little boy terror-free. On another note, being that this is hereditary, my mom was just diagnosed with fibromyalgia, which stems from problems during stage 4 sleep. I have read a lot about it, but I don't know if there have been any studies about the two being related. It is just beginning to be widely recognized as a disorder. But I am going to be super vigilant about watching my son for symptoms. It includes chronic aching without explanation, among many other things. Please look it up if you think it may be a factor, it is also hereditary. On another note, Fibro is related to ADHD, according to the books I've read. Funny, because I am sure my husband has adult ADHD. Our family is strongly opposed to medicating our kids for every little thing, as some docotrs are anxious to do, so we are trying to find natural solutions. I will give the feet in water and no footed PJ's a try. Sabrina
I am so fortunate to have found this website because it has confirmed to me what is wrong even though my doctor has said he is to young for them and it has given me so much comfort to see that other parents are dealing with this nightmare as well. I have taken all of your adivce on board and I agree that it may have something to do with being overheated and/or being over tired or stressed.
I have only had a couple of hours sleep every night for the last few months and was despertate just to get a full night so last night I gave him some drowsy cough medicine before he went to bed which did the trick. He did have one at 4am but it only lasted a few mintues. I also put him in jammies without feet and took his sleeping bag off him so maybe that might also have helped. Possibly he has been over heated all this time as I don't remember it happening in the summer months. Where I live we don't experience very hot summers but the kids still sleep in summer jammies even if its not that warm but in winter they are in footy jammies and sleeping bags and our houses are well heated.
I just want to thank you all for you stories as I now feel like I am not alone with this problem and at least I know now that I am not the only parent dealing with this and I some remedies that I can try. Thankyou.
This is the second time this week and both times, going to the bathroom snapped him out of it, he went back to sleep almost immediately. I found this interesting that a couple of other parents said the same thing. Good luck everyone, and thank you for this website, I feel encouraged. Denise
Thank you for the comments other parents have submitted. I'll try the suggestions, but mostly it's comforting to know other kids do have NT at her age and we're not alone! Heather
O.K....here are a few different suggestions that worked for my 4 year old daughter. First of all, I think her main problem stems from not getting enough rest. It is virtually impossible to get her to take a nap and when she goes to bed at her scheduled time seem almost more tedious. One would think if she didn't have her nap, this would be of a more easier task.......nope! ;} Anyway, my doctor told me to give her a children's antihistamine an hour before bed time for a week to help train her body to go to sleep. Of-course you should check with your doctor first. This was recommended to help her fall asleep not for the NT. Also I find she sleeps better when the t.v. is on, I turn on cartoons low volume AFTER she falls asleep. I guess the sound and tv light makes her not feel as scared if she were to wake up in that NT mode. When she does have an incident, I just talk softly to her and offer her favorite thing which in her case is strawberry milk in a tipy cup. This has always been her security blanket since she was a baby and it calmed her down immediately. She wont even drink it half the time just falls back to sleep clutching on it. It seems to help to have the ceiling fan on low also even if its a bit cool. I just know by my experience that air curculation helps me sleep so why not. Hope this helps ;} Christine
Another behavior that I heard mentioned once here is that she sometimes "stiffens" up: fully extending her arms over her head and stretching her legs out in opposite direction. While doing this she is crying and her eyes are closed.
She has a milk allergy, so we are looking into possible problems because of that (maybe calcium deficiency)....
(Editor note: also see Morris' 2008 follow-up below
What seemed to help: 1. Waking her up completely--we took her downstairs and let her watch a favorite video, another time let her look out the window. 2. Removing some of her covers. I wish I'd realized it and I would have switched her heavy sweat pants for some shorts.
It was frightening for my husband and me. We had no idea what to do, especially because she didn't respond to us at all. Even a cold, wet wash cloth didn't wake her up. We're glad to see it's not abnormal (although sorry for all you people who have deal with it). Rebecca
The ticket is that if she has a nap which lasts about two hours, she doesn't fall asleep until 11:00/12:00 midnight and then doesn't get a night terror. If she does not have a nap, she gets the night terror. So it's a catch 22 with us....take a nap, go to bed way late and no terror or no nap and goes to sleep at 8:00 p.m. and get a night terror. This leads us to believe that she is over exhausted. When you work the next day, staying up until midnight isn't very appealing. :)
A friend suggested to wake her up after an hour nap, but that leads to a night-terror, too. So, doing the waking-up method before the REM isn't going to work either. We are just totally and completely stumped. We hear what everyone is saying. We read all of the articles, but we still don't feel like we are getting the answers. Maybe it's time to look at a sleep clinic. It's our last hope. We've got two other kids. My 11 yr old never had them. My 2 1/2 year old sleeps with us because she can't sleep through the episodes. Our whole family is disrupted because of this "thing". Help ! - Heather
My seven year old son began having night terrors after having surgery a year and a half ago. The first night after surgery he awoke screaming, running throught the house, and throwing himself against the wall repeatedly. He then had them every other night or so for a few weeks. They tapered off to once a week and eventually to once or twice a month. Although they are less frequent, they seem to have become more intense. They usually start with him getting out of bed and coming down the stairs, he walks into the family room somewhat dazed and then begins crying, followed by screaming, jumping up and down, running from us, eventually allowing us to hold him and calm him for a minute and then becoming terrified and screaming "Mommmy, Mommy, Mommy..." even when I am holding him. He wrestles to get away and you can tell by the terror on his face that he does not recognize us. Last night he had one that lasted fifteen minutes and he kept getting more afraid. Finally we were able to wake him and calm him. He fell asleep in my bed and had several other episodes that were a fraction of the first - just very restless sleep, talking, sitting up, struggling, teeth grinding. Do mulitple NTs happen very often? Any advice?? Molly
I posted an earlier message about another site I found - www.drgreene.com. Since reading from that website I have started doing internet searches for "confusional arousals" and "parasomnias" and "sleep arousal disorders" (make sure you search for SLEEP arousal disorders, if you search for just arousal disorders you get all sorts of other info you probably don't want if you know what I mean! This has definitely been worth checking out as well. All sorts of other sites have come up with descriptions matching what my son (and your little ones) has (have) been going through. Heidi
Our 8 year old son has had night terrors for the past four years and I can identify with most trends reported here. When he is agitated, overly tired, or experiencing periods of flu-like symptoms he has a tendency to experience a night terror. The frequency is intermittent but seems to run for two or three days in a row when they occur. He has actually had two in the same night as well. Generally, our son wakes up screaming and crying. He does not respond to verbal commands to wake but does interact in normal tone discussions such as calling his name and asking simple questions unrelated to his night terror. He often flexes his stomach muscles rigidly and acts as if in real physical pain. The episodes have lasted as long as twenty minutes but the faster we can intervene the less severe and prolonged the episode. We had good success in leading him to the bathroom and asking him to use the toilet. This seems to have the effect of bringing the reality of his situation to the fore and making the terror episode subside. Lately however this technique seems to have become less effective. The second technique was to bring him downstairs and turn on the television. He does not actively watch the television but it seems to create an environment the stimulates several senses at the same time and he settles rapidly. (His feet are uncovered and it is winter time with the heat turned down at night as weel.) After he has finished with the night terror he rapidly goes back to sleep and has no memory of the event nor displays any behavioural problems the next morning.
I hope that these comments can add to this database and offer support and guidance to any parent dealing with similar situations at home. Anecdotally, some of the night terrors have resulted in interesting family stories of the discussions that we engage in during the episode and our son enjoys hearing them.
Good-Luck to all the parents out there going through this and thank goodness for this websight! Maureen
I wanted to share this because often there is nothing we can do to avoid night terrors. All we can do is learn how best to deal with them and keep our kids safe through them. I think limiting tv and video games, early bedtime, healthy dinners and peaceful evenings should be something every house should strive for. But even in the "perfect home" (if there is such a home!) night terrors exist! Molly
I sometimes find him running from room to room. I always try and get to go to the bathroom, but even doing this does not make a difference. If I try to guide him back to his bed, he can get even more agitated, so I do much as you other parents in talking to him calmly, stroking his hair etc. He is very verbal during these episodes (which luckily only last appx. 10-20 minutes) and is usually saying things like 'I cant ....', or 'help' or 'he/she is doing this or that...', but I can never really work out what he is dreaming/seeing. He often complains that 'things are moving around' and 'why is everything jumping about?...'
I find these NTs very upsetting and scary, as I agree that seeing your child so terrified about something, with you as the parent being unable to help him, is awful. I too sometimes dread late evenings as you are just waiting to hear the shouting and screaming start. My husband (who has not yet read this websiteas he!) was getting really concerned and suggesting that he was disturbed and needed help/therapy, which was upsetting. However I will now get him to read this site, which hopefully will reasure him that NTs are very common. It has certainly put my mind at rest that it is normal and will hopefully go away eventually! I will tonight try the cooling down method and if I time it right - the waking him up within an hour of falling asleep.
- THANK YOU for all the suggestions, it really helps knowing that so many others are experiencing the same thing. Sharon (from the UK)
I can usually bring her out of it by grabbing her gently, but firmly, by the shoulders, telling her it's Mommy, and that she needs to wake up. I know specialists may say that you shouldn't wake someone in the middle of a nightmare, etc., but I can't stand the thought of leaving her in that terrified state. Instinct and human nature take over and I have to find a way to wake her. I appreciated the uncovering the feet idea, and will try that next time.
I don't know of a history of NT in our familes, but I myself have a reputation for talking in my sleep, and my 10 year old has been known to sleep walk. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you, especially those with frequent and/or severe cases of NT. Hang in there. Christine
Our son's NT attacks are sporadic but in series, always about 2-3 hours after bedtime and not always after a day of stimulation or stress. We thought the attacks may have something to do with Playstation use or watching DVD's etc but we could'nt identify any pattern.
What we have done is moved from the "wake up, wake up" approach to a more calming, reassuring style of parenting. We now turn the light on before we go in and a cold flannel appears to get him aware and awake. He never remembers what was scaring him and generally he goes to sleep for the rest of the night.
Once again great site, great views, phew we are not alone !!! Steve
After about 3 or 4 minutes of this, he was very out of it. Almost like he was just a blank shell. I couldn't get him to respond to me and then after about 3 minutes of that, he shook very breifly and then seemed lathargic.
I was so scared that I called the paramedics. I was afraid that he had had some sort of seizure. When the paramedics arrived he was fine and laughing and smiling at them all. They checked his vitals and everything looked okay. Shortly after they arrived they were gone again, but the whole incident was scary enough for me to not sleep again and keep close watch over my son.
I called the docter in the a.m. and he explained that it sounded like he had had a mild seizure, but I am wondering if that is correct. He told me there was no need for an EEG, but I am so afraid for it to happen again, I would like one to make sure. I thought maybe someone out there had had an experience like mine to find out it was a night terror? Jackie
1. They are an inherited disorder in which a cihld tends to have dreams during deep sleep from which it is difficult to awaken. They occur in 2% of the children and are not caused by psychological stress. Getting overtired can trigger them. They usually occur in 1-8 year olds.
2. You can help your child return to sleep by making soothing comments, speaking calmly and repetitively. Hold our child only if if seems to help the child feel better. You can't shorten an episode. Don't shake or shout; that can make them more agitated and will prolong the attack. Protect your child against injury (walking down steps, running into a wall, breaking a window.) Direct your child back to sleep.
3.Make sure you tell the baby sitter or anyone who will be attending to your child. This way, they will know what to do/care for your child during a NT.
4.Keep your child from becoming overtired. If you need to, start those naps back or at least one hour of quiet time. Avoid late bedtimes. If those child needs to be awakened in the morning, then he/she needs an earlier bedtime. Move lights out time to 15 minutes ealier each night until the child can self-awaken in the morning.
5. Use prompted awakening for frequent night terrors. If your child has frequent night terrors, f or several nights, note how many minutes elapse from the time your child falls asleep, to the onset of the night terror. Then begin awakening your child every night 15 minutes before the expected time of the night terror. Remind your child to "wake up fast." Keep your child fully awake and out of bed for 5 minutes. Continue these pompted awakening for 7 nights in a row. If the night terros return when you stop awakening your child, repeat this 7 nights training program. (This idea is from Dr. B. Lask of London.)
Anyway, based after having read all the suggestions, I ran and immediately removed his socks and put a lighter weight blanket on him. I will try the cool water on the feet and back of the neck. And, make sure he naps even on weekends. Since he is adopted, I can't find out who in his family has this. Bottom line is we both need to sleep and I'm going to try many of the suggestions. Thanks to every one. Kim
My second daughter had a similar episode a few months ago but it didn't last as long and she seemed to be able to cope with it better. She's 2 1/2.
Last night was the first time that my youngest (son) 20 months, had his turn at it. He first started crying at midnight, but I was able to calm him back down. A couple hours later he was awake again. This time he was talking to someone or something, my husband went to him and he was sitting up in his bed and talking about a kitty. He then started screaming. I got up and brought him to our bed and he just continued talking about the kitty. He looked at me as if I was the devil and screamed and wouldn't let me hold him. I was up with him the whole night and through the night he started talking about seeing people. He would point across the room and say papa! Freak me out! I don't know what's up with my kids, but I'm not sure it's the night terrors that everyone is talking about. I am open to suggestions. I need some sleep! Doreen
My son has been experiencing NT on and off since he was about 1. He's now 5 1/2 years old. But, here's something new I haven't heard or read about yet and was wondering about. Every once in a while, he'll act like he's having a NT, but says things are getting bigger and smaller. During these episodes he'll talk. One time he even said, 'I just want the drs to make them go away'. He'll tell me things are getting bigger and smaller, even mom and dad. We usually end up turning all the lights on or reading a book or thinking about happy things we'll be doing. Has anyone ever experienced the "bigger/smaller" thing related to NTs?? Thanks, Brooke
We have a now 4 year old, boy, who is experiencing night terrors, and it's been very difficult for all of us. They started in September, 2003, and at that time, we were having a hurricane, here in VA. We had no electricity, so the lights were out. We were all in the same room, asleep, and he woke up screaming. My husband and I, could see that he was still asleep, but I can say, he was completely out of control. Yes, I was out of control as well, because, I had never seen him, act like this. It was worse, when we tried to touch him & he screamed for about an half hour straight, we than called 9-1-1. I know some of you may feel, that that was not necessary, but we didn't know what was wrong & we could not get control of him, to calm him down. Heaven sent, was the firefighter, that had come prior to the paramedics. One of the firefighters, had told us exactly what it was, and told us, that he used to have them as a little boy. It gave us a bit of relief, until it occurred again, a few months later. Not only, had we moved into a new home, but my husband, was working away, coming home on the weekends. Well it occurred again, and I was scared to death. I had after the first incident, spoke with his doctor & he didn't go into detail, as the websites has. It just didn't darn on us, to look it up & I am so happy that we have. He had another episode, just last week, my husband, still away. I picked him up, and kept the soft voice going, took him into the bathroom. I took a cold washcloth, and just kind of blotted his face. He was starting to calm down, and I took him downstairs, and offered him something to drink, but noticed he was still sleep. He had stopped crying, and I brought him and put him in the bed with me, and turned the light and television on. He fell back off to sleep. The next morning, he didn't even know, what had happened.
I not only feel calmer now, but, as I have read the information, listed through the expreriences of others, I feel alot better to handle the situation. The information, is so true, because he doesn't like anything, on his feet at night. We also, find that we have a very hard time, getting him to go to sleep, for naps, as well as nighttime. I thank you for your website, once again, and thank all of you, that took the time to send in your experiences, and advice. It's true, you never know, what you or someone can say, to help someone. God bless all of you & I wish for the best, for your child, and/or children. I will check, with my older siblings, to see if I have experienced, my spouse is going to do the same. Thanks again!!!! Kimberlee
The reason I wonder if it's my fault is that a year ago my husband and i split up, my son, daughter and I now live together in a new house and I have a new boy(man)-friend. The children see their Father every weekend and we are all on good terms, they seem to like my new man, although my Son confesses to some jealousy as he likes to have me to himself. Although he doesn't seem stressed, is this situation causing his night-terrors? or is it just over-tiredness? What can I do to help? Sleeping for all of us is becoming very difficult, and we're all very tired! Victoria
At the age of 2 when he became more vocal he would wake from naps fussing and grunting running around the house hitting and occasional biting, "must have woken on the wrong side of the bed" or he just a fussy child, or even labeled spoiled. Shame on us. This continued until 4 yrs old and stopped. We thought he "grew out of it".
He is now 6 yrs old (Sept. born) just started Kindergarten and was diagnosed with ADHD. I am very interested to see if any other parents have had their NT children checked for ADHD Attention Deficit and Hypertension Disorder. During his NTs He runs around the house screaming mommy at the top of his lungs shaking his arms and hands wildly and stomping his feet on the floor in a crazed state crying.
Things I've noticed - repetitive sound or "white noise" helps him fall to sleep which avoids the attack. I have been reading a lot online checking every bit of information I can find. One thing I am certain, there is no definitive source of information. I have read many sites that contradict each other. For example don’t wake them, do wake them. Don't cover the feet; do cover them to create sense of security. They will grow out of it at age 4,5,6, pick a number or there are adults with NT. The answer is they will not "grow out of it" but the frequency may lesson as they learn to combat it themselves.
Things that I have figured out so far – talking calmly and being reassuring (actually I think this is for me more than for him) asking simple questions about things he likes helps to bring his subconscious to the conscious. The cold water wake him up approach, I think I’ll try that. Holding or restricting him – MAKES IT MUCH WORSE prone to injury to both him and you. I have closed the door and sat in front of it block passage this created some elevated levels but not too bad and gave him little choice but to sit in my lap or the bed. So far has not resorted to complete fits of violence like throwing things or attacking anyone. When it’s over his heart is racing, he is sweating and exhausted and sits with a stunned dazed and confused look. He expresses no memory of the events and I have not pressed for a description. He has turned on a fan or a radio in his room at night and those nights he has not had the NTs. But note it was on his terms, on other nights when I enforce that the fan be on, he still has a NT. Also falling asleep and being moved has triggered NTs so it is important that we don’t let him stay up till he passes out. When he was younger I used to do the 45 minute regular wake ups after he had gone to bed and this seemed to work in keeping the NT away. I have not tried that recently. Sheesh, I better stop before I fill this board up. Good luck and keep trying. Remember what works for one family may not work for yours. Do what’s right for you and your family. God bless.
He was evaluated for ADD last year and that was negative. (for that parent who asked if any other kids were ADD) I have even tried to give my son a placebo medicine (a couple drops of cold medicine) with water and told him it was NT medicine, which he glady takes, i.e., he knows he's having these NT's and it scares him, but with little success. I thought maybe the suggestion would plant in his brain and prevent them. Not. If a child knows he's having them, do they perpetuate them day after day by scaring themselves into them? Talk or think themselves into NT's over and over again?
But thank you all so much for your testimonials. I would like to know if any other parents have had drugs prescribed for their child's NT's. There hasn't been much said on that. I don't want to drug my child, but if my son knows he's having them and is scaring himself into having them, I wonder what this is doing to him in the long run. Is there a drug out there that won't turn my son into a zombie or ruin his health? Chris
I have a 10 year old son who was diagnosed with ADHD. My son has a very difficult time sleeping at night. I will wake up in the middle of the night and he will be awake, or I will wake up in the morning to find that he was awake in the middle of the night and he has food in his room. I spoke with the Dr. and he insists that my son is just stimulated, I explained to him, there is no TV in his room and I physically remove the light every night. I put him in bed at 8:30 every night and sit up for two to three hours hoping that he falls asleep. His Dr. refuses to think that it has anything to do with his ADHD, and told me to lock him in his room at night. I can't do that he is asthmatic and in case of an emergency he needs to get out or I might need to get in and who has time to look for a key. I need some help, I don't know if anyone has any advice for this problem but any would be more than welcome. Thank you, Carri
I do sometimes worry about his 'behaviour' the doc also told me that it is a NORMAL part of development and that he would never harm himself, i noticed a big scratch on his face the other day and he didnt know where it had come from, i wondered if he'd done it on one of his night trips, when i'd been sleeping. I've thought about taking him to a psychiatrist in the past but other than the nightly sessions he's a perfectly healthy normal child, a bit of a worrier though ...What a thing we have to put up with!!....Just to finsh off with a funny one...A friend told me that when she was younger she used to sleep walk into the kitchen and put a microwavable meal into the microwave at nights, then go back to bed.. having no knowledge of this happening until her puzzled mum caught her 'in the act'..
Ps! Does anyone else have a child who has night terrors, sleepwalks AND has a conversation with you? Carrie
My son also has a severe fear of being left alone. If he is left alone in a room and I don't tell him where I am going he will scream like he is scared to death that I left him. He has to know where I am in the house at all times. He has gotten worse latley about this. I wonder if something has happened to make him feel this way. I can't think of anything. He don't talk about it. He is almost five so I don't know how much information I would get from him.
Does anybody have any children with this situation? Barb
We take her into a room with a VCR and a television, sit her down, cuddle, and turn on her favorite TV show or movie, something soothing and cheerful. This works for us every time and is much more effective than hugs or comforting words or hugs or turning on the lights. Our daughter stops being upset almost immediately, wakes up calmly, and forgets the nightmare. Once she is fully awake (but drowsy) she goes back to bed willingly and falls asleep quickly. Some mornings I’ve asked her if she remembers getting up; her memories are vague and only include watching television. Hugs and reassurance are never this beneficial.
2. Early Bed Time – The Same Time Every Single Night
Establish an early bed time, every single night, without fail, without exception. Holidays, out of town visitors, exciting parties, special occasions – say NO to every single one. This can be a bit embarrassing at first, but just explain that this is too important to your child’s health, and stick to it. We have a half hour to one hour bed time routine, followed by an exact time when our daughter is laying in bed ready to go to sleep. We had to lie next to her while she went to sleep until the pattern was established firmly – for our daughter, this took several years. Her bed time is 8pm every single night, and she wakes up naturally some time between 6:30 am to 7:30 am in the morning. We allow extra morning time to sleep in for occasions where extra sleep is needed, like growth spurts and stressful days. Going to bed tired is more likely to cause our daughter to have a Night Terror than ANYTHING else. Stress seems to me to be related to her Night Terrors only because people who are stressed out need more sleep and are thus more likely to go to bed tired.
The most useful piece of advice I’ve found is that going to sleep tired causes night terrors. Avoiding that “over tired” state has worked well for our daughter. Once we established an early bed time (Every Single Night Without Fail), she went from having Night Terrors nearly every night to perhaps once a week, and now perhaps once a month.
Try the television and consistent early bed time – really! I’d rather the hugs worked, but television is much more effective. Television gets through to our daughter when she is “half awake” in a Night Terror. Hugs and words usually don’t. Margaret
She is not a good napper. She will take short naps (30-45 minutes) periodically, but usually won't sleep beyond that unless we are driving. The few instances of suspected NTs she has had have begun within 30 to 60 minutes after going to sleep. We have a bedtime routine for her, and her bedtime is between 8:30 and 9:00pm everynight, earlier if she hasn't napped well. She starts to whimper, then quickly builds to loud, panicky crying (not her hungry cry) and does not respond to our voices or the usual things that sooth her when she is upset or sleepy. Her eyes remain shut as if sleeping, which is what made me suspect NT. She does thrash about some too. Eventually she will settle if I nurse her - this seems to break through to her - maybe its my scent? She does not nurse very long though, which leads me to believe it is not hunger that wakes her.
I was a sleep talker and walker as a small child and also had vivid, abstract nightmares - kind of like the bigger/smaller thing some parents mentioned - more often when I had a fever. I still have hypnopompic/hynogogic hallucinations - vivid visual hallucinations upon falling asleep or waking up - often tied to stress or being overtired.
Thanks for this site! Jennifer
As I have experienced them myself and know the fear they cause, I am sometimes very eager just to wake my child, especially when he is calling for me to wake him.
Now when my child is having a terror I try to talk to him and reasure him that I am there(without reminding him that it is only a dream, as this seems to send him into more panic) I can change the subject of his dream by telling him that I have sent whatever is scaring him away. I then tell him that we are going to the park to get an ice cream, and so on. He soon calms down, although it does take sometime to get him to listen.
My son and i have always been very light sleepers, i wonder if this has any association with night terrors. Does anyone have any ideas on preventing them occuring? Gemma
I just wanted to share some of my tips: (1) the sooner you can stop them, the better. If I hear him talking in his sleep (I still use a baby monitor for this purpose) I rush in to stop the cycle. If I don't it will just escalate. (2) I believe in waking the child up while staying calm and loving. I do this by turning on the lights and putting cold water on his face (by dipping my hand in water and wiping his face.) I've tried lukewarm water and it doesn't work. While this is of course uncomfortable, it wakes him up and he can quickly go back to sleep peacefully. Even though he can't complete a sentence while in the middle of a NT, he once or twice has haltingly asked me to "help him wake up." Sometimes I can ask him if he wants me to wake him up and he seems to understand and says yes.
While I've tried to get on a better bedtime schedule this week, I'll start to try the bedtime rituals and waking him up after 45 mins of sleep to see if that helps.
It was a very terrifying experience, yes I felt so hopeless and wanted to cry and didn't understand what had caused this. My son did have apnea when he was born but not had an episode since. One of my sisters was also a sleep walker and had these episodes when she was about 6 - 10 (more flailing around then screaming so they were not nearly as scarry to me). I have also noticed that my son does talk in his sleep frequently. He sleeps in a tee shirt type top and diaper and always kicks the covers off. Ill try the cool compress if it happens tonight. I was so worried and scared that it was something I had done or let him watch (cartoons?) or said... I feel comforted, relieved and less alone that other people are having similar experiences. Thanks. Angela
The only limited success we have found is waking him (lovingly and it takes a while!), bringing him downstairs, turning on his favorite Baby Einstein video until he becomes drowsy, and then letting him sleep on his daddy's chest. (That is where he is now, FINALLY at 3AM) He is on a good schedule that has recently been interrupted. My husband and I both teach and are now home for the summer with him. Great during the day, but havoc at night! This, coupled with the fact that he recently had general anesthesia, I believe to be the trigger for the onset of these night terrors. I hope they do not continue but am thankful that we are not expected at work each morning! Just a side note of support: Do not feel you are a bad parent because your child "sleeps great at Nanny,s house for naps" and has terrors in your home at night. or if you feel helpless during these stressful times. It is obvious that there are many very caring parents out there by reading all these postings. Thanks for your ideas : ) Buffy
Now that it has it happened each night since then, I was confusing myself more by thinking of every possible reason. As it went on, I was getting more and more bizarre ideas. For example, we just bought a new house about 2 months ago...I began wondering if the house was haunted and only my child could feel the "ghost." In reality and rationally, I'm sure the new house is probably causing him a great deal of stress. Another bizarre idea I had was sparked by his aunt. She is in the airforce stationed overseas and recently sent him a mink blanket with spiderman on it...well, I started wondering if the blanket wasn't cursed by someone that hated Americans or something. Now that I have read some of your posts, I realize that the mink is too hot for him and he is getting overheated. The only thing that seemed to really correlate to all this is that his grandfather, my father-in-law, let him watch "It" (Steven King's movie about the clown) while baby-sitting him two nights before the night terrors started. So I was positive that had a lot to do with it too....and I'm sure it still does but I also feel better knowing my son is at the age where these are more common. (Don't even get me started on why my father-in-law thought an R rated movie was acceptable for a child. He and I had some words and he is not allowed to watch my son anymore.) My son has also gotten tonsillitis this week so I suppose the virus could have been making him sick even before the actual symptoms appeared and as many of you have mentioned, sickness can increase the night terrors. The only thing I don't know is if my husband or I had night terrors as a child. Neither or our parents remember either way. So as I mentioned, all of these factors seemed to work together to begin his night terrors. I just hope they end so...they are more scary for me than him but I feel horrible for him and I feel helpless.
I am concerned though by three things that I didn't notice in anyone else's post. My son, while having a night terror, screams and points at something and tells me, "There it is, there it is." Has anyone else experienced that? Can the child still being somewhat asleep but awake enough to try to get me to look at something that only he can see?
Secondly, I noticed one gentleman mention that getting his child to use the restroom usually helped his child go back to sleep. Well, my son, towards the end of the night terror actually goes to the bathroom on his own....just as though he was awake. (in the toliet, flushes, goes back to bed to sob a little more and then back to sleep) Last night, for the first time, he had a bowel movement and again, he did it as though he was awake. So I wonder if he is awake or still only in between awake and asleep. If I try to talk to him while he is using the bathroom, he still doesn't seem to understand me nor answer me coherently. So, I guess I just do not understand this half awake, half asleep stage.
Finally, my son does not follow the short amount of time asleep before the night terror strikes. For 3 days in a row, it happened at about 4:00 in the morning. (he goes to bed at about 10:00) Then, a few nights, it was 1:00 in the morning. Lately, it is happening between 1:00 and 3:00. There is no real consistency and he has already been asleep for at least 3 hours.
Thank you for posting your own experiences with this. It had me so shaken up but I feel a little bit better knowing I'm not alone. Holly
When I was younger between 5 and 9 years of age, I can only remember screaming at night. Both my parents would come in and turn on my light. I could not for the life of me remember what the dreams were about. I only remember screaming and not being able to recognize my mom. My mom would HAVE to leave my site and my dad would sit beside me while I sit up in bed next to him still screaming. I'd ask where Mom was; often crying. I couldn't recognize her face if she walked by and each time she did, I screamed. It was very hard for her emotionally because she felt helpless. She couldn't do anything. One thing that was weird was that I could remember being awake but things didn't feel right. I spoke in a soft voice not to be too loud. My dad had to move slowly around me and speak softly. He couldn't touch me or scratch my back too quickly or without me knowing he was going to do it. My senses were more keen at this time to the world around me. It was a very strange feeling. To help me out, my dad would have some crackers and milk (or water) that I could drink. And although I didn't eat a lot, it calmed me down enough that I would eventually get tired and fall asleep. When morning would come, I would not talk about my night terrors or anything. I was too scared to talk about them. The dreams were weird and seemed like they were still like a dream. I acted as though they never occured. I didn't realize that those were real until I got older and my parents discussed the topic. During that time, I saw a psychologist and was put on riddlan (however that's spelled). My parents were told I had A.D.D. and that night-terrors were usually associated with children with this disorder. From what my parents were told, it has to deal with the part of the brain that deals with visual recognition. My brain had not been developed as much as a young child's had being the same age I was. My night terrors went away when I moved away from Utah to Arizona on October 1st, 1992 (I was 9 years old).
Message to Trish: read my e-mail. My son also throws up during his night terrors and they are close to the same age. annabella
Anyway, we have had a busy week with visiting friends and she hasn't had a lot of sleep and there has been some stress of having another only child share her room/house/family with her. We were reading books to her and her friend and I think she may have fallen asleep with her eyes open or something because a few minutes after stopping reading she started panicking about a black widow spider coming through the walls to get her. She was moving around like something was crawling on her. She would talk a lot to me, saying things like "Help me, help me. I can't take it. I need to get out of this creepy place."
I kept telling her to calm down and that she was fine and she'd say "No, I'm not." At one point, I said: Do you know who I am? And she said, "Yes, mom." I still wonder if it was some type of panic attack rather than a night terror or I maybe they're the same thing?. Eventually, I got so frustrated that I took her out of bed to get a cold washcloth (she was hot and her eyes were glazed). My husband suggested calmly that she come in with us for awhile and she was able to calm down and fall into a deep sleep.
I'm going to ask her this morning if she remembers trying to get to sleep last night and see how much she does or will share.
It's "comforting" to hear that older children do have this...I do now remember my own bouts of sleep panic and irrational fears at night.
Jan I just read over some of your e-mails and I have to say I'm glad to know that many people share this terrifying experience as well as I, but what I found to be frightning is the amount of people who have 8,9,10,11 year old children who still do this. My 2 year old son has been doing this since he was about 6 months old, it didn't occur to me what they were until he was about 1. When I would hear him in the night I would naturally try to comfort him but he would thrash all around and scream and throw himself into walls, floors, furniture and anything else in his path of destruction and the more I would try to comfort him the worse he got. But what really made me realize these were not just bad dreams is the blank stare or look in his eyes. I would tell my husband that he was still asleep even though he looked very much awake, but the blank glazed over look in his eyes told me this was not just a bad dream. I'm not sure if my sons NT's are severe or not but they typically last from 30-45 minutes every time. I have just started to research this so I appreciate all the advice and websites reccomended. I just pray that we find a way to stop this, my biggest fear is the harm he could do to himself. He's fearless enough when he's awake, it really scares me what he does during a NT. Teena
The third night he didn't have them was when we were advised by our doctor to try Benadryl. It worked for that one night, but not after that. So we stopped giving it to him. He always wakes up within the first hour of going to bed. He comes upstairs to us and is crying, screaming, unable to console. He usually yells "Mommy, Mommy" even when I am holding him. He will jump up and down, run around, let us hold him for a few seconds then try to get away from us, then come back to us, etc... the cycle continues on for 5 minutes or so. My husband and I are usually watching TV at the time still, so we will let him sit and watch it with us for a little bit. Having him look at himself in the mirror sometimes works to wake him up. There are some nights that he will only have one, but many nights he will have 2, 3 or 4. We are at our wits end because we've never experienced this with him or our 9 year old daughter. Also, when he is having a NT his heart is beating so fast, he is sometimes sweating and he always is shaking uncontrollably. We have to bundle him up in a blanket to get him to stop shaking.
Our Doctor wants to send him to a Pediatric Neurologist and get a cat Scan done. Has anyone had this done before? Also, my son is pretty sensitive and fears change as well as loud noises. Per haps some of this is connected. But why would it start just now and never before? If anyone has any thoughts please let me know. I would love to be in touch with people who are having similiar issues. Thanks for everyone's support on this board as well as your stories. Susan
This time he has been having them since leaving the hospital, and they seemed to have been aggravated by a test he had to have this week. I was thrilled to find your website as these seem to be the worst terrors that he has ever had. Thank you all for posting.
Stress certainly seems to be a factor in all of this with our son. He does verbalize during his night terrors. He also has some connection with using the bathroom. He wears pull-ups to bed, and almost every time that we have heard him screaming lately he has had to go to the bathroom (the only way we can tell is that he's holding his privates). We put him on the toilet, he urinates, and he calms almost immediately. I'm sure part of this is the cool air that hits his behind, but I wonder if there also isn't some gray area between bedwetting and night terrors for older children. My husband and I have wondered if that urge to urinate and not being able to wake up enough to get to the bathroom kind of triggers the episode.
I'll have to try the cool cloths and uncovering his feet. We live in Florida, so the air-conditioning is always on right now, but we also tend to cover him with a sheet. Just when you thought you were being a good mom ...
I don't know why I didn't think to look at this subject online sooner.
Tonight he sat straight up in bed with eyes wide open and panicked. I was able to talk to him and ask him the problem and tell him I would take care of it. I asked him to lie down so that I could take care of it, and he did! That was great. He was back to sleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. We'll see how long it lasts or if it works again, but what a difference being there at the start of the episode rather than in the middle when it's so hard to reach him.
Thank you all again, and I'll keep checking back. Debbie
Last week, he went under general anesthetic to remove his tonsils and adenoids, as he was also suffering from sleep apnoea, I thought that this would be the end of the sleepless nights. However, since being home, he has been suffering from them every few hours. They are lasting longer, and he is getting more violent towards myself, his grandmother, and himself. This is what prompted me to try and understand more about what was happening to him.
I have found some good advice on this site (it's better then trying to understand all the information from the 'doctors and proffesionals who have no idea what it is like to see your child like this). I am worried about the fact that they have increased, but reading another concerned parents opinion about the connection between surgery and the night terrors getting worst has prompted me to go and see our doctor.
If anyone has an idea about if they are connected, I would love to hear their opinion. Tarra
A lot of times he will say things like, "That hurts" or "Stop it" over and over. His eyes will be open and he will be reaching out or grabbing, but not really hitting or anything like that. My husband and I will go in and I will hold him and he does come into my lap, but still looks right through us--freaky. I also talk to him and tell him we are there and its just a dream, I also put a cold washcloth on his forehead and neck because he gets so hot and worked up. His heart is also beating fast. I really don't know how he wakes up, because it seems like forever, especially when he is screaming bloody murder, but he does, and after he wakes up, he doesn't remember anything and he just falls back to sleep. In the morning he doesn't remember anything.
I just read some information on the website www.nightterrors.org because I knew about the terrors, but thought my son should be grown out of them by now. There are two things I discovered--my husband's brother has a sort of night terror once in a while, so it does run in families, and it does usually happen when he is upset about something and he is overtired. One happened just last night and before he went to sleep, my son was worried that he will have another bad dream, because once in a while he does have nightmares where he will wake up and yell for me that he had a bad dream. So, now I will talking with him before he goes to bed about dreaming happy things and see how that works out.
I hope this helps someone, or if anyone wants to give me other advise, please do so. Thank you, Diane
Our daughter started having night terrors about six years ago and at that time we had never experienced anything like it. She would wake screaming 'take it away' or 'get it out' and other similar phrases. So after having emptied her room of anything that was not fastened down, on more than one occasion we decided this was not normal. Upon investigation, we found an article in a book about NTs.The symptons our daughter experienced matched exactly those explained in the book. Screaming, talking and shouting but not making much sense, cold sweats, shivering and the most freaky thing was the fact that her eyes are wide open but seemed to be staring straight through us.
Since then she has had NT on and off. Some things that do seem to trigger them are getting too hot, stress at school ie tests etc.. Sometimes during a NT she will be excessively flactulant. She never seems to remember them, but we talk openly to her about them and she seems to find what she says and does quite amusing. However over the last couple of weeks she talks about dying and that she is 'ready to go now' which we have found disturbing, but fully appreciates that this has no relevance to anything. We were wondering if anybody else has experienced anything like this?
Again this has been a truly wonderful site to read and hope others find it as reassuing. It is nice to know that when we are comforting our little girl that there are others out there doing likewise.
Thank you so much to the 'mom' maintaining the website and well done. Steve and Jill (UK)
I have not tried this cool water trick, will do so. And try to have a schedule for him, in case he is not getting enough sleep in the night to let him have his fair share in the mornings. Thanks again.
One time when he was eight, he had been real sick with a sore throat fever etc. he was sleeping in the afternoon. I went to wake him up to have him drink water, he shot out of bed, almost literally started running up the walls. He was afraid of something, but was also jabbering things I had never heard. I couldn't hold him or anything, and he ran throughout the house, jumping on beds furniture everything. I was afraid because he had a temperature, and might have been dehydrated that I called 911. By the time they got there--which was real fast, he was awake and it was over.
I've asked for help from pediatricians, psychiatrists, and psychologists, but I haven't found much help from them. Some tell me to wake him up, the psychiatrist told me absolutely not to wake him. I have found that if I wake him an hour before the NT occurs that works, however last night I tried that, and it sent him into a NT. Another thing I have noticed is that, he is very active, and if he hasn't been active for a few days he can get a NT that night. It's like being active helps him clear his mind. My older daughter who is 14 also has had NT's, however they have never been as terrifying for us, as my son's have been. She would only sleep walk, and we could wake her easily, and they were over for her. The difference with her terrors was that she could remember hers, and my son doesn't. My daughter always sleeps with the window open a little (our winters are very cold) and a tv on all night. I have let her because she can sleep, and she doesn't sleep walk, and she doesn't have night terrors anymore.
After reading what everyone else has said it sure seems that many of the symptoms are the same, and it seems like there would be a simple solution to these NT. I just wish we could all have the answers. I'm going to try some of the things you all have tried like directing him to the toilet, and cooling his feet(I hadn't heard of that). I also agree there is something to the sleep apnea. My son has kind of a different breathing pattern at night.
What works best for my son when he is in a NT, is to calm him, never try to wake him, I talk to him if he talks to me with words of encouragement, and I just wait it out. And, I have found that if I can I let him sleep in the morning and send him to school later. Sometimes if I don't do that he is too tired that day, and then has another NT that night. I pray for answers for all of us, and am so thankful I found this site. Peggy
I have a 41/2yr old. He has been suffering from night terrors since around a year old. When he gets them he vomits. Our doctor says that does not usually happen with a night terror but it does in our situation. He NEVER has remembered any episode. I am so afraid that he is going to choke on his vomit one night. He usually sits up or stands up when the terror begins but one of these times we may not be so lucky. When he is in his bouts of the terrors we have him sleep with us. I cannot find ANY information on night terrors and vomiting. Have you ever heard of any????
Thanks for listening. Michelle
My husband and I decided that we would count backwards from ten to one and tell her she was alright and that by the time we get to one she will either wake up or go back to sleep. in doing this she would hear us and do either the episode would only last for seconds after that.I was also told a child remembers nothing about what is going on and most times they do not even remember it happening.
I. schelduling for children this age is very important.Her episodes lasted about 6 months after we started this regimin with her. scariest thing I had ever seen.Night terrors do not last long. Tris
My twelve year old was ill recently, and during this time experienced an unusual number of terrors. His pediatrician feels the increase was definitely related to him being ill.
I found your website very helpful and comforting. I am writing to you about a new book I discovered in my search for information and thought the readers of your website might benefit from it. I haven't read it yet (am waiting for my copy to arrive from Amazon) but it sounds quite promising. Good Luck and Blessings, Valeria concerned mother
http://www.nightterrors.info/index.htm BANISHING NIGHT TERRORS AND NIGHTMARES A must read for professionals, victims and their families. PRODUCT DETAILS Paperback ISBN: 0-7582-0542-2 Format: Paperback, 228pp Pub. Date: March 2004 List Price/Shipping: $15.00 (U.S./Canada) + $2.95 Shipping and Handling ($1.50 shipping for additional book) $20.00 (Oustide U.S./Canada) + 2.95 S+H FOR AIR MAIL SHIPPING WITHIN ONE WEEK ($1.50 shipping for additional book
I remember at that time of my life, as a 9 year old child, I had dreams that telephone poles were falling on me. They never actually hit me, but I remember them falling. I wonder if this can be heridetary. I also have a 12 year old son who experienced a few NTs, mostly with spiders involved. He seemed to have about a dozen of them before they subsided around around age 8. He also seems to have grown out of them, but does have some memory of dreaming and being afraid of spiders. I remember him trying to wipe the spiders off of himself, asking me to get them off. Screaching, crying, panicing, all of those things that seeme to be a common theme. I personally feel that the helpless of it all is what we all fear the most. I know that's how I feel. I'm supposed to make all of the ugly go away for my children and when a parent is helpless, it feels just awful. With all of that said, I want to thank you for all the postings, I actually had tears running down my cheeks reading some of the postings. Also, thank you to the volunteer Mom that is maintaining this web site, you are a great service to many. Kate
1. claustrophobic - hates sheets/blankets, and won't sleep in footsie pajamas.
2. They mostly happens when: He is overtired or congested due to a cold. His schedule has been changed. He is dressed too warmly.
Now I have some idea how to minimize their recurrence, and how to mitigate them when they DO occur. Thanks to everybody who took the time to share their experiences. Tom
Second, I can't exactly remember his first episode but it has been a few years. After reading some of the comments about being related to surgery, I am going to try and remember as he had surgery when when he was 3.
I found the comment about using the bathroom most interesting. Michael's older brother wet his bed well in to his teens before we found a treatment that worked - we found it was a sleep disorder. Once the disorder was addressed, the bed wetting stopped. Similarly, Michael appears to have the same disorder and we were planning to start the same treatment this summer. I am hopeful that perhaps the 2 are related and we may cure both at the same time. Interestingly, though, Michael has an identical twin brother that has nightmares like any average child, but does not share the bed wetting or NTs.
Fortunately, Michael hasn't tried to run through the house, just sits up or thrashes in bed. However, reading that this can occur makes me a bit nervous since he sleeps in the top bunk of a bunk bed.
Thanks to all for your experiences. Hopefully, I have helped someone with mine. Jennifer
The night before last my 6 year-old daughter, Madeleine, had another night terror. She had these severely a couple of years ago, just before her father's and my separation. We thought it was stress, and at first thought she was in some way tantrumming and making things tough for us. She would thrash about and then mumble things like, "stop it" and "help" and odd stuff. She'd also say, "put my blanket on" and then immediately kick it off and start over again. At first, we tried to soothe her by holding her and, wow, did that ever make things worse. Her screaming and ranting and ravings were particularly bad during the summer they started, and the police were called twice. We didn't know what to say but that she was tantruming. I didn't understand what was up. My sister had done some research and mentioned "night terrors" back then, but the idea of "terror" didn't seem to fit--she was more irritable, striking out with her fists and words.
We used to argue back at her rantings back then, and she'd get louder or more faraway. One time, after an episode, she sat in the livingroom with her dad, while I was supposed to be attempting sleep. I could hear him trying to reason with her and her speaking irritably. She then started spitting and drooling. I could hear this and had witnessed some of this once. I knew she just couldn't be really all there, that somehow she was in some other world (also, she would have the disconnected look in her eyes). So, I marched out of bed in some sort of supermom mode, picked her up, and told her father I was going to put her under a cold shower. He tried to stop me, but I marched her into the shower, knowing I had to snap her out of this insanity, and after a few seconds of horror from the cold water, she snapped out of it. She spoke in her normal, soft voice, and had a normal look in her eyes. All symptoms were gone. She was no longer "possessed." I guess I should have looked into the whole subject more. After her dad and I split up and the stress decreased, I noticed fewer, though a neighbor complained and said he was moving out partly because of how loud we were at night, that my daughter was always screaming and that he questioned our parenting. I guess I might have tuned out the screaming after awhile. I knew she did so but it was more manageable, and I guess there is so much lack of sleep one can handle. Over the last year or so I haven't noticed but much, just some of the rolling back and forth, but not the angry words and sitting up (oh, and she used to be all sweaty, she'd have a cold, sweaty head, just like everyone described). That was until night before last. She's been stressed lately (a possibility of our moving, issues with school/homework, an ailing old cat,...) and doing things like pulling her arms through her shirt sleeves and sometimes pinching herself. The night she had her night terror, she had had a tantrum and was worked up. Then came bed and two episodes that night, and my finding your website. I want to print out these pages here in case the police or a worried neighbor come knocking ever again. I want them to know that her rantings and screaming have nothing to do with abuse. We are decent parents, who on occasion, must witness something that for us is also terrifying. I know one is going to hear of it (probably in a Lifetime movie of the week) about a child who is taken from her parents because neighbors hear nightly screamings for "help" and "go away", "take it away", and "don't touch me" and "Mama, mama!" REPEATEDLY. I hope more is shared elsewhere about this phenomenon. This is the only sight I found that shares so widely. THANK YOU. Linda
I feel like crying. I couldn't sleep and decided to research what might be going on with him. Now I know we're not alone in this. Tonight he had a friend sleepover, so they went to bed late. Plus, his friend brought over his playstation 2 for them to play. Two things I've read may trigger episodes. And the only two things that seem to precede the two episodes he's had before. There have been other night terrors, but I didn't realize this is what they were, and they are very infrequent to date. We have two other children, one who wet the bed till he was 5, and a 4 year old girl that often wakes up upset and ends up in our bed. Thank you for this site. Michelle
He awakens screaming and wants me to hold him and then pushes me away, then grabs me to hug and pushes away. He usually has his hands clenched and will be agitated as if trying to get away from something. If I try to take him from his bed he gets more upset. He doesn't want his feet on the ground. He too shakes, teeth chatters and appears very much awake. He will answer most questions but does not respond positively to my husband and sees him as some kind of monster (he is the most gentle man....)
I have found that taking him and getting him to pee helps to wake him. Perhaps because this is an action that requires you to be consciously performing it - we spend so long teaching them not to go unless in the toilet and they need to relax to do this, o rbecause the tile on the floor is cold. If I try to wash his hands after he freaks out because of the mirror and our images in it.
I also find he has them when he is too hot in bed. He doesn't seem to remember much in the am, just the feeling. My younger son shares a room and just calls to us to get him and then falls back to sleep. How? I don't know.
I remember having very vivid dreams and being awake when I was in my 20's. Usually if I had done something different before going to bed - perhaps my anxiety level was high.
I think I had my son figured out before seeing this site but it has been really helpful for my husband to know that he is not the only one and that ou son doesn't have psychological difficulties.... I can't wait for him to grow out of it, or for them to disappear.
My wife and I have a 2 1/2 year old daughter who started experiencing night terrors around the 2 year mark. They had been progressively getting worse- up to 30 minutes of massive hysteria, screaming, kicking, flailing, etc., all while still asleep/eyes closed. My wife and I had to intervene because she was so 'crazy' she would hit her head and legs on the bed posts. Had I not researched night terrors, I honestly would have thought that my daughter was possessed. It was that bad.
I spent many hours online researching all the 'academic' sources... mayo clinic, local hospital websites, all the standard parenting books, etc. They all say the same things, and nothing in the way of practical advice, other than to let the episode pass. Well, this wasn't good enough for me... so I kept looking and found your website with all suggestions from other parents, and WE FOUND A SOLUTION THAT WORKED!!!
As soon as an episode begins, my wife and/or I rush into our daughters room, uncover her FEET, and blow on them to cool them off- they were BURNING HOT. As soon as we do this, 10 seconds later our daughter is sound asleep and sleeps through the night. We have not had one last longer than 5-10 seconds since then (yeah, that's the sound of me knocking on my wood desk). We've also started removing all her covers as soon as she is asleep. I don't know why this works, and quite frankly, I don't care why. I just wish all the literature and medical sites gave a list of 'why-not-try-this' solutions. Dane
She Wakes up screaming, runs onto the landing and goes like she's going mad. She will lay down on the floor kicking, arms flying every where she even head butts the wall, trys to attack me and her dad as we try to calm her down but nothing will. We try asking her whats wrong but we can't understand what she is saying as she is in such a state, this goes on for ages.
Last night she had one then we manage to get her back to sleep (it does look like she is still in a sleep state) then at 6.00am she had another one, i got into bed after feeding Alina her sister who is 4 months and i just touched her as i was getting back in and she started attacking me telling me to go away then her dad put her in her bedroom and told her to go back to sleep she went mental she trashed her bedroom, same sort of thing and she has only just calmed down. I don't know if its night terrors or something is not quite right.
i just need some advice, i was thinking of videoing her like this and maybe showing our doctor to seee what they think. Alison
Still too many other factors and its only a small component but eliminating the caffine "seems" to have helped a little.
Also, cold air, letting him fall asleep without a shirt or blanket, and keeping the lights on "seem" to help a little. Alex
My husband had NT as a child and still has them occationally now as a 34 year old adult. As an adult he notices them only when he is sick and running a very high fever. He has an terrible fear of ghosts and aliens. We used to tease him a lot until we found out about what NT were all about. He only recalls 1 or 2 NT as an adult that involved ghosts. We now belive that it may be the reason he refuses to see scary movies.
My daughter was never scared of anything until her NT started. She now has a fear of bugs of any kind or size. The smallest tiny bug will bring her to tears running and crying. I wonder if maybe that is what she dreams during her NT.
She is very small for her age weighing only 28 lbs at almost 4 years old and struggles with growing pains in her legs. So some nights I will give her Tylenol or Motrin. She has yet to have an NT on those nights.
Thank you so much for this web site. I was relieved to know that we are not the only family trying to figure this all out.
Wishing all those little children a good nights sleep....
Tonight I will try turning down the air in the house and possibly add a soothing fragrance to her humidifier (as suggested on another site.) My only reservation with attributing this to night terrors instead of a behavioral issue or manipulating us to get out of bed, is that the night terror actions are very similar to how she reacts when she doesn't get her way...fully awake.
Any suggestions or comments would be greatly appreciated since we are just getting started on this road. Cheri
Basically, you establish the timing of when your child normally starts the NT. Then, for 7 nights IN A ROW you wake the child 15 minutes before the usual NT time. Make sure he/she is REALLY AWAKE. Lights on, out of bed, talking coherently, whatever. Keep them awake for 5 minutes, even if they beg to go back to sleep. For the first few nights we did this he would have a mild NT, but eventually they stopped, and it FEELS like we're home free.
It felt a little cruel at first, cause the little guy was in such a deep sleep and I had to be determined to really wake him up; no groggy half-sleep allowed. But it has sure paid off for us, so perhaps it'll work for others. The English MD claims a 90% success rate. He does say that if it's not working, to give it some time (not clear on how long "some" is) and then repeat the 7-day cycle one time. Good luck everyone! Micah in Philadelphia
Thank you so much to every one who has posted suggestions and shared their experiences, reading your web site has certainly made me feel like we aren’t alone with this problem; he is currently going through one of his occasional busts this week and I am going to try all of the suggestions made one by one. Kind regards Nickie.
There is nothing dramatic going on in his life right now, no big changes or events other than being out of school for the summer. He is definately a child with an active/creative imagination and ADHD. I don't know if any of these things play a factor in night tremors but I thought it might help someone. I have had to put a baby monitor in his room in order to get to him fast enough when this happens as my son sleeps on the opposite end of the house from us. There have been quite a few nights that I just let him sleep on the floor in our room so I am closer to help him when it happens 2-3 times a night...He never remembers a thing in the morning. I really was beginning to think that my son was having some kind of psychotic episode again until I read some of these stories. Thank you everyone for sharing your stories. I think its helped me and I know we can get through this time again. Lorie/New York
Our Stephen is 3 and has experienced NTs since before he turned 2. We noticed they started around the time we moved house and also when his younger brother was born. Both were fairly stressful times for us and so we felt Stevo's NTs were probably a consequence, in some way, of what was going on in our lives and it was affecting him - although there was no visible sign of him being bothered in the slightest during the day. They have also started again this past week( probably related to his recent going to bed nappyless, which, incidentally,has been pretty successful! )
Although Stephen is a happy, well loved and impeccably behaved little boy (he really is!) he does probably get a little anxious sometimes when there is a change in his life or to his routine. This tends to coincide with his NTs which come and go.
We have tried the cold water on his feet but it didn't work, sadly, I was absolutely convinced that it would because it seemed to be so successful for so many other parents. What does tend to work best is waking him just before he reaches the point where he has been sleeping for an hour (the time when he always has his terror) and disrupting his sleep pattern: it does seem to readjust things and he doesn't have a NT after that. He would only ever have one NT on the offending nights but this interruption eradicated this.
Stephen always goes to bed at 7pm, he goes happily and never remembers anything at all the following day about the terror. This gives us some consolation, to know that the NTs are bothering us more than him, he seems to be oblivious.
Our main concern is that although we know they will go away, like they always do, there is no guarantee that they won't come back. We're simply hoping that it is a phase which will eventually pass altogether and that he will simply grow out of it. We therefore find it disconcerting to know that a lot of adults still suffer.
David & Lindsey in the UK
My (just turned) 5 year old son experienced three 10-15 minute episodes of night terrors 3 nights ago, or should I say “I” experienced them. It was the first time this had ever happened. During the first episode I was just stunned, I thought he was having a seizure, or took some medicine without my knowledge. He was moaning, whimpering, and 100% rigid. Eyes shut the entire time, crying but no tears, pulled the sheet over his head. I told him I was there, he’s OK, he’s safe, and told him to wake up. He briefly woke up (I think) and I asked him, is it your tummy, booty, eyes, etc. – he said no to everything. Then he clutched me until he fell asleep.
I sat on the couch shell shocked. NT was in the back of my mind, somewhere in my life I had heard about it – maybe a news show, college class or something. While I was getting my head together, the next episode began.
I ran into his room and tried to wake him up. He eventually woke up a smidge and I brought him a sip of water. I moved him into my bed. He clutched me again and then fell asleep. After this episode I dug up my American Pediatric Association handbook. There was one page on NT vs. NMares. He did everything on the NT list. At last I knew what was going on. I was till freaked out.
OK, round 3, he’s in my room now. I’m on the couch, hear the moans, I wake him up, ask him what hurts, he tells me it’s his ears. The pain is “unbearable” he says. I’ve never heard him say that word. I call my husband home from work, because I think we’re taking the little guy to the ER (and I will stay home w/ our 3 y/old daughter). My husband comes home and the NTS stopped-never fails.
I was so destroyed, I called the Kaiser Permanente Afterhours Adviceline (it was 1 AM), and the advisor said he had never heard of night terrors and he thought my child had an ear infection. The next day, my son didn’t remember anything and said his ears felt “great”. I took him to the doctor and she ruled out the ear infection.
Last night it briefly started up. We woke him up, he said he didn’t want me to die, I said I wont. He said he didn’t want to kill me – I said you won’t. I asked him how was this going to happen. He made a shooting motion and told me it was a staple gun. He also said his good dreams were on vacation until tonight. I’m hoping that he just needs some downtime – his holiday break from school starts next week
These NTs are horrible. Thanks to all of you for your observations and tips – it really helps! I’m trying to keep him cool in his bed – he does tend to get warm in there. And I’m making sure he’s getting to bed earlier. I also noticed that he didn’t goof around on the bad night (mommy I want x, y, z) – he just went quietly to sleep – which another parent had noticed. I’m just a wreck and I have it easy – God bless the rest of you! Hang in there. Theresa
Until this weekend, when he woke early in the morning exhibitng the same types of behavior. Screaming, "Mommy, no no." then, "It's getting bigger. Wait, wait." And falling to his knees, pushing his head and ears and shaking uncontrollably. Since it was time to wake up (7 am) he was easily roused. He said that he couldn't really explain what had happened - he had pain radiating in his head, saw "flashing light" and "everything was smaller" (tunnel vision?) I immediately though of migraine since some types of migraine are accompanied by "auras" of sensory information that doesn't exist like noise, voices, visual disturbances, odd smells, etc.
But later that night he had another one - much more pronounced and longer. The obvious distress and apparent pain he was in was terrifying. The way he was clutching his ears and shaking, and the fact that he was mumbling jibberish and had such a vacant terrified look in eyes was horrible. My husand witnessed this with me and was so frightened. We thought he was having some kind of psychotic breakdown, or was having a brain hemorage or something. We DID call 911 and at the ER he had a CAT scan, which was normal. They DID show abnormally large adnoids, which others on this site have said may be linked to NT due to subconcious fear of not being able to breathe. I am going to call the ear nose throat guy tomorrow to make an appointment.
My son had yet another NT last night when the phone rang. (I have since turned off ringers upstairs.) At least for that one I had seen this site and felt a little better able to help. The TV really helped him. Towards the end of his NT he was lucid enough to say, "I don't want to sleep yet. I want to get this out of my head. I know its not real but it is still in my head." So we watched cartoon network for about 10 min.
He also suffers from sleep apnea and had a fever, which may have triggered it. Also, all four times he has been in my bed. Tonight I put him back with his brother. I also gave him Benadryl and put a vaporizer in his room to help ease his congestion a little in case that is what is triggering this. We talked alot about how other children experienced this same thing and that it didn't mean he was crazy or that something was wrong. That helped him a lot. It also helped him to know the other things that have helped other kids, like cool water, Tv, radio, etc.
My problem is that I work from home and have my computer in my room. I need to be able to work after my three kids go to sleep but all I want to do now is have him in bed with me. I now rationally I can't do anything but I have felt so helpless and shaky and vulnerable the last few days.
Reading all these stories has made me feel so much better - to know that we are definitely not alone and so many of the behaviors are shared by these kids. But I feel worse when I read how the NTs can get worse or more frquent, and I feel so panicked to think about that. How will I deal with it, where should he sleep, etc.?
Today we made up a name for his NT - "Brain Sucker" because his scary thing tries to hurt his head. I told him, "Mommy is with you. Daddy is with you. And most of all, God is with you and he is way bigger than Brain Sucker." Also I am a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and I said I would kick his Brain Sucker's butt. We laughed about it a little. I am hoping that he feels a little empowered or something. His fear carries over to the next day so I will definitely get a dream catcher. He is also very comforted by our priest, who I will call to have him blessed. Can't hurt!
Thank you to whoever is in charge of this iste. You are my angel. I feel connected and supported by all of you reading this site. We all love our kids and I am grateful that so many of you have shared so openly.
The second time it happened, I grabbed her and held her tight in my arms and rubbed her back, telling her that I was with her and everything thing was all right. She tighten up and said, Oh I'm sooo scared. I answered," it's okay, I'm right here with you, nothing is going to happen to you. She answered " okay, okay, okay" but with fear in her voice. I asked her if she wanted water and she took a snip. I held her hard againg and rocked her as I sang " Mary had a Little Lamb" into her ear and she went back to sleep.
I never realized so many people went through this with their children. My heart breaks to see the fear in my little girl's face when she is going through a NT. But I have learned that giving her water and repeating that I am right there with her and I hold her tight has helped. The second one only lasted about five minutes while the first one lasted about 30 mintues.
I noticed that she kicks the blankets off her legs and that water seems to help. I am going to try wetting her feet, and waking her up slowly as I reasure her she is not alone. I, also, noticed that it happens when she is exhusted after a long day, like many of the children I read about.
Thank you so much for all of your stories.This has helped me so much. Thanks to your stories, I know how to handle her when my girls come spend the night with us. Linda
Anyway, I thought I'd throw in my 2 cents worth of thoughts on NTs. From my training in Somatic Experiencing, it seems to me that NTs and vulnerability to them involve disregulation in the autonomic nervous system. This is the part of the brain that monitors and adjusts most bodily functions including heart rate, perspiration, respiration, temperature and, I suspect, shifts from one stage of sleep to another. A child, especially, may need to pee but not have yet developed an effective means of awakening.
In addition to the fact that effective self-regulation develops over time, stresses challenge this ability (such as being over-tired, off schedule, having sleep apnea/asthma/illness/ teething pain/and fevers, not to mention the possibly traumatic impact of surgery and anesthesia.)
This also explains why holding may exacerbate the child's distress through interfering with the defensive and instinctual fight or flight response.
The perceptual distortions reported by many who have been able to communicate during an NT or been able to remember and describe the experiences remind me of fever-induced hallucinations I recall having at age 8 while awake. I recall feeling smothered by blankets which seemed to me to be piled up to the ceiling, to have seen a pair of shoes rise and dance, and to have seen the window and wall to be swaying and melting. The worst part of the experience that I recall was an accompanying creepy sense of nausea and surrealism. Had I been caught between sleep and waking, without the benefit of understanding I was hallucinating from fever, the experience would have been far more terrifying.
Given the inherent confusion and regulatory disruption from NTs, external sources for regulation may thus be effective, ranging from decreasing temperature, resetting sleep cycle through proactive awakening, and a variety of resources that may decrease the impact of stress while increasing a sense of soothing and safety. (I would add to the suggestions of cold water, chamomile, music/TV, dream catchers and verbal reassurance the following: therapeutic-grade essential oils (particularily the blends from Young Living called Gentle Baby and Peace & Calming), the flower essence Rescue Remedy, and energetically-charged elixers from Developmental Natural Resources (particularily Ex-Stress and Total Balance). These could be used proactively before sleep or applied during an NT episode. The oils could be diffused or rubbed onto the child's feet or chest, while the others are available in a spray form that could be misted onto the child's chest or head, if not in the child's mouth.
These are resources that have I have found to be helpful for my son for soothing towards sleep and recovering from stressful incidents. They seemed to help him come out the NT with grace and ease, even though he, like so many other parents reported here, seemed to not recognize us while in the throes of the NT, calling for "Mama, Mama" and had been resistent to holding.
In general, for what it's worth toward identifying a profile for kids that have NT, he's never yet slept through the whole night and even as a young baby rarely slept more than 12 out of 24 hours. We jokingly say he's got "FMS Syndrome": Fear of Missing Something. He's 1-3 months ahead on most developmental milestones. He's securely bonded through attachment style parenting and alternatingly displays both seperation anxiety and bold adventurism.
I will go on thinking about this remarkable phenomenon of NTs that I've just learned of and try to better understand what it is and how to deal with it. It's possible that some of the therapies in my toolkit will prove useful. If so, I'm happy to share them with other parents to support them in helping their children. To that end, here's my email address as I welcome ideas and inquiries from others.
I wanted to update my post from December 2004 to anybody that might be interested. At that time my daughter was 2.5 yrs and frequently crying at night and could not be consoled. I never was sold on the idea that it was "clinical" night terrors, but her mom and i were certainly scared about her not being able to be comforted.
Of particular interest, and like some other people posting here have observed, she had a habit of extending her limbs during these episodes, and her hands she would snap back and forth at the wrists...very scary.
It turns out she was doing this, we believe, just because she was uncomfortable at the time. Sometimes it was a diaper change that helped, but what was more elusive we think are/were growing pains. As she got older, she began to explain (with a lot of coaxing) during the episodes that her legs were hurting... Now she is six, and she still complains about her legs hurting sometimes at night. The best "medicine" is children's tylenol. Also it helps just a little to rub her shins and calf muscle... Usually after a dose of tylenol, she was back to sleep. She did end up taking tylenol frequently.
She lost her infant milk allergy, but was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in march of 2006 at 4yrs old. i've naturally wondered if there was a relationship between her sleep "problem" and her diabetes, but can't connect them at all.
The pediatricians never found anything to cause her night episodes. I hate to sweep this experience under the "growing pains" rug, but that is the best i can do for now. She hasn't been growing much lately, and ... she doesn't complain so much about her legs huring at night. It certainly sounds like "growing pains."
So, my advice to anybody that has child that gets stiff as a board, stretches limbs, and hands, while crying...it may not be night terrors but just a reaction to discomfort. Try getting them to take some tylenol if there is no other obvious problem.
I am normally not this good with following up, but I remember how concerned I was over this. Hope this helps somebody. Good Luck to all who are working with this. Morris
My son began having Night Terros at about 2 1/2 yrs of age.
At first, I had no idea what was happening to him. After about 2 or 3 months, infrequently having them, I learned they were NTs. I have spoken with my son's pediatrician and was told he would proably grow out of them by 12.
I've kept logs and videos for future references. Now my son is 5. He will be starting kindergarten in September.
I have learned over the past few years, that when he has a nap, usually he will NOT have a NT. But in June, his preschool had quit giving the 5 yr olds naps - and he will not get them in kindergarten either because they go from 8 AM till 3PM here. Ever since then, he has had a NT every NIGHT. Sometimes 5 or 6 times a night. He has even had them during naps and one tme he had fallen asleep in the car and had one while I was driving on the interstate.
I am now concerned that when he starts school, if they do not subside (4 weeks away), he will not do well in school and start becoming disruptive in school for he is so tired and sleep deprived he cannot pay attention which will, in turn, disrupt the entire class and hinder other students' learning.
We took him to have an EEG to rule out any seizure problems. EEG showed nothing. We have tried everything.
The only thing that makes them shorter are when the lights are on. Can anyone help with some more suggestions?
We normally keep our house at 70 degrees and he wears minimal clothing to bed. I am fearing I will have to resort to prescription medication - that is NOT what I want. God willing, maybe this will end soon :)
Jennifer in North Carolina
Thank you for so much info which I've found very helpful.
Personally, the only way to calm down my son of 14 month old is by playing his favourite show (baby einstein). on TV/Laptop.
He will just focus on the screen and stop the scary fighting/screaming straight away and just focus on the TV. Within 10 minutes he is back to himself like nothing has happened. Hope this will help you as much it did for us.
Feet in Cold water did the trick!!!! This is excellent advice...worked like magic after a terrifying 40 minute ordeal where I was actually freaking out myself at the noises my 18month old was making, whilst pulling my hair out and thrashing wildly!
Bel in Australia
Hi - I guess I really dont know where to turn anymore. I have a four year old little boy that has the worst night terrors that I have ever even heard of.
Lets start a bit from the beginning.. My son was born 8 weeks preemie, 98% healthy, aside from his liver (billiruben issues). He was a happy, big (5lbs 13oz; 19in) preemie baby. At around 6 weeks, we discovered that he had a milk/soy allergy, reflux, and asthma (everything tying in together, when one got bad, they ALL got bad.). He has had nightmares since he was like 4 months old, and it wasnt anything alarming, the pediatrician said it was normal.
2 years later, we moved into this house in our area, very creepy house, had bad vibes. My husband and I both felt like we were "swimming in glue" living there. Being outside of this house for only 2 minutes would clear your head.
The bad night terrors started here. He would "wake up" at about 10 or 11 at night, screaming, like something was killing him. We would give him anything he wanted during these episodes... His body was completley awake, but I guess the night terror was playing out like a movie infront of his eyes. If we tried to physically comfort him, he would become extraordinarily violent. (He is NOT exposed to violence). He is only allowed to watch Noggin and PBS Kids. With the occasional Cars, Finding Nemo or Monsters Inc thrown in. Anyways - when these were going on, they were lasting HOURS... NOT Minutes, like all the websites say (the worst one was 5 hours and 39 minutes). I mean - call the pediatrician at 1am crying because I cant protect my child from the demons in his own head. She spent 3 1/2 hours on the phone with me, had an appointment the next day, and that night we were at one of the nations best sleep centers (Yale) to rule out a seziure disorder (thank God there was! none). Then we moved. And they stopped.
They came at very infrequent intervals after we moved (1-2 every 6 months or so), so we just figured that maybe it was the house, perhaps he was "sensitive" to something in the house... Obviously there was something wrong with it - my husband and I both felt it, as did our pets (very skittish there, when they never were before).
Now they are starting again.. last night he had one so bad he woke up at 2 am and didnt go back to bed. Tonight he woke up and screamed "mommy mommy help me please mommy help me its going to get me heeeeeeeeeeelp me moooooooomiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee please" screaming... I was able to bring him out of it, comfort him, and lay down with him, and he went back to sleep.. Now he is wimpering and crying every 10 minutes or so, I guess trying to get away from whatever is haunting him.
I am going to call his doctor in the morning, get (another) appointment with a sleep center to rule out apnea. I have done hours of research online on this.. I have tried waking him, but that doesnt seem to help, because he is having more than 30-90 mins after bed. No caffiene, no sugar, not even anything to drink 45 minutes before bed. He has a stringent bedtime routine, including reading, a shower, and tuck in & lay down time with mommy. I dont want my child to suffer anymore, and dont know where else to turn... Someone please, any advice, or did anyone have kids with night terrors this bad? Please! Thank you so much!
Cheryl from Connecticut
I understand frustration of parents who are going through similar episodes of night terror with their children and I want to share with you things that we did and helped to resolve this. First of all I asked my parents and found out that I had similar episodes when I was a kid but they were not remembering the details. I started reading websites and articles in Pubmed to find out what we can do. We closed all the closet doors in the room, reduced the amount of light and tried to take her to bed at the same time every night. But, one thing which helped us a lot was making sure she goes to bathroom and empties her bladder right before going to bed. Her night terrors were going for about 4-5 months every other month but then it started getting less frequent. She is 4 y/o and they happen about once a month and even when they are about to happen and I take her to bathroom, it prevents it from happening. It is possible that these night terrors have different triggers in each child but I think one that was not obvious for us was that she had to go to the bathroom.
So, this is a harmless thing and if you are dealing with children that are having night terror, give it a try and take them to the bathroom while they are crying. As you may know the theory is that they are locked between sleep and awakening and I guess taking my daughter to bathroom and ask her to pee was helping her to come out of sleep because afterward she would go to bed and sleep peacefully. I hope this is helpful. Although this is a benign disease which has no consequences for them but maybe knowing some tricks to comfort them will help them to come out of this faster. Good luck V in Boston
I just found your website and I am so thankful for all of the posts. My 12-month old just woke up with what I think is her second night terror. She is the HAPPIEST baby normally and sleeps peacefully through the night most of the time. However, tonight (and one other time) she woke up screaming. When I went to her she was crying with her eyes closed. I tried to soothe her, however she did even react. I went to get her a drink and when I came back she was sitting up, staring at the wall. I held her and her eyes were crazy, like she was looking right through me. She was also shaking a little (not like a seizure, just kind of trembling). I am an Adult Ortho/Neuro RN, so of course I am freaking out that she is having some kind of neuro issue. After seeing the other parent posts, I am pretty sure it is a NT. Thank you! Rebecca
My son is 6 and has had night terrors for about 3 years. He also is still wetting the bed, I wonder if this might be some sort of sleep apnea, he suffers from sinus allergies too. I read somewhere that night terrors are inherited, my husband and I have not had sleep disorders, but one of his brothers was a sleepwalker. My youngest son who is 4 has had 3 episodes of sleepwalking in the past two years.I can relate to all the parents posting on this site! My ? is how do parents of older children handle sleepovers with friends? My son is begging to do this over the summer. Also I read that having the tonsils removed seemed to cure them, has anyone had any success with that?
My three year old daughter has had night terrors since infancy. I didn't know that's what it was then, but now through my readings and further education on this subject I am positive she experienced NT as early as three weeks old.
She would be in her bassinet, scream bloodcurdling screams; I would race to the bassinet, and she'd be fast asleep. Needless to say sleeping never was easy in our house. Since infancy she's been a horrible sleeper. A bedtime routine never worked, no matter how hard we tried, and what theory we used. She didn't like being rocked to sleep, she didn't like laying down on her own, crying it out didn't work, co-sleeping didn't work. It was pretty much up into the middle of the night until she crashed!
We have a 10 month old girl now, and I have realized since she was born that I wasn't as bad as a mother as I previously thought I was. I was concerned that I just was doing every thing wrong, and it was my fault that her "sleeping issues" were so bad. Our 10 month old sleeps 12 hours a night, no interruptions, and takes 2 - 2-3 hour naps during the day. There haven't been any screams from her during the night yet. (Knock on wood)
Now that I am more educated about NT, I feel that our 3 year old doesn't like to sleep bc she's subconciously aware of the stress and terrors that could happen during the night. She used to watch Disney movies and fall asleep to them. I stopped that because I thought maybe the "Wicked Step Mother" or "Fire Breathing Dragon" was scaring her and causing just nightmares. Nothing changed. We are still dealing with waking up in the middle of the night to her screaming (makes your toes curl and your heart stop), making her way to our room screaming, 2 second outbursts (10-15 times) in the middle of the night that make us (Mom and Dad) shoot straight up in bed, usually right after we got back to sleep from a previous outburst. She has even experienced NT during naps.
As she is getting older the NT are becoming worse and sleep walking has become an additional night time symptom and so has vomiting. She screams so loud and long that she starts coughing and has vomited several times. It only took once after being covered with it as I was consoling her, to remember to grab the bucket as soon as we hear her screams.
Sleepwalking: She's made her way to the kitchen and ate cupcakes in the middle of the night, we found her in the corner of her room crying that she spilled something, and I even think some of the nights she's made it to our room crying, she could have been sleep walking too. We are going to put an alarm on her room door so if she does leave her room we wake up and are aware to make sure there's no harm going on to herself, or anyone else in the house.
I've read A LOT on the internet about NT and have spoken to our ped. about them. Our Dr. claims there could be a relation with Sleep Apnea. Our daughter does snore very loudly when she is sleeping so maybe this is a possiblity. We will have testing done in a few weeks to see if she does have Sleep Apnea. Then if this is the case we will look into surgery in removing the tonsils and adnoids. Just scares me to have surgery done on such a young child. We could only wish she wouldn't remember the surgery like she doesn't remember the NT.
Until then I will be trying the wives' tails about feet uncovered, and cool water. It's worth a try at this point!
Thanks for listening, Kelly
My oldest son, who is now 10 years old, has had night terrors since he was 2 years old. They have started subsiding, maybe 4-5 a month, but have been a non stop horrific experience for my husband and myself. We have tried the night routine, the breathing rituals before laying down to sleep, and many other suggestions. He has had his adnoids and tonsils out since he was 3 yrs old. Any suggestions to truly end these episodes? He does get violent and destructive during some of these. Help! Barbara
Hi, My baby is about 17 mon now. He recently started that non- stopping, colic like crying or screaming, mostly in the middle of the sleep or nap time. He cried and cried until he lost his voice. and Nothing seems to comfort him. He's been teething for a couple months and was doing fine. and I checked his temperature. It doesn't look like an ear infection. What could be the cause. I'm so tired and frustrated about not being able to do anything to stop him. Does anyone have any sugestion? Thanks Qi
You can look up night terrors in the internet for more info. What I've gathered is that they happen because the baby gets stuck in the transition between light and heavy sleep. It specially happens when the baby is overtired when he goes to sleep.
The usual recommendations is to have a bedtime ritual and make sure he gets plenty of sleep.
When he's experiencing the night terror you basically have two choices, either to wake him up (but you risk this hapenning again) or to help him transition into deep sleep. I can usually get my baby to do this by giving her a bottle, having her lie in my arms or on my chest and singing to her. If that doesn't work, I usually just wake her up by taking her to an area with more light and talking to her while holding her. Then I put her back to sleep.
In extreme cases (like when were taking an overnight flight and she kept waking up screaming every 5 minutes or so), some baby cold medicine may help. anon
Our 31 month old son is beginning to experience night terrors. He screams for 45 minutes to an hour and nothing we do can console him. I've read a lot about this but I am hoping some of you might have some practical hints. We cannot leave him in his bed because he shares the bedroom with his brother. When we hold him he thrashes around wildly and usually manages to sock one of us. The same thing happens if we try to bring him to bed with us. I am afraid this is just one of those things we have to ride out but if any of you have had any experience in either avoiding or lessening the severity of these attacks, I would love to hear about it. Thanks. Janis
Janis - our son, who is now 8, starting having night terrors at about the age of two, and was still having them occasionally last year. I have also read everything under the sun and talked to our pediatrician, and the best advice of all was to turn on the light. This decreases the terror for the parents and makes it easier to sit with the child. I would suggest taking the other child out of the bedroom into your bed until the terror is over, and leaving your son in his bed. As you know, you can't talk to the child or wake them from the terror - and they don't remember anything in the morning. All you can do is sit with them and say calming things (not that they can hear you, but at least you feel like you are doing something), and make sure they don't hurt themselves. That's why leaving them in their own beds is easiest. Good luck - I find these terrors to be absolutely terrifying myself, and often can't get back to sleep after the child has calmed. We never figured out any relationship between events of the day and the terrors, there was no rhyme or reason, didn't matter if he was well rested or over-excited - although they do seem to occur when he has a fever.
Janis, Our kids have all suffered from night terrors.
They were usually brought on by:
a. Change of schedule or routine.
b. being overtired.
Leave the lights off - the kid needs to get back to sleep as soon as
Don't try to wake them.
Talk to them in a soothing reassuring tone. Tell them that you're there.
Tell them that everything will be alright. If you ever sing them to sleep, sing those songs.
A soothing touch may help, but if the kid is wrestling with monsters in a dream, he may wrestle with you.
Both my children went through night terrors when they were about 2 years old (they are now 11 and 7). I'm afraid I don't have any suggestions on how to prevent it, but do have an observation that I'm sure someone who knows about sleep patterns would find interesting. If they went to sleep quickly and easily, that is without getting up several times or calling out to us, they were much more likely to have night terrors, than if they had a hard time falling asleep. I also found, if you could touch them, that a cool washcloth on the face helped sometimes.
You're not alone out there - I found night terrors so frightening - having your child cower in a corner screaming at you like you are some kind of monster - not to mention the lack of sleep. Luckily, my daughter, who is older, slept through my son's screaming.
Our daughter, 3 years old, has been experiencing night terrors for a while (I was glad to find that this is not uncommon). I was discussing this group with a friend who, it turns out, experienced these terrors as a todler. She told me her mother merely picked her up, took her to the bathroom, and placed her feet in cold water. This "cured" the problem for this friend. Sooooo....one fateful night I attempted the "cure" when Natalie was having one of the terrors. Thus far, we have had no more night terrors in our home!
I did a net search on night terrors, and found the following, which seems pretty accurate and informative:
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...
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.
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Hi, I have a 3.5 yr old who has occasional night terrors. What works for us is to have her sleep w/ us. That way when she has a bad dream she just touches me or my husband and then goes back to sleep. I also got her a little book light (a flashlight would work) which she can use. Good luck!
Website for Stanford University Sleep Center
I want to direct parents to the web site of stanford sleep centers because this is where I believe that I got my information originally. Our child started suffering from night terrors at 18 months and they went on for a couple of years. There is now a believed link between childhood sleep apnea and night terrors. This would make sense from all of the previous comments and remedies currently posted on the parents network under this title.
Night terrors frequently happen when children do not get enough rest (and can't get proper rest due to obstructive sleep apnea--usually tonsils closing off the windpipe when in a prone position as you are when you are sleeping (hence parents sitting children up in the bed or children doing it themselves to get enough air) The reports on the web list parents using benedryl successfully (again, allowing for the enlarged/congested/ allergy affected areas to be less inflamed and a child to breath better. Dozens of parents have noticed the link between being overheated--it's also harder to breath when it's hot, and other parents noting the diagnoisi of ADHD in their children (According to Dr. Wesman at Oakland Children's Hospital, children with sleep apnea are by far more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD-(can concentrate if you are not well rested, can't rest if you can't breathe properly)
Children with night terrors are also likely to have the parallel problem of bed wetting later on as well. Our son had terrible night terrors which stopped for awhile with an old wives trick (putting his feet into cool (not cold) water during an episode. They did not stop completely and neither did bedwetting until we had his tonsils and adenoids removed. It was only after some sleuthing on the Stanford Sleep Centers site and various others (our pediatricians had no recommendations about what to do) that we brought our child to Dr. Wesman for a consultation. I would not have made the connection on my own. The results of this small surgery have been phenomenal and I think it is worth it for other parents to start looking up sleep parasomnias and the connection to lack of adequate air intake at night to try and resolve the problem. Thankfully, our son does not suffer from night terrors or bedwetting any longer now that his tonsils and adenoids are gone (they resolved immediately). Please look into these connections if you are one of those parents whose child suffers from night terrors.
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