Night terrors occur in around 15% of all children, usually between the age of about 2 to 6 years of age. Kids experience them in different ways, but generally what occurs is that children cry out, show signs of fear and panic, are often incoherent, are usually inconsolable and can hallucinate, scream, sweat and breathe rapidly. They will appear awake (their eyes often wide open, but not always), but they are not. They probably won't recognise anyone around them.
When the 9yr old had his first night terror - around the age of 2 - Hubby and I had no idea what was going on. I'd read about night terrors before, but at the time, I just thought the 9yr old had woken from a bad dream. He was inconsolable in his bed, so we took him in to the lounge room in an attempt to distract him and calm him down. He sat with us on the couch - all the while crying - pointing to the floor. We took him to the floor, then he would point back to the couch. After around five minutes, I suddenly realised he was not awake. He was making no sense whatsoever, and didn't seem to even be aware it was us. It was only then that I twigged what was up.
"I think he's having a night terror," I said to Hubby. We took him back to bed, and sure enough, after lying him back down he was asleep again in no time at all.
Night terror over.
If you've never seen a night terror in action before, this video gives you an idea of what one can look like:
The 9yr old continued to have the odd night terror, but grew out of them pretty quickly.
The 7yr old started having them around the age of 3 or 4, and he would have them fairly regularly for the next couple of years. He would always 'wake' crying, sit up in bed mumbling incoherently, shaking and frantically searching with his hands for something in his bed. So regular were his night terrors, I became used to dealing with them, and eventually they would become shorter and shorter in duration. I would just speak calmly, saying, "Nothing's here, honey. You're home in bed. You're ok. Mummy's here," and he would calm and lie back down again - often in less than a minute - falling asleep fairly quickly.
I found with the 7yr old that the night terrors would often occur when he was too warm in bed, and certainly, studies have shown that night terrors often happen when a child has a fever.
In any case, he hasn't had a night terror in a long time now.
I thought perhaps the 4yr old (now 4 and a half), was going to be the first of all three boys to escape the dreaded night terrors, but it seems that won't be the case. The last two nights he has woken, crying, inconsolable and also talking incoherently. Night terrors for sure.
And so, once again, I will put on my calming voice, stroke my son's hair and tell him it's all ok and hope the night terror passes quickly. It's terrible to see your child upset, but it does make it easier knowing he/she won't remember the incident the next day.
Unfortunately though, you will. :(
Do you have a child that suffers night terrors? Do they occur often? How long do they last for? What do you do to calm your child?