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Monday, June 27, 2011

The Dreaded 'Night Terrors'

Do you have a child that suffers from 'night terrors'?

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?



Jade said...

Gees, my heart really goes out to you and your little ones. This sounds so traumatic and it must be heartbreaking for you to have to deal with it. I can only hope that your little man grows out of them soon.

Jean said...

It's good to learn more about this. I am so glad I haven't had to deal with it (yet) but forewarned is forearmed XXX

Zoey @ Good Goog said...

Riley had a couple of instances of night terrors from around the age of two. At first, I had no idea what was going on and made the mistake of moving her. It did not go well. But after that I would just sit by her bed and stroke her until it passed. I don't think it made much difference to her, but it made me feel better.

Maxabella said...

They are terrifying - I get a little teared up just remembering that helpless, hopeless feeling of trying to calm a child who wakes like this. Shudder. x

River said...

Night terrors is one thing I've never had to deal with. My kids were all such sound sleepers they barely even moved once asleep. Made bed making much easier, smooth and tuck, 5 minutes!

Miss Pink said...

I am not sure about night terrors but I used to sleep walk and talk until I was about 14. I used to talk about all sorts of weird stuff.

Bluey woke up the other night, as you know, screaming. Just a weird thing. I got him up and sat with him on the lounge asking him what was wrong, being ignored. He then got up, went to the toilet and came and sat back down with me, maybe awake now? Because he told me there were shadows trying to get him. He woke up another 2 times that night. I'm not sure why suddenly at 5 years old. He was fine last night. I can't think of anything that happened Sunday that could have set him off? IT was very concerning though

4little1s.com said...

My little one used to have these a few years ago and thankfully grew out of them...these really are frighting to a new mum ! Great post by the way

Kellie said...

Ella's are fairly rare, but seem to happen if she's overtired. They're always about 9pm or 10pm and only last 2-3 minutes. She sits up, rocks and whimpers. Sometimes she comes out with some random sentences and in the worse case she makes a beeline for the bedroom door. We just talk to her calmly and encourage her to lie back down. Sometimes it takes the second parent coming into the room for her to calm down. I have no idea why, but it must be the sound of that second voice that reassures her.
It is nice to know they have no recollection of it though.

MomAgain@40 said...

The two and half year old has had only one where she woke up, and was looking for a bowl. It took a while to calm her down...

Do you think violent tv imgaes can also have an impact?

MyIdeaLife - Nicole said...

I'm so glad you wrote about this - I'm still not sure that they are night terrors because he does seem to wake up. But there are so many similarities they must be. I find if I can get him to drink water he calms, if not we have to put the tv on and then he usually goes down within minutes. I find it SO disturbing especially when he's calling for me while I'm holding him :( Seems worse after days at kindy or when he's unwell. Can't wait until they stop or become less frequent.

Nicole x

Jackie K said...

I remember night terrors. My girls are now five but one of them used to have them semi-regularly between the ages of 2 and around 3 and a half. You're so helpless as nothing calms them down, whereas with a regular nightmare you can pat them and do the "shhh..." or wake them up. Poor little things.
The first time I saw it it freaked me out a little but I had read about them and so I sort of knew what it was.

Even without night terrors I have read that nightmares are very common in young children and I certainly remember having them a lot myself as a child. All part of that amazing brain growing and the child learning more and more of its vulnerabilities as time goes on I suppose!

Zee said...

My 14 year old son still suffers from night terrors. They are infrequent but frightening. One night last month I awoke to find him standing over me sobbing that he didn't want me to die. As always, I carefully led him back to bed, talked him down and soothed him til he slept peacefully. He never remembers a thing when he wakes and often thinks that we're winding him up. I keep hoping that he'll grow out of it as most kids do.

Megan Blandford said...

Yep, A has had quite a few while she's been 2. She hasn't had one for a while (touch wood!) so hopefully she's growing out of them. They're so traumatic, and you feel so helpless.

Mrs BC said...

Our 6 year old had maybe half adozen night terrors a few years ago. It was traumatic in the extreme! We tried to keep him in his bed & calm him down but he would go through the house, seemingly terrified of things we couldn't see. They lasted about 20 - 30 minutes each time, & we would need a few hours to calm down! It was horrible, & not helped by a docter who told us we should be looking for 'external stressors' in his life. I am so glad that they are over & hoipe our youngest doesn't go through them as well.

Lana said...

My son had night terrors. Really badly. Around three times a week. It was hell for everyone in the house, honestly caused so much distress.

Then my doctor suggested that I put him on an iron supplement and he has never had another night terror again (bar one night when he was over the top exhausted).

Try it!

I just gave him incremin- not even a supplement as such but just a little bit of iron. There are quite a few studies linking low iron and night terrors.

Worth a try