Has anyone encountered a toddler with night terrors? I

Maggie - posted on 09/26/2010 ( 32 moms have responded )

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My 17 mo old has been having what I call "episodes" for months now and I just recently discovered it may night terrors. He has other medical issues and was a preemie, so I associated them with the night wakings. It's absolutely awful to see what he goes through and I could use some tried and true mom advice! HELP PLEASE!

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Tanya - posted on 10/07/2010

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I am a mother that has survived 'Night Terrors' my "middle" daughter is now 9 and had night terrors from approx 8-10months old until she was 6 nearly 7 years old and they were nightly, there were no breaks or nights off, it was every night between 11.10pm and 1.30am. Whilst on holidays we had security called on us because the prople in the room next to us thought we were abusing our daughter. They are awful, scary and hurtful. You feel totally helpless and useless because you cant ease their terror/fears. But hang in there, you do have options. I did a lot of research back when there wasn't much around.
I spent a lot (wasted) time and money on Doctors, Paesiatricians, Paediatricians who supposedly specialised in night terrors, herbal remedies, music, this and that all for nothing. I was told, she will grow out of it, try giving her this, try doing that. None of it worked, Phernergan - mild anthistamine/sedative they give children for allergies to help them relax or sleep had the adverse effect. I was litterally at my wits end and I know that it had a part to play in the break up of my first marriage. Sleep Deprevation will damage even the strongest of relationships over time. The night terrors will effect your childs behaviour, immune system, digestion and nervous systems you need to consider everything. Diet, intollerances, allergies, energy levels.
My first point of advice is make a diary or all food and fluids taken with what preservatives and sugars etc are in those foods, what activities and how their behaviour is. Do this for a 4 week period religiously, this will give you a true indication of when the changes start happening and you can always refer back to the diary when discussing the situation with your doctor/paediatrician/health carer etc.
Have a look at a book called 'Fed Up' by Sue Dengate. She has specialised in food intollerances and allergies there is a lot of merrit in the research she has done and the results she has found. There is a section or reference to 'Night Terrors' and this was part of my solution, I can not guarantee any of this will work for your child but it is worth a try and won't hurt them, even if you think it might be drastic. I have tried this method and perseveared and it worked in 7 days.

When my daughter was 6 as a last resort before giving her tranquilisers I took her to see a Natropath/Homeopath, I had never seen or spoken to one myself so I was a little sceptical to say the least, but I had not other options left. He took a blood analysis, iridology test general questions. He placed her on a strict 90 day food plan, where she had to irradicate all sugars and Yeast/wheat from her diet. My daughter was barely at minimum weight for her age anyway and I had real concerns for her weight and health on this food plan. It was the same food plan that is given for sufferers of 'Candiasis Albicans' or 'Systemic Candiasis' which is basically too much of the Thrush bacteria in the blood system. She had only ever had thrush as an infant at 6 weeks old that she got from her normal position coming through the birth canal. Anyway, it had been in her bood system for that long it caused problems in all the above areas I mentioned especially her digestive sytem and led to 'leaky gut'syndrome. I am telling you all this in so much detail because 'Night Terrors' are not straight forward or easily explained. Some children never grow out of them.
We had to be creative with her food, and make a lot of changes as Natural Sugars that are found in fruit and dairy (anything ending in 'ose' glucose, sucrose, lactose etc.etc) was out completely as it takes the full 90days to kill the organisms and its spores in the blood system. It was hard work, but we did it.
My daughters firs night of sound sleep occurred 7 nights later, my second husband and I didn't sleep at all as we were still expecting her to wake and go through the now normal routine, but she didn't. Almost immediately her personality changed, she was happier, no more massive mood swings, no more always being tired and grumpy. She is a different kid and such an absolute pleasure.
We maintain a 'Detox' for 1 week every 3-6 months depending on how she is feeling and behaving. We maintain the vitamins, probiotics and limit the sugars and yeast/intake. This worked for us and I hope if you can give it a try it will work for you. Good Luck.
There is light at the end of the tunnel.

Maggie - posted on 12/26/2012

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i've actually realized that it had more to do with hunger issues, since he was too young to communicate it was hard to determine what the problem was. i suspect he may be hypoglycemic, based on the fits he has, but since i started giving him greek yogurt(high in protein) it holds him through the night if he hasn't eaten well during the day. and just in the past two weeks has he started sleeping the whole night through in his own bed. the routine was usually he would get up in the weeeee hrs of the night and sleep in the bed with my husband and i.
but i can say this, stick to her routine as MUCH AS POSSIBLE!!! being in a different place may be difficult for her. Good luck and God Bless!

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Amanda - posted on 12/26/2012

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My son is now three years old, and he has been suffering night terrors for a long time. The good thing about night terrors is that the children don't remember them. The bad thing, of course, is watching and trying to figure out what to do. I normally check on my son while he's going through them, but for the most part I just ride them out. DO NOT WAKE HIM! Another thing to be aware of, according to my son's pediatrician, is that the same thing that causes night terrors also causes sleep walking and talking as children age.

Edyie Jones - posted on 12/26/2012

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this is not actually my child but my granddaughter... she was a preemie in that they had due date of june 4th.. i however did not feel she was more than 2 weeks early born may 8th.. i know. i am not a dr.
as an infant she had sleep issues beyond the norm, her parents said research indicated night terrors?!?!
i have had her for a visit for approx 2 weeks now and. she STILL does not sleep through the night on a regular basis. and so neither do we
any ideas??

Amanda - posted on 10/18/2010

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My little one would wake up several times a night several times a week. She wouldn't be thrashing around or anything like that. She would be sound asleep for several hours then suddenly she was screaming. I would go in and rub her back and to let her know I was there and she'd want up. We'd snuggle in the rocking chair for a little while then I'd put her back to bed. Sometimes it was only once a night, there were a few times when it was 2 or 3 times. Those, however, were rare. She hasn't had a 'episode' in a while now *fingers crossed that it stays that way*

Belinda (Bella) - posted on 10/10/2010

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Our son Mitchell is now 4 and has always suffered night frights. I feel your pain Maggie, it is quite upsetting to watch your child be so frightened. I spoke to my dr about this issue and he advsied me it was quite normal and common for boys to have "Night Frights" he suggested to not wake him as this will make hsi night fright worse if he was to be woken, he suggested to sit by the bed so that if he does wake he knows mummy or daddy is there and he is safe. Make the bedtime routine as fun but relaxed as possible(no overstimulation) Mitchell still has about one night fright a month, but depends on the kind of day he's had or what he has heard, seen out & about or on tv. Goodluck with it all and I hope he overcomes it soon, for his sake and yours :)

Nancy - posted on 10/08/2010

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I asked my pediatrician about this when my son had one. Her advice was not to wake him, but to put the TV on to distract him and he would gradually "come to." It did work for us, even though he was just a few months old at the time. I think he was somewhere around 8 months or so. He, too, had had a couple of surgeries by that time, so he was definitely traumatized by something. Even to this day, he doesn't sleep through the night - he'll be 5 in December.

Ling - posted on 10/07/2010

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My 17mth old girl has been getting these since 10mths and whilst not every night, it would be on average twice a month, or every night for 3-4 nights and then nothing. I found it tends to happen when she's over tired and have been told she will grow out of it (by 7yrd!). Last night was possibly the worst we have seen and we tried to comfort her but she would even let us touch her, just thrashed about for 10mins. Ended up taking her out of her grobag and letting her watch TV for 10mins and then back to bed. And she also tends to do this b/w 8:30pm and 10:30pm. Have found sticking to a consistent sleep time helps, day light saving hasn't helped but we aim to start reverting back to our routine from now on.

Jenny - posted on 10/07/2010

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Hi Maggie. My daughter is 18 months old and has been having night terrors since she was 9 months (didn't know what it was then). We have a big bed in her room so we take her out of her cot, take her dummy out (so she doesn't choke!) and let her thrash around for a few minutes in the big bed. We try and gently stroke her back or rub her tummy. It is terrifying and absolutely horrible to know that there is nothing you can do to ease them. After a few minutes, we can usually put the dummy back in and she will stop crying. Then a couple of minutes of gentle cuddling before we pop her back in her cot. It tends to happen when she has had a lot of excitement in the day without a good day sleep. We also find that it happens around teething time for her or if she has ear infections. They do say that kids will grow out of it - and hubby and I are looking forward to that! Good luck.

Sharon - posted on 10/06/2010

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My son was also a preemie and had night terrors pretty often. They are scary to watch and go through. It always took me a while to figure out that he wasn't even awake. He wouldn't let me soothe him either, so I just sat on the edge of his bed and made sure he wasn't going to hurt himself thrashing around. Once it would start to subside, I'd try to rub his back and tuck him back in. They have no memory of it in the morning. I know being overtired contributes to the terrors, among other things. My son is 4.5yo now and hasn't had the terrors for a long while so rest assured he'll grow out of it. Good luck.

Beth - posted on 10/06/2010

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My nephew has these every now and then. Based on the research we have done and talking to his pediatrician is due to being over-tired. This is shown to be true for him. When he doesn't nap and is over tired during the day he will have an episode.

Maren - posted on 10/06/2010

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My little one has them and they always occur when he is overly tired. ours are very consistent with the time of night that he has them so about a half hour before that time we go in and "arouse" him we do not wake him just get him alert enough that he rolls over. our Doctor said this breaks the REM cycle and forces a different sleep pattern after 3 weeks we haven't had 1 incident. This may not work for all children and they will grow out of it.

Maggie - posted on 10/04/2010

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Lots of GREAT advice and support Moms...thanks! I have been playing a lullaby CD at night, but there is singing...maybe just the music will help. We go the Pediatrician on Wednesday and the Nephrologist on Friday(kidney issues). He takes a daily dose of Bactrim for his kidneys and since I stopped those last Thursday he hasn't had a night terror. An article from the Mayo Clinic cited that certain antibiotics can cause them. I don't know what we'll do if that is the case, but hopefully the Neph. will give us something else to use to rule the meds out! Thanks ya'll, the support is soooooooo appreciated and to all those suffering along with your babies, I understand! Prayers for a good night's sleep to all!

Melissa - posted on 10/04/2010

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My 17 month old son started having these when he was 1 year old. What I do is put a night light on so he can see at night, also I give him his favorite stuffed monkey when he goes to sleep so he'll have something familiar in the bed with him. I hope this helps!

Christi - posted on 10/04/2010

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When my son has these, I pick him up and change his diaper and give him some milk. Waking him up seems to calm him down. I think it is better to ALWAYS hold him when he has them - he is terrified and needs mama!!

Christi - posted on 10/04/2010

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I have a bed in my son's room and sleep in his room with him. Holding him and staying calm yourself helps.

Krista - posted on 10/02/2010

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Wow, for all of you out there dealing with night terrors I am truly sorry, just hang in there and they will subside. My children have never had night terrors(thankfully) but I think I helped prevent them by always having classical, or soothing music playing in their rooms while they sleep. I did it with my first child and she slept through the night since she was brought home from the hopsital. My youngest is a little more sensitive, just turned 18 months old, but I quickly found out that the music keeps her from waking up , where if the music is for some reason shut off, she will wake up frequently, or till the music is turned back on. I did a little research and the most they give you is to hang in there, and try and wake them up softly. they say that night terrors usually occur at the 90 minute mark of sleep, so if you can keep track of that and wake them up at that mark, and then keep them awake for about five minutes, they should sleep the rest of the night through. I wish you very much luck, and as many naps as you can take during the day to make up for the lack of sleep you get. But the classical music is very soothing for alot of children and also promote high brain function. Like I said, has kept my kids from getting night terrors, so it wouldn't hurt to try. Mozart and beetoven work great, although most classical will work just fine. Good luck.

Ashley - posted on 10/02/2010

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I have a 2 year old who up until she was 7 months old went to bed at 930 and slept til 9. But after that she went through that phase, now im not sure if its night terrors but she wakes up sometimes 4x's during the night just whining and waking up. her PEDI told me eventually it will stop and it hasent. her PEDI is also VERY old fashioned she recommends playing the waiting games and things. it is extremly tiring specially when you have a 5 month old. just do not put him in bed with you!

Patricia - posted on 10/02/2010

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my son had night terrors starting the day we brought him home from the hospital. we never figured out what caused his but i have some ideas. (im a firm believer in the supernatural). he'd have them and therer was nothing i could do for him other then hold him (he's very touch sensitive. he knows the feel of all his special things, including mommy, daddy adn sister and sisters special things) adn be there when he finally opened up his eyes (he always kept his eyes clenched shut during his night terrors). we tried a lot of things. i did notice he had them to a lesser effect if he had soothing music played when he is put to bed (like music you'd hear at church or the soft lullabies) and on the rare occasions that he didnt have one at all it was because we'd exhausted him during the day and he was too tired to even dream or we were sleeping away from home.
the only real thing i can recommend besides talking to your pediatrician about it would be to just be there when they wake up so they see something that is 'safe'. be prepared with lots of loves too. have their comfort items near by. it's very hard to see your child go through these things, i dealt with it for 3 years. my son (now 5) has been night terror free for 2 years now. we had a friend come through and bless our house. if you're religious ask your bishop, reverend, whomever to come bless your house. we did that and now the scariest dream we get is a bad dream cause by something he's watched that was scary.
my daughter (17 mos) occasionally has one but it's nowhere near as bad as her brother ever had, and they usualy happen when she is sick, when her mind and body's defenses are weaker since they're fighting off whatever is making her sick).
the kids have 2 night lights in their bed room. one next to each of their beds. if one of them is off they both have trouble sleeping.

Nicky - posted on 10/01/2010

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My daughter, who is now 3 had them most nights from about 16 months usually between 10 and 11pm. It took us a while to work out what it was, she sat up screaming unconsolably for about 15 minutes not able to comprehend anything we said to her. We did find we could often gently lay her back down and she would calm down and go to sleep. I don't know what caused it with her but she has been much better for the past few months although has always had an issue with sleeping. She has been a lot better since we found her some children's sleep meditations on MP3 which we play at bedtime. Her favourite is one about Tiny Turtle and seems to have helped her calm down and sleep better. She shares a room with her 17 month old brother so obviously we want to get her quiet as quickly as possible. Now she just has the occasional nightmare. He has started waking more in the night than he used to and crying although nothing like her. He is demanding BF each time now though, which he never did before. He would take it if it was offered but never made a fuss, now he is back to 3 feeds again, bedtime, night and morning.

Nicole - posted on 10/01/2010

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my son has had a couple of episodes of night terrors, and i had no idea what to do. i would pick him up, not realizing what it was and make matters worse. he would refuse to go back in his bed after and spend hours crying non stop like he was still terrified. i am taking a psych class... and i just learned that it is very common around this age. they are still sleeping, so don't pick them up. You have to try and calm them. they're eyes can be wide open and be sitting up in their bed screaming...but they are asleep. it will only make it worse if you pick them up. leave them where they are and try to gently wake them or sooth them.

Monique - posted on 10/01/2010

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check that he is not getting overheated and limit sweet or salty food prior to bed

Terri - posted on 09/30/2010

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i am so sorry to hear what your poor lil man is going through (and you too w/ lack of sleep)! but i am so glad you posted this! my 17 mo old daughter has been having episodes since she was about 6 months old also and i never thought of night terrors, just always assumed she was having a plain 'ol nightmare! i'm sorry i don't really have any advice for you though. for us we just try to hold her and soothe her till she calms down enough to go back into a calm sleep. it took a few times of it happening for us to realize that she's not even awake when this is going on and even tho we tried at the time (we don't anymore), we have never been able to wake her. i agree it's horrible to see and hear and the feelings of helplessness in comforting your child truly suck!! however...it seems they do fall back asleep and rarely have any memory or ill effects from the episode the next morning. i know my daughter at least usually falls back into a peaceful sleep in no more than half an hr w/ us doing nothing more than holding and calming her. after reading your post i did a bit of researching and came across this article on WebMD and thought it might be of interest to you. good luck to you and your son and to all you other moms too!
http://children.webmd.com/guide/night-te...

Angela - posted on 09/30/2010

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We have had the same thing with our son, we prayed for him and also for his room and each time the nightmares would stop for a while, it really helped!

Merry - posted on 09/30/2010

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Scary! My son hasn't had these, but I breastfeed him to sleep at night and if he wakes in the night I breastfeed him back to sleep. Usually once or twice a night. He wakes up not screaming just whimpering for me so I couldn't imagine how hard that is for your children. I'm sorry they are going through this and I hope you can find ways to help them not have terrors anymore.

Amber - posted on 09/30/2010

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according to my parents, i used to have night terrors as a kid, and now my son does too. they occur when a child has trouble shifting from one phase of sleep to the next.

sometimes if you change their diaper (or when they're older, sit them on the potty-what my parents said worked for me) that can help to gently wake them naturally and then easy them back into sleep.

this definitely does not always work (doesn't with my son) but worth a try. otherwise i do agree with what michelle said about not waking him and rubbing his back. with my son, rocking him or laying him in bed with us has also helped.

hopefully something will help ;-) good luck!

Janine - posted on 09/30/2010

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I DO NOT HAVE A LOT OF ADVISE BUT MY 17M/O HAS HAD THIS PROBLEM EVER SINCE HIS OPERATION AT 2 M/O. IT REALLY SUCKS AND I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE GOING THROUGH. I HAVE NOT SLEPT MORE THAN 2-3 HOURS AT A TIME AT NIGHT SINCE JULY 2009. NOW THAT HE IS A LITTLE OLDER I JUST LET HIM HAVE HIS CRY FOR ABOUT 30-45MIN THEN I PICK HIM UP AND PLACE HIM ON THE FLOOR. I SIT WITH HIM UNTIL HE COMES CRAWLING TO ME. THEN I KNOW IT IS SUBSIDING. THEY WANT NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU AND YOU SHOULD NEVER TRY TO WAKE THEM UP OUT OF THESE EPISODES. SO JUST PUT A HAND ON HIS BACK AND SAY MOMMY IS HERE, STAND BY THE CRIB OR SIT ON THE FLOOR BY THE CRIB. STAY IN YOUR BED IF THAT MAKES YOU FEEL BETTER, (MY SON IS STILL IN OUR ROOM SO I JUST SIT BY THE CRIB) IF NOT GO TO HIM. MY SON WAS NO WHERE NEAR A PREEMIE, BUT HE DID HAVE A MEDICAL PROBLEM AT 2M. HANG IN THERE. AND LIKE I SAID, PICK HIM UP AFTER A WHILE NOT RIGHT IN THE BEGINNING. HE WILL GO BACK TO SLEEP EASIER IF YOU DO THIS.

Maggie - posted on 09/29/2010

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Thanks for sharing Amber! Hope you found the solution that works for you! We have started putting him to bed about 30 mins earlier and I am laying with him until he falls asleep (which I know is a big no-no) but it has made night night time less stressful...so if it works for now, I don't mind. I need the sleep too!

Amber - posted on 09/29/2010

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Yes! My little one has had them for a month now. It was getting to the point where she was walking up screaming. We rearranged her room and put in a slightly brighter night light. We also moved her bedtime up an hour. In stead of going to bed at 8, she is now going to bed at 9-9:30. She has always, since she was born, slept through the night, a full 12 hours. We found that moving her bedtime up, she is a lot sleepier, and hasn't woken up in the middle of the night. I have a friend who said that decor (curtains, wallpaper, ect.) that is too colorful and/or flashy can also contribute to night terrors?

Maggie - posted on 09/28/2010

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Thanks Mariska, that is how it has been for my son. However, I can't rub his back, he's too busy thrashing around and tries to attack me if I go away from him and cries out if I do anything to touch/hold him. He has no regard for what's around him and I'm so scared he will hurt himself. He's been having them 3-4xs a week lately. I have an appt with the pediatrician in hopes of finding what the cause may be. Thanks for the support ladies!

Mariska - posted on 09/28/2010

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My son has been having night terrors since he was about 6 months old . They are horrible, and I feel awful when he has them, because I feel like there is nothing I can do to help him. I cant hold him because he will kick and hit me. I usually will just rub his back and sing to him until he calms down. It takes some time but eventually he calms down. Good luck.

Michelle - posted on 09/27/2010

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If it truly is night terrors don't wake him just gently rub his back and talk to him in a soothing manner until they subside he will outgrow them but it is dangerous to wake them so don't wake him.

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