Night Terrors

Kimberly - posted on 02/13/2009 ( 19 moms have responded )

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My 8 year old son has been having night terrors almost every night. Does anyone have any ideas on how to break this cycle or how I can help him?

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Michelle - posted on 02/13/2009

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Our son has night terrors and our pediatrician sent us this information and article attached which has totally helped him . . . "One common thing that helps children with night terrors is awakening him 1/2 to 1 hour before the night terror usually happens, which breaks the order of his sleep cycles. Try that for a few nights and if it's not helping let me know."



 



Dealing with night terrors and sleepwalking
By Barton D. Schmitt, MD

Night terrors are inherited conditions that occur during deep sleep. They usually occur no more than once per night and within two hours of bedtime. Although they can be frightening and distressing for parents, they usually are not harmful to the child and disappear as the child grows older. Here are some strategies you can use to deal with these conditions.

NIGHT TERRORS

THE PROBLEM
Your child, usually between 1 and 8 years of age, has dreams during deep sleep from which it is difficult to awaken. He is frightened but cannot be awakened or comforted. He is agitated and may sit up in bed or run about, possibly screaming or talking wildly.
He doesn't appear to realize that you are present even though his eyes are wide open and staring. He may mistake objects or persons in the room for dangers. Each episode lasts from ten to 30 minutes and ends of its own accord in calm sleep. The child cannot remember it in the morning.

THE CAUSE
Night terrors are an inherited disorder and are not usually caused by psychological stress. They occur in 2% of children and generally disappear by 12 years of age or sooner.

THE SOLUTION
Try to calm your child The goal is to help him return to a calm sleep. You won't be able to awaken him, so don't try. Turn on the lights so that your child is less confused by shadows. Make soothing comments such as, You're all right. You're home in your own bed. You can rest now. Speak slowly and repetitively. Such comments are usually better than silence.
Some children like to have their hands held during this time, but many pull away. Hold your child only if it seems to help him feel better. There is no way to shorten the episode abruptly. Shaking or shouting will only make your child more agitated and prolong the attack.

Protect your child against injury. During a night terror, a child can fall down a stairway or run into a wall. Try to direct your child back to bed gently.

Prepare baby-sitters or adults who supervise an overnight for these episodes. Explain to people who care for your child what a night terror is and what to do if one happens. Understanding this will prevent caretakers from overreacting if your child has a night terror.

Help your child discuss any fears that come to your attention. If you become aware of fears that may be contributing to the night terrors, help your child to talk about them. Although psychological stress is not a common cause of night terrors, your child may have a sudden flurry of episodes because of a change in his life that is frightening to him. Clues can be found by considering what frightens your child during the daytime.
Often, you can eliminate night terrors by awakening the child briefly 30 minutes after he has fallen asleep. Or, try to prevent episodes with prompted awakenings. If your child has frequent night terrors, Dr. B. Lask of London has found a way to change, this distressing sleep pattern. For several nights, note how many minutes elapse from the time your child falls' asleep to the onset of the night terror. Then awaken your child 15 minutes before the expected time of the episode. Keep him standing and talking for five minutes. Carry out these prompted awakenings for seven consecutive nights. If the night terrors return, repeat the seven-night program. Another important preventive measure is to try to make sure your child gets enough rest. Fatigue can increase the frequency of night terrors.


Kirstie - posted on 02/14/2009

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You asked the right person. As a child I suffered from them. They started because my sister was sick with leukemia and my mom and sister were never around always going down to southern Ontario to Sick kids for appointments. My mother was told that it's just my way of dealing with the situation an not to make it bigger than it actually is. Anyway they started to disappear as soon as my sister and mother made less trips. So what I'm asking you is was there something that happened in the family? Try not to stress about it. I know it's easier said than done. Night terrors are quite scary for both your child and you to deal with. Just console him when he does wake up. And they will eventually disappear once what ever is bothering him does. I hope that helped.

Becky - posted on 02/14/2009

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My oldest son started having night terrors when is was about 3 till a couple of years ago age 8. My brother had them too. They say they out grow it. It always happens with the first two hours of going to sleep. so, maybe waking after an hour would help. I've never tried that. I do know that not lettin gim eat before bed or watch tv for an hour before bed helps. Watching tv before beds really makes the brain go in overdrive with the imagination. Stress makes a difference. Hang in there!!!

Tonia - posted on 02/13/2009

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My son is 12 yrs old. He had Night terrors starting from toddlerhood. EVERY NIGHT with out fail. He was diagnosed with ADHD at 4 and 1/2 yrs old, meds helped the ADHD, not the night terrors. When he was 9, we were referred to a child psychiatrist to see if they could determine the cause, they sais it was part of an anxiety disorder closely related to the ADHD. He was prescribed a med calle Depakote for about 6 months. (it is an anti-seizure med) the terrors got less and less frequent, the dr would just ween him slowly off, see how he did at lower doses, if not, we would go back up and try again in a few weeks....eventually within about a year, he was off of them completely, and rarely has the terrors anymore. Maybe once every few months which is normal. Trust me, I did not sleep a full night until 2 years ago.

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My son also went through this when he was 2. It is an awful feeling especially when they push you away. You feel so helpless. One night he screamed for 2 hours fighting something it seemed, only we didn't know what. We prayed and prayed and eventually it stopped altogether. He is 6 now and hasn't had any problems for about 3 1/2 years. You are not alone.

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Cheryl - posted on 04/01/2013

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My 9 year old son is suffering from night terrors and i dont know what to do, he has them 2 to 3 times a week, screaming through the night. It is really stressing me as i dont know what to do.. can anyone please help with some advice please xxx

Jennifer - posted on 02/16/2009

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I have a 2 year old daughter who is going throught the Night Terrors right now. She will wake up a few times a night and just go completely crazy! She screams and throws herself on the floor, kicks and screams, almost as if she were possessed. The best thing to do is just stay back and let him ride it out. Just keep an eye on him to make sure that he doesn't hurt himself. The more you try to talk to him or comfort him, the worse and longer it will get. They generally last for anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes. I know it's hard to watch him go through that, and you probably have a feeling of helplessness. I know I feel completly helpless during one of her "episodes". Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to help. I understand what you are going through, and please be assured that you are not the only one. If you need anyone to talk to I will be here for you. Good luck and try to stay calm. :)

Jaimy - posted on 02/14/2009

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My 3 year old had severe night terrors. he was up 5-6 times a night every night for several months. we were all going insane at night! Our pediatrician told us to try Melatonin. It is a natural chemical your body releases at night time to calm your body for sleep. GNC sells a cherry chewable version. We foudn 3 mg works best for him. That helped us get down to 1-2 every couple of nights. I then researched vitamin defiecencies and found that B complexes and iron are directly related to sleep. we also put him a very good daily viatmin. since then he have had NO episodes!! Vitamins and Melatonin!!

Michelle - posted on 02/14/2009

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My son also went through a stage of having night terrors when he was about 6 (he is now 8 & doesn't have them anymore)

As most people have already stated, they seem to happen about an hour after bedtime and when he was really tired.

I found that all I could do was make sure he was safe and wait for the terror to pass. I would also speak to him in a calming voice, telling him he was safe and that I was there with him. I would also talk about a safe, happy place that he liked to be in to try and get his mind to focus on something else ie. I would say that we were outside in the sunshine, playing with our pet dog and that everything was fine. By putting his mind "in a happy place" he seemed to calm down faster.

Give it a try - it's worth a go!

Jill - posted on 02/14/2009

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My son had night terrors for several years & when it 1st started, I remember being so scared to hear him.. It's very frustrating to hear & see & not be able to do anything about it.    He is 11 now & does not have them anymore.  He does still sleepwalk occassionally though.  It had all seemed to go together.  I'm just glad the terrors finally ended- I can deal with the sleepwalking!   Don't worry, his pediatrician had said that all kids tend to grow out of them as they get older.  Good luck!

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My son had night terrors from the age of 2-5 and I can relate with how scary it is seeing your child in that state and knowing that at that moment you are helpless.#1 thing for sure is to Never wake them during one.#2 is to make sure wherever he sleeps he is not able to get outside or near stairs without you knowing about it.I say this because my son would try to throw himself down the stairs during night terrors.I remember also physically having to hold him down at times because he was so stong during these episodes he would physically try to hurt me as well as himself.I say the doors because on one occasion I heard the door open in the middle of the night and when I checked on my son he was missing I found him sleeping under the deck outside(thank goodness it was summer time)Being prepared I think is the most important thing and to remember they personally have no control over what is happening and to remember also your not a bad parent because these things are happening.I had it explained to me that there are different realms of sleep and for most we go in to the last realm which causes our bodies to be paralysed when we dream people with night terrors do not reach the last  realm of sleep so when they dream their bodies are not paralyzed which causes a night terror to be much more severe because they are able to move about.My son eventually outgrew them and I am glad for that but I understand the frustration of not knowing how to fix it right now!So this is more a response of support than solid answers.Best of luck

Kimberly - posted on 02/14/2009

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Wow, thanks so much everyone!!! Nice to know its not just my son going through this and that it seems to be a very prevelant thing. I really appreciate all the responses!

Lisa - posted on 02/13/2009

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My daughter is 8 and she has had night terrors since she was about 3. We have found that they are more frequent when she is stressed out or when she is over stimulated before bed. It helps if we can have down time, reading a book no TV, before bed time. A nice warm bath (I usually put a little lavender bath scent, also helps to settle her down if she has had a rough day or a very busy day.



I know this are really hard on everyone, but usually, the child does not remember them the next day. Good luck and hang in there.

Lesley - posted on 02/13/2009

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Hi, Mt son sometimes has them and they usually occur when he's a little stressed (e.g When baby bro arrived, Starting School) and if he get to tired. Try and make sure he gets a few early nights and ask him if anything has him worried or stressed. Night terrors typically occur around an hour or two after they have gone to bed, if he is having them at a certain time, you could try waking him gently an hour or so after he's gone to sleep or just before the time he usually has his night terrors and just let him fall back asleep. Never try to wake him if he having a night terror just place him back in bed and talk softley to him. My son also gets them if he gets to hot in bed, so try and keep his room a little cooler or not as many covers.

Julie - posted on 02/13/2009

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my daughter had night terrors when she was a toddler, It scared me so bad I talked to her doctor about them he said they are common and the best way I could help my daughter was to try and softly comfort her while she was having them without waking her so i would play lullibys for her ! but every child is different and she was so young . Have you talked to his doctor?

Wendy - posted on 02/13/2009

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Pray and just hang in there. I'll pray for you. When we took my son to the doctor, who referred him to a psychologist, that doctor said "he'll grow out of it." My son, who is now 5, a year and a half. Very violent and terrifying experiences. If you need someone to talk to who has experienced it, I'm here for you. xoxo

Leslie - posted on 02/13/2009

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Hey! I have a 4 year old who has night terrors almost EVERY night! I know how terrifying it is and how completely helpless you feel! (Not to mention the loss of sleep!) I also have a brother who went thru the same thing for years as a child...he eventually out grew it. Anyways, I just wanted to let you know you are not alone. It is so hard and in my experience no one seems to understand because they have never been thru it.
As for ideas, I am at a loss except to say that my son's are the worst when he gets overly exhausted and when he doesn't go potty immediately for bed. He also gets worse if we had a bad day. I have spoken to his doctors at length and the best advice they had is not to try to wake him up. Just to hold him if he will allow it and to talk quietly to him and act as if I understand what he is saying in his sleep even if it makes no sense at all. He is always afraid of something-obviously-and he is often frustrated and trying to DO something that I can't see or understand. I have also tried to make sure that he goes to bed while he is sleepy but before he gets his second wind! He has had a few better nights lately and I am thinking positively and hoping he outgrows them quick! If you get any good posts or and great advice, please share! I would love to talk to you about this and share experiences. I know NO ONE else whose child has this problem! Thanks a million! Leslie in MA-

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try some soothing imagery CD's played at night.....there are some great CD's available on Amazon regarding healthy sleeping specifically.  keeps the mind busy enough to fall asleep and then sleep more sound with the messages...my experience only!  Dawn, Alaska

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