Night Terrors?

Nikki - posted on 03/18/2010 ( 3 moms have responded )

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My daughter has been sleeping through the night since she was about 2 and a half months old, but for the past couple of months she has been waking up in the middle of the night screaming and crying, but will go right back to sleep after a few minutes. When we went for her one year check up I asked her ped. about it and she said it was more then likely night terrors and that she should grow out of it. Has anyone else had experiences like this and do you think it could actually be night terrors? Also if anyone has any info on night terrors I would really like to hear it.. thanks

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Lucy - posted on 03/19/2010

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Hi Nikki



My daughter who is now almost 4 a suffered from night terrors since she was about 18 months old, so I know how horrible it can be!



The thing to remember with night terrors is that the child is actually still asleep, so they don't realise mummy is there to comfort them, even if her eyes are open and she appears to be looking at you. Because of this, any physical intervention like holding them or talking to them can be even more distressing, it just becomes part of the upsetting dream they are involved in.



Luckily my health visitor happens to have a real interest in sleep disorders, and she has suggested a couple of things that have really worked to reduce the frequency of my daughter's night terrors.



Firstly, while she is having a terror, just put her somewhere she is safe from harming herself (I leave my daughter in her bed and sit on a chair pulled up to the side so she can't fall out) and just keep an eye on her without intervening, and just wait for the terror to pass. This is hard because you want to cuddle and comfort your baby, but it really make the terror much shorter and less severe.



The other technique can prevent terrors from happening if they have a regular pattern. If your daughter tends to have a terror at about the same time each night, go and gently half wake her about 15 minutes before you expect it to happen. This disrupts her sleep cycle and prevents her from slipping into the phase of sleep when night terrors happen. Although this is a pain to begin with because you may have to set your alarm to go to your daughter at some awful hour, it really works, and after a couple of weeks her own body clock will start to adjust and she'll wake herself at the right time.



Our daughter still has occasional night terrors if we are somewhere unfamiliar, or she is particularly tired or ill, but they are much less common and less severe than they used to be using these two techniques. I hope this helps!

Dree - posted on 03/19/2010

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Hope this helps you. I, mself, have experience night terrors off and on my entire life. I'm actually going through an episode now...have been for the last mth. But mine stem from my childhood. Good luck





The sleep disorder of night terrors typically occurs in children aged 3-12 years, with a peak onset in children aged 3½ years.



Night terrors are distinctly different from the much more common nightmares, which occur during REM sleep. Night terrors are characterized by frequent recurrent episodes of intense crying and fear during sleep, with difficulty arousing the child. Night terrors are frightening episodes that disrupt family life.



Night terrors may be caused by the following:





Stressful life events



Fever



Sleep deprivation



Medications that affect the central nervous system (the brain)



In addition to frequent recurrent episodes of intense crying and fear during sleep, with difficulty arousing the child, children with night terrors may also experience the following:





Tachycardia (increased heart rate)



Tachypnea (increased breathing rate)



Sweating during episodes

Unlike nightmares, most children do not recall a dream after a night terror episode, and they usually do not remember the episode the next morning.



The typical night terror episode usually begins approximately 90 minutes after falling asleep. The child sits up in bed and screams, appearing awake but is confused, disoriented, and unresponsive to stimuli. Although the child seems to be awake, the child does not seem to be aware of the parents’ presence and usually does not talk. The child may thrash around in bed and does not respond to comforting by the parents.



Most episodes last 1-2 minutes, but they may last up to 30 minutes before the child relaxes and returns to normal sleep.



In children younger than 3½ years, peak frequency of night terrors is at least 1 episode per week.



If your child seems to be experiencing night terrors, an evaluation by the child’s pediatrician may be useful. During this evaluation, the pediatrician may also be able to exclude other possible disorders that might cause night terrors.





Parents might take the following precautions at home:





Make the child’s room safe to try to prevent the child from being injured during an episode.



Eliminate all sources of sleep disturbance.



Maintain a consistent bedtime routine and wake-up time

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Nikki - posted on 03/19/2010

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Thanks so much for your advice and information on this. I guess her ped. was right b/c the episodes are exactly how you all explained them, I just wish she(ped) had told me a little more about it and not to pick her up or anything, b/c I guess I have made them worse and last longer everytime, so thanks so much for filling me in.

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