S.A. asks from Oviedo, FL on September 23, 2008
Anyone Familar with "Night Terrors?"
I'm not sure but I think my 17 month old son is having night terrors. He has always had sleep issues but for the past couple months he has started waking from what seems a dead sleep to sudden crying and screaming. He typically rolls around for 5-30 seconds while crying and screaming and then just as suddenly as it started it stops and he goes back to sleep. He will do this at least once per night, usually 2-3 times per night. Occasionally, such as last night, he starts crying and screaming and instead of rolling around and going back to sleep the crying and screaming will escalate and he stands up and holds on to the side of the crib. It is a genuine distressful, I am scared cry! When this happens I run in there, scoop him up and comfort him. He typically cries for a few minutes then calms down. I change his diaper and offer him water, and put him back in his crib. Last night he began to cry again as soon as I put him down but after 1-2 minutes he stopped and went back to sleep.
We put him to bed by 8 every night and the noises typically start around 12. Last night he has his bad episode at 12 and I heard him crying/screaming again, just for a few seconds, around 4:30. Has anyone had experience with this? Is there anything I can do?
We have an appointment with a pediatric sleep specialist tomorrow and we may submit to a sleep study as he has other sleep issues as well, always has, but the sudden crying and screaming is just so scary, for him and for us! Any advice would be appreciated.
So What Happened?™
Thank you everyone for sharing your stories and for the advice. We are having a sleep study done on our son in the next two weeks. The pediatric sleep specialist had a list of 6 things that indicated a possible sleep disorder and our son does 5 out of the 6! He has always had sleep issues and this sudden crying/screaming at night just adds to his list. We are hoping the sleep study will give us some answers and a direction to head in that leads to our son (and mommy) getting better sleep!
F.A. answers from Miami on September 24, 2008
Hi - I'm sorry for the trouble your little one is having! My son experienced night terrors beginning around 9 mos old. You can tell the difference between night terrors and night mares b/c they occur at different stages of the sleep cycle. Night terrors happen early in the sleep cycle, maybe an hour or two after going to sleep. Nightmares happen later, I think close to when you're waking up. I remember w/ my son, when he was having night terros, his eyes would be open like he was awake, but it was clear he was not. His pupils were really small and unfocused.
At the time this was happening to my son (almost 7 yrs ago), I did some research at the time and found a suggestion that seemed a little like an old wives tale, but harmless so I decided to try it. The suggestion was posted by a parent of a child w/ night terrors that I believe was also a Dr. They said not to try to wake a child during a night terror. The suggestion was to pick up the child and put his/her feet into warm running water. I know it sounds strange! But, I thought it couldn't hurt - so I did. The next time he had a night terror, I picked him up and put his feet under warm running water. He never had another one. Maybe it was a coincidence, but it could be worth a try.
My niece also had night terrors and she had them for years. Eventually, she did outgrow them. Maybe by the time she was 5. I also remember reading that they can be brought on when the child is overly tired.
On a side note: my son has an autism spectrum disorder and had issues calming down at night and falling asleep. I have been using 1 mg chewable melatonin with him for a number of years, and it has been a life saver. It helps him tremendously and it's obvious when he doesn't take it. Melatonin is a natural substance made by the body at night that regulates the sleep cycle. Kids w/ ASD have been found to have melatonin deficiencies.
I hope this helps! good luck!
1 mom found this helpful
M.H. answers from Gainesville on September 23, 2008
Here's what I know about night terrors: It is a sleep disorder related to sleep walking, and is actually pretty rare. Your child is not awake during a night terror. With night terrors, the child will be unresponsive to your comfort attempts, but will likely go back to sleep on his own when the fit is over, and will not remember the incident. If your baby is responsive to you (like taking a sip of water when offered) then he is awake and the cause of his distress is more likely a bad dream or separation anxiety, than an actual night terror.
Here's what I know about 17 month olds: For some reason it seems like that is the age when even good sleepers suddenly begin waking during the night. It happened to me with both my boys, and other moms have posted the same issues. It can be scary for mom and dad because by this age, they really know how to use those lungs, and their screaming can be very distressing.
You say he has always had sleep issues. Has your pediatrician recommended, or have you tried sleep training? I did not know about sleep training when my oldest suddenly began waking with screaming fits during the night around 17 months old. I reacted the way you have described, and I did not know it at the time, but I was actually feeding into his sleep difficulties by "over-responding" to the problem, and now he still has sleep issues at three years old.
My younger son had to be sleep trained around six months old becasue he simply would not sleep longer than two hours at night. So, when he began having night fits at around the same age, I used the same techniques, and it worked like a charm. It goes like this: you respond when he cries, so he knows you will come if he needs you. But, when you go in, just check to make sure nothing is wrong (no fever, vomit, tangled blanket, etc.) and as long as he is physically fine, you pat his back, tell him it is time to go back to sleep, say I love you and leave the room. Yes, he will continue to scream, but you need to wait at least five minutes, and if he is still screaming, check him again and do the same thing. If he continues to cry, then continue the process of checking him and leaving the room until he goes back to sleep on his own (increase the amount of time between each check if you can). He needs to know that you will respond to his cries, so he does not feel abandoned, but he also needs to know that you are not going to hang out with him just because he doesn't want to sleep. I know there are moms that do not agree with this method, but this is what worked wonders in getting my son to sleep thorough the night, both at six months old and again at 16 months when he began waking as you described. And he is the happiest toddler I know.
All that being said, if your child is truly suffering from night terrors, there is not a whole lot you can do other than let it pass. Like I said he is not awake and will not remember it, so the best you can do is let him go back to sleep.
V.W. answers from Jacksonville on September 23, 2008
there was a similar discussion a few days ago on this site. Look back at the post on 9/16 (?)
M.C. answers from Daytona Beach on September 24, 2008
I don't know if that is young for night terrors or not. (You may want to check with his pediatrician.)
But - if it is night terrors - you have my sympathies. We struggled them with my oldest child until he had his last one when he was 14 years old. He truly frightened me (for MY safety), that time. Thank God is was the last time!
I am told that you can comfort yourself to know that it is not something you are doing "wrong" - and there is nothing wrong with his mental health. My son is 37 yrs old, works regularly at the same job for 18 years, has a wife (wife # 1) and three children. (In other words, his life "works".) But - he is a very sensitive man - and was a very sensitive boy. I wondered if maybe he wasn't actually "worried" about issues in his development. ("Will I get potty trained?" - "Are my mommy and daddy MAD at me when they say "NO" all the time", etc, etc...) I don't know. But - finally - it did resolve itself. It usually ends earlier than 14 (around 9, I think.) Meanwhile, you want to stay on high alert - because as he is able to get out of his bed, he may sleep-walk and you may find him screaming in the garage, or in the kitchen taking dishes out of the cabinets, or in the living room using the sofa cushions as a wedge to knock you down with. (All really happened to us. We laugh now, but gosh, it was NOT fun!) No medications needed. Just loads of patience and prayer. Sense of humor doesn't hurt, but use with caution: your son doesn't need to be laughed at, of course!
S.G. answers from Mobile on September 24, 2008
My husband has the same problem. The doctors have told us that he doesn't have a problem, but they don't wake up to a screaming person every night. I have found that it seems to be related to acid reflux as well. If he takes his medicine for the acid reflux before bed, he sleeps much more peacefully. His parents told me that he's done it his entire life. (sleep walking included) I have read that 95% of children outgrow the condition, however, mine is one of those lucky 5% who didn't. :(
We have just learned to adapt to this daily problem. If he persists in yelling for more than a couple of minutes, I will get up and turn the bedroom light on. That normally will wake him up to where he can calm down. He rarely remembers anything. I would be interested in knowing what your doctor says. My husband had a sleep study done a couple of years ago, but they said that he didn't wake up or have any issues that night, so they couldn't positively 'diagnose' him with anything. :( I hope that they're able to help your little guy. It seems that they are more familiar with the childhood condition, rather than the adults who didn't grow out of it.
A.R. answers from Miami on September 29, 2008
I have a very encouraging story to share with you. An appointment with a Homeopath and prescribed remedy FIXED our baby's horrible night terrors (aka: confusional arousal). At 8 months, Kira started having those screaming episodes in the middle of the night. Just horrible and getting worse. She'd look right through me as if I wasn't there, and often wasn't comforted when I picked her up. She was usually still asleep (but eyes open at times), and other times she would wake up. She would be screaming multiple times a night and if we'd wake her fully, she wouldn't go back to sleep easily, and then wake again lasting up to 4-5 hours through the night. Exhausting! My pediatrician told me to make an appointment with a good homeopath he recommended, and I'm happy to report that the remedy worked!! It's been about 5 weeks now and no screaming episodes. We had been suffering for months. She's still waking in the night and moaning or crying at times, but nothing like before.
I highly recommend that you and other moms who have a child with night terrors or other similar problems find a good homeopath. I live in Miami Beach and my homeopath's name is Karen and she works out of Dr. Eisenberg's office ###-###-####. It was $250 for the visit, but worth EVERY PENNY. I'm sure you can find a good one in your area.
Best of luck!
L.W. answers from Miami on September 24, 2008
This use to happen to my daughter. She is 9 now and it stopped years ago when she was still a baby. She would sleep and wake up screaming, her body rigid and scream for no reason. I wuld try to console her and she just screams. I use to hold her and pray over her because as a mom it is hard to stand and hear her cry and not know why she is crying. She eventually goes back to sleep. I would say play some soothing music, I don't know if you are a christian or not but I strongly believe the prayers help and the music.
T.S. answers from Panama City on September 25, 2008
Night terrors usually last 20-30 minutes, not seconds. And, there is no way to console them or get them to stop crying. You just have to wait it out and keep them safe.
I would check into the testing, b/c it sounds like it may be something else.