10 answers

Night Terrors in 2 Year Old?

My son just turned two and all of a sudden, he wakes up in the night screaming/crying. He won't let us touch him (gets even more upset) and it takes a while to calm him down. Is this night terror? I read that the difference between nightmares and night terrors is that they wake up in a bad mood from the nightmare but don't remember the night terror and are in a good mood (which he is in the morning). Also, is there anything we can do to prevent it?? Could it be anything else?


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My daughter totally had these when she was little. She never remembered anything that happened the next day. They really frightened me the most, I think. All I did was comfort her and work through them while they were happening. She grew out of them and I really can't say how long it took. They just stopped happening after maybe a year? Good luck to you.

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Yep. Sounds like a night terror. Are they occurring around the same time each night? For my son, they were between 12 and 1 (that's a fun time to deal with a screaming child!). What I read (Solving your Child's Sleep Problems), is that its like when you wake up all disoriented in the middle of the night and it takes you about 2 seconds to figure out where you are . . .for a child, they are stuck in that "state" for a good 15 minutes or so . . .all disoriented.

What we found is that we woke him up BEFORE the event to sort of "reset" his sleep cycle. So, since it was happening between 12 and 1, we would wake him up around 11:30. Get him up, maybe a little sip of water and then back to bed. It was easier because my son was 3 and we got him up to go to the bathroom.

If it still happened, we would just sit there with him (not touching him, because it made him more upset as well) and just let him know that we were there and to let us know when he was ready for a hug. Most of the time, he would just calm down on his own (sometimes would take up to a 1/2 hour to calm him down). The more you stay calm, the better it is. Calm voices, calm touch.

It is a rough, rough time. it took us about 3 months to get out of it. Then it happened maybe once a month and I can't remember when it happened last. Its a phase. I am sure its harder when they are little (my youngest will be 2 this weekend), because you can't really discuss with them what has happened. My older son never remembered any of the screaming or thrashing from the night before.

Good luck.

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My daughter, now 6, had night terrors from age 2 - 3 1/2 or so. It was horrible, but seemed to happen within the first half of the night - usually midnight. I tried a lot of the "tricks" that I read about, but honestly they didn't work. My now ex-husband used to pick her up and just start asking her to look for one of our cats. I think it was more his calm, yet deep voice that helped pull her out of it. Maybe I'm wrong, it could have just been at the end of the terror too.

I understand that the terrors might be genetic -- why.... I had them as a child. My mom said it was horrible too! I really don't think there is any way to prevent it. And, I don't think they really remember the terror the next day.


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Hi! Another B. M responding....my DD went through a stage from about age 18 months to 4 1/2....they were the worst about ages 2-3....there really isn't anything you can do...just make sure they are safe....and let the night terror run it's course...ours were often when she was overtired...they began about 1 1/2 hours after she fell asleep and were 45 min apart almost exactly....the only thing that sometimes helped her was to sit on our front step in the cool air...of course in the winter not such a great idea...I read a lot about them and and it helped ease my mind.

B. M

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Beth M had good suggestions. The main reason for night terrors is an overtired child, not getting their naps in is a big factor for being overtired. My best friend has a daughter who goes through these typically within 2-4 hours after going down for bed. Her doctor said to make sure she is getting in her naps and enough sleep. Sure enough, they go away when she is well rested.

Good luck.

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Yep. All my kids had it. It is like trying to figure out a dream from a reality. That is why the kids get upset. When my kids did that we had a talk about dreams and how you can change your dreams. I remember this well.

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My daughter totally had these when she was little. She never remembered anything that happened the next day. They really frightened me the most, I think. All I did was comfort her and work through them while they were happening. She grew out of them and I really can't say how long it took. They just stopped happening after maybe a year? Good luck to you.

1 mom found this helpful

sounds like it. does he have them often? how is his bdtime schedule/routine?

my daughteris 5 and still has them. they are horrible. no one can understand them until they witness them. i have been told she will outgrow them.

we have found that sticking to a strict schedule has helped a little. she seems to have them when her schedule is off. she also has them if she is very busy that day.

good luck. i have three kids younger than her and find myself getting up with her some nights as much as the newborn baby. just remember, they have no idea what is going on. don't try and wake them, just help them go back to bed.

if you find something to help him, let me know. i would love for her to sleep through the night.

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The difference between a night terror and a nightmare is that a Night Terror only happens during non-REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. We do not dream during non-REM sleep (it's our "deep sleep"), so a child having a night terror is NOT dreaming. Research indicates that Night Terrors happen during the first third to half of the night, when the majority of non-REM sleep is occurring.

Since you can't really tell if a child is in REM or non-REM sleep, you'll have to just judge his behavior. Personally, I think it sounds like a night terror. Since he is not dreaming during a Night Terror, there will be no memory of the event from the child -- he is in deep sleep. The only person who is scared during the Night Terror is the person/people watching the child have the event!

Even though it is very unnerving to see your child in such a bizzare state, there is nothing dangerous about Night Terrors and there is nothing you can do about it (except make sure that your child doesn't accidentally hurt himself by falling down the stairs or things like that). If it really is a Night Terror (and not a bad dream), he is deeply asleep...even though his eyes are open and he is moving/walking around. I was told to NOT try to wake the child. Just let the event end on it's own and your son will go back to sleep.

I hope this helps in some way. Don't be overly frightened. We went ahead and picked-up our daughter and held her, but she seemed to be okay with it. However...it didn't make a difference for her -- the Terror continued until it was done.

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Hello M. S. I had the same problems with my son joshua, I'am a Rabbi/Pastor who believes in Jesus I can only suggest to you Spiritual Advise and that is be careful of your sons surroundings, and when you see these things occuring place your hand on his and pray for him, it is also a good idea to pray for him before he goes to bed. when these things happened to my son I prayed to the Lord to reveal to me what was it and the Lord gave me the answer, I will be praying for you and your family. If I can be of any assitance contact me at the info below.
Rabbi L.

If it is night terrors, there is nothing you can do. My daughter had them. She would wake up screaming and almost appear to not be fully awake, yet it would take a bit to calm her down and she would have no memory of it the next day. What I was told is they do grow out of them and there really is nothing that you can do. She did seem to be more likely to get them if we did let her snack before bedtime so we cut that out and it did help a bit.

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