Mom Seeking Help Dealing with Night Terrors

Updated on March 24, 2007
A.D. asks from Lynnwood, WA
13 answers

Yesterday my sons pediatrician told me based on the information I gave him my 2 year old son is having whats called night terrors. They don't know what causes it or how to treat it. About 15% of children between 2 years and 6 years old have the problem.

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answers from Portland on

My son had these at about 2, they completely freaked my husband out so he went online and did a bunch of research at various places to find answers. Research shows it's definitely correlated to feet being too hot. (My son hasn't liked footed pajamas since he was about 3 months old.) The suggestion was a wet (cold water) washcloth on their feet to bring them out of the terror, it also seems to make them stop happening. I think we did the wet washcloth thing twice. It worked like a charm, wet washcloth on his feet and the terror would stop. He'd fall right back to sleep. And he's never had any since.

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answers from Seattle on

My son went through night terrors a few months back, he is 2 1/2 now. does your son get up screaming and running around like he's really scared? My doc said the best thing is to turn the light on and just talk to them in a soothing voice, but do not touch them, because it can freak them out more. night terrors actually happen when they are awake, but are completely unaware of whats going on around them, they are very disoriented and everything looks scary which is why you should turn on the light so they can see more clearly and dont touch them, because they may not realize its you, they may think its one of those scary things they think they see. these episodes can last for quite a while, my son once had one that lasted about an hour. its scary, but on the upside, they do not remember it later on. hope this helps.

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answers from Portland on

I know how hard it is, as my son had them too around the same age. Rest assured, it has NOTHING to do with stress or anything you've done. It's scary, but this too shall pass. My son only had them 3 times; hopefully you will be as lucky. My son, now age 11, is completely well adjusted in all areas of life, although he does on rare occasions walk or talk in his sleep.



answers from Portland on

Hi A.,

I am pretty certain my daughter has these as well. She is not quite 2 1/2 but she wakes up screaming and from my view point irrational and I have never been able to comfort her. She often gets more angry when I touch her which after reading the other responses makes sense now. I don't have any advice on what to do but can tell you you're not alone:) Are you in the Portland area?



answers from Seattle on

I've been dealing with these for about a year now, my son is 2 1/2. The first time he had one I almost called 911, I thought he was in serious pain, it was so scary. I did a lot of reserach on them & found ways to help prevent them, my son doesn't have them as often, but still does from time to time.

Here are two websites that really helped me. I read the message board on the second website & found some helpful ideas.

A few things that we tried that did reduce the frequency were:
*lavendar bubble bath & a consistant sleep schedule with wind down time before bed (including his bath).
*music at bedtime & I play it sometimes during the terrors, I just use a baby einstien music cd.
*make sure they are not overly hot while they sleep, some kids don't like the footed pj's but more importantly be sure they aren't too hot, it can trigger a NT.

during a night terror I just usually calmly ask him questions every once in awhile to see if he is awake or not, that is usually how I can tell when it is over, when he starts responding to me. "where is your nose?" "do you want some water?" stuff like that. I use to do that with a book & ask where the babies nose, eyes, etc, were when he was younger but now he is too out of control to get him to sit with me.

It's really a hard thing & a helpless frusterated feeling while your going through it.

Good luck!!



answers from Spokane on

One thing my ped told me was to be sure the child wasn't overly tired. We realized that if we put her to bed around 10, she'd have night terrors, but if we put her to bed around 8, she wouldn't. Putting her on a strict bed schedule like that really helped for her night terrors, and she stopped having them.



answers from Portland on

Night terrors do go away but in the meantime the baby does feel the terror. Go in to him, cuddle him, reassure him, perhaps stay with him until he's asleep.

I'm 64. I don't know if they were night terrors but I remmber waking from really scary dreams and having my mother come into my room and do just that. They didn't last very long, as I remember. sometimes she would take me to bed with her but not every time. I still remember the fear that was reduced once my mother was with me. The fear was related to a feeling that I was all alone more than the fear I would be hurt.

A friend of mine, who is a child psychiatrist, did the same with her daughter and it worked.

I don't remember sleeping with a lovey. My grandkids have special stuffed animals with which they sleep, they have a small night lignt and listen to soft music or a kid's book on tape or CD when they are first in bed. They've never had night terrors and I don't know if that's why but it's worth a try.



answers from Seattle on

The one thing I can say is that while he is having the night terror just stay calm. My daughter still has them. They are scary but you need to stay calm. If the father is involved let him know about them and to stay calm. Your boy will be okay. It has taken up to 15 minutes for us to get my daughter to calm down and then she doesn't even remember having it. If your boy is sleep walking just make sure to be around him so he doesn't get hurt. Good luck and remember your boy will be okay and to stay calm no matter how scary it gets. I have to each time.



answers from Houston on

My daughter has had them since she was 3 months old, everyone says it wasnt night terror because she was so young, she just turned 1 less than a week ago and had the last episode a day after her birthday, I am really frustrated when I see my baby cries so hard and she is not awake, it really hurts so if there is anything that is proven I would really love to find out, she has an episode atleast once a month and they last about 5 minutes of really hard crying and shaking, then she will stop and sleep like nothing happen, its really frustrating,,



answers from Richland on

Our son had serious issues with night terrors and nightmares. His had a reason behind them, but I think our trick will still work for you. If you have long hair, use one of your hair ties. If you don't, find something else soft. You'll also need a small decorated bottle of perfume - one of those cheap ones from Wal-Mart will work. It needs to be a perfume you do NOT wear so that your child will not recognize the smell. First, wear the hair tie for a little while so it gets your "scent". Yes, our little guys can tell Mommy from other people just by what we smell like. Anyway, at bedtime, introduce the "magic potion". If your child has watched "Dragon Tales" or any other shows like that, tell your child that the dragons from Dragon Tales sent it to him. Then hand him the hair tie and tell him it's Mommy's and he gets to hold onto it for the night. It works best if it's one you can put around his wrist or around the neck of his favorite stuffed animal, something like that. Once the hair tie is in place, have him smell it. Then get the dropper from the top of the perfume and put a few drops on the hair tie while saying, "No bad dreams, only good dreams" kind of like chanting. Then have him smell it again. Ask him if he can smell the magic. He should be able to... Then tell him that magic will make the bad dreams go away. After a few nights of this ritual, it should help a little. At least it did in our case. Our son won't go to bed without his magic hair tie, and he's almost 5. His nightmares and night terrors significantly decreased. And like I said, he had a reason for his. He moved in with us when he was 2 and had some pretty bad experiences while living with his birth parents. So since this worked on our son, us just "winging it" trying to think of things to help him, it might work on yours, I would think it should work with your child, since yours doesn't have the trauma to deal with. Good luck!

Oh - our son also wears one of my hair ties to preschool (on his wrist) and he doesn't get scared that way. It works really well for being able to leave him places. We plan on using the same thing for our daughter if we need to.



answers from Portland on

My son had some night terrors so I researched it. Some things that may cause them are having a few days in a row where his schedule is changed or he has had overwhelming circumstances lately. Some things you can try to help are waking him up about fifteen minutes after he has really fallen asleep and make sure he is awake and then let him go back to sleep. You can also make sure he is cool enough, like, taking the covers or socks off his feet during the terror. You can turn the light on so that he doesn't see the shadows in the room as 'monsters'. He is not awake during night terrors and you shouldn't try to wake him up, he won't remember them in the morning, they are scarier for you than they are for him. You can hold him, if he'll let you, and just let him know you're there, but you have to let it progress by itself. Kids can hurt themselves trying to get away from the danger they're seeing in their terror, so just make sure if he does get out of bed he doesn't do anything to hurt himself. I hope this helps.



answers from Portland on

Both of my boys had night terrors, we are still dealing with them with my 2 year old. The first time is just as scary as the rest, you just learn how to cope. With my older son we really thought that he was possesed. He "woke up" (as you have heard they are not really awake) screaming thinking that there were things there that were not really there, something was comming at him. The doctor thought that he started them because we were in a serioud accident. He would not let us hold him, yet he was upset that we would not hold him????? Finally he took a bottle and went back to sleep and never rememberd what happened. This first night terror lasted 1 1/2 hours, the rest were about 1/2 hour each. After that he seemed to have them once a month for maybe a year and they were done. We found that if we made enough space where he could safely have the terror we just watched and quietly said "its ok" "we are here" we always had a bottle or sippy cup with warm milk and after awhile he would take it and calm down. we also read to wake him 15 to 20 minuets after he fell a sleep. For us that did not really help. But we did find that he had them more when he had been over tired. The heat thing makes some sense, both of my sons sleep in underware, and my 2 yo only seems to wake up criing when he has pjs on. Our 2 yo just started with them a couple of months ago, so far he has had 2 that last about a half hour and again we stay calm and give him room to scream , roll around, kick and what ever he needs to feel better, then we also have his nuby cup ready with milk and he finally takes it and goes back to sleep. I really think it is harder on us because there is nothing we can do, and to see our baby so upset is hard, but he really has no idea what is happening. Just remember not to hold them , it scares them thinking they are trapped or someone is hurting them. Just watch closely to make sure they do not get hurt. Goodluck!



answers from Bellingham on

My oldest daughter (now 9) has had night terrors since she was 2 years old. They used to be every night about an hour after she went to bed. They have calmed down a lot. It used to be her screaming down the hall; Which freaked the whole family out at first. Just this year she has woken up about one night a week only and it is usually just running down the hall. FYI... If you have stairs, use a baby gate at night. The doctor told me the same thing, you can't do much about it. It helps me knowing that she doesn't remember a thing in the morning. In fact she thinks the stories are funny now. You might want to also look into natural remedies like chamomile tea before bedtime. I would sometimes lay down with her until I was sure she was calm again. Hope this info helps with your little one!


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