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Old February 24 2015, 07:56 PM   #1
Jedi_Master
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Helping a child who suffers from night terrors

My son is almost 2.5 years old, and is a very healthy little fellow. Recently, he has started waking up in the middle of the night screaming and crying, and is inconsolable. We have to fully wake him, then get him to go back to sleep to help him. When we come into his room to wake him he occasionally flees from our touch. My wife and I have tried changing his diet, have adjusted his bed time routine, have tried having white noise machines or music playing in his room, have tried varying his bedtime, all to no avail.

Has anyone out there had experience with this problem, and what did you do to overcome it, if anything?
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Old February 24 2015, 10:12 PM   #2
Spot's Meow
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Re: Helping a child who suffers from night terrors

I do not have children, but I myself suffered from night terrors around the same age as your son. My mother sought advice on how to "cure" them and what she tried seemed to work. She taught me how to practice lucid dreaming, which is when you are aware that you are dreaming within your dreams.

Usually after waking up, a child does not remember sleep terrors, so this must be taught while they are sleeping. You should be able to look up more detailed techniques online, but the basic idea is that you teach someone to take control of their own dreams. When my mom witnessed a night terror happening, she would sit on my bed and talk to me about the dream. For example, she would ask me what I was seeing, or would gather that information from what I was screaming, and then direct me to take action based on that. For example:

Mom: What are you seeing? Is there a monster?
Me: Monster!
Mom: Hide from the monster. Look, daddy is there! He is arresting the monster (my dad was a police officer ). The monster is gone now, you can come out.

This doesn't work every time but eventually it did teach me to take control of my own dreams, to the point where I did not need my mom to sit with me anymore and when I started to have a bad dream, I would change it into a good one on my own. And eventually this leads to being aware that you are just dreaming in the first place.

I very rarely have bad dreams now, because I just change them if I don't like them.
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Old February 24 2015, 11:59 PM   #3
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Re: Helping a child who suffers from night terrors

I think most kids have night terrors at some point and there's not much you can do about it--other than the things you've already described. When I had my nephew, his night terrors were usually caused by being overly-tired or impending growth spurts. The best I could do was make sure he had a nap during the day and my Mom advised NOT waking him when he had night terrors. So I would just go in, comfort him and he would fall back asleep. He never remembered the episode the next morning and eventually grew out of it.
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Old February 25 2015, 01:16 AM   #4
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Re: Helping a child who suffers from night terrors

Thanks so much! I will do some more research into lucid dreaming. I do need to be patient, but that's always been a challenge.
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Old February 25 2015, 01:24 AM   #5
auntiehill
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Re: Helping a child who suffers from night terrors

Well, it IS pretty freaky when someone wigs out in the middle of the night for no apparent reason!
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Old February 25 2015, 04:49 AM   #6
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Re: Helping a child who suffers from night terrors

My daughter had night terrors as a toddler. We just held her 'til the fear passed.

That time was short-lived, and they passed off. So my advice is to just comfort your son and be patient. This too shall pass.
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Old February 25 2015, 12:07 PM   #7
rhubarbodendron
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Re: Helping a child who suffers from night terrors

^I love your new avatar, Bonzie

I agree, these nightmares are a phase every kid experiences. I'd recommend that you don't use white noise or music - they disturb the sleep even more.
The bed ought to be a place where the child feels absolutely comfortable and safe. To that end rituals help a lot, for example a good night story. And a favourite toy that's allowed to "sleep" in the kid's bed.
How about a baby phone so that you realize when your son starts getting restless? Then you'll immediately be at hand to take him in your arms if he wakes up.

It's a pity you're not German - we have a great childrens book that deals with exactly this problem. It's called Das Traumfresserchen (the dream eater). You say a certain poem before you go to bed and then the dream eater comes and gobbles up all your bad dreams (correctly using fork and knife - after all it's an educational book )
If you happen to speak Spanish, it's available in that language: http://www.amazon.com/Tragasue%C3%B1...s=michael+Ende
The English version comes at a hefty $180 at Amazon and more than $700 at Abebooks!


You know what? If you'd like to have it, I'll simply translate the German original for you.
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Old February 25 2015, 04:21 PM   #8
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Re: Helping a child who suffers from night terrors

They were far less intense last night, and he only was upset for about ten minutes.

We made his bedtime routine a little longer, put some real soft lighting in his room, and my wife put some lavender essential oil on one of his sheets (she uses it for her massage clients to calm them). We also had a very quiet evening, no TV, no house cleaning, just me and him playing with his trains and cars for about two hours while Mommy played with the baby in the other room.

Thanks for the offer rhu, but my son is not a big fan of books. Still working on that. We usually just hum and sing together before he goes to sleep.
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Old February 25 2015, 07:30 PM   #9
Locutus of Bored
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Re: Helping a child who suffers from night terrors

Jedi_Master wrote: View Post
My son is almost 2.5 years old, and is a very healthy little fellow. Recently, he has started waking up in the middle of the night screaming and crying, and is inconsolable. We have to fully wake him, then get him to go back to sleep to help him. When we come into his room to wake him he occasionally flees from our touch. My wife and I have tried changing his diet, have adjusted his bed time routine, have tried having white noise machines or music playing in his room, have tried varying his bedtime, all to no avail.

Has anyone out there had experience with this problem, and what did you do to overcome it, if anything?
It's generally recommended that you don't wake the child during the night terror, as that can cause further agitation and confusion. I know that sounds counterintuitive, and it's hard to watch what looks like your child suffering, but most often it looks much worse to an outside observer than it feels to the child experiencing the dream.

For the next week or so, keep a journal of the times your son falls asleep and the times he starts having night terrors. After you have a few examples for comparison, establish an average length of time after he goes to sleep when the night terrors begin. Once you've figured that out, try waking him up fifteen to twenty minutes before the night terrors usually begin, comforting him and making him feel safe. Then let him fall back to sleep when he's ready.

Hopefully that will alter his sleep patterns enough to eliminate or reduce the problem. Good luck.
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Old February 25 2015, 07:36 PM   #10
Jedi_Master
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Re: Helping a child who suffers from night terrors

Locutus of Bored wrote: View Post
Jedi_Master wrote: View Post
My son is almost 2.5 years old, and is a very healthy little fellow. Recently, he has started waking up in the middle of the night screaming and crying, and is inconsolable. We have to fully wake him, then get him to go back to sleep to help him. When we come into his room to wake him he occasionally flees from our touch. My wife and I have tried changing his diet, have adjusted his bed time routine, have tried having white noise machines or music playing in his room, have tried varying his bedtime, all to no avail.

Has anyone out there had experience with this problem, and what did you do to overcome it, if anything?
It's generally recommended that you don't wake the child during the night terror, as that can cause further agitation and confusion. I know that sounds counterintuitive, and it's hard to watch what looks like your child suffering, but most often it looks much worse to an outside observer than it feels to the child experiencing the dream.

For the next week or so, keep a journal of the times your son falls asleep and the times he starts having night terrors. After you have a few examples for comparison, establish an average length of time after he goes to sleep when the night terrors begin. Once you've figured that out, try waking him up fifteen to twenty minutes before the night terrors usually begin, comforting him and making him feel safe. Then let him fall back to sleep when he's ready.

Hopefully that will alter his sleep patterns enough to eliminate or reduce the problem. Good luck.
Awesome idea! Thank you very much.
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Old February 26 2015, 12:57 PM   #11
rhubarbodendron
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Re: Helping a child who suffers from night terrors

I'm not sure it's such a good idea to wake him up. Disturbing a person's sleep can lead to huge psychological but also physical problems - e.g. anxiety fits, depressions, heart trouble, delayed development - which would wbe rather counter-productive. Anxiety fits and depressions would worsen the nightmares which is exactly what you don't want.
(Been there myself and still suffer from the consequences )


2 1/2 is generally not a bookish age. Just give him a year or two and he'll propably become as badly a book addict as I am
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Old February 26 2015, 02:04 PM   #12
Locutus of Bored
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Re: Helping a child who suffers from night terrors

rhubarbodendron wrote: View Post
I'm not sure it's such a good idea to wake him up. Disturbing a person's sleep can lead to huge psychological but also physical problems - e.g. anxiety fits, depressions, heart trouble, delayed development - which would wbe rather counter-productive. Anxiety fits and depressions would worsen the nightmares which is exactly what you don't want.
It's the most commonly recommended home remedy if it's a persistent problem.

Look for a pattern. If your child has sleep terrors, keep a sleep diary. For several nights, note how many minutes after bedtime a sleep terror episode occurs. If the timing is fairly consistent, wake your child about 15 minutes before you expect a sleep terror episode. Keep your child awake for five minutes, and then let him or her fall asleep again.
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-c...s/con-20032552
The following exercise has been shown to stop night terrors in 90% of children. For several nights, keep track of the time between falling asleep and the onset of the night terror. Then, wake him up 15 minutes prior to the expected time of the episode, get him out of bed and fully awake for 5 minutes. Do this for seven consecutive nights. If the night terrors recur, repeat the seven nights of awakenings.
http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/hea.../night-terrors
Since night terrors tend to happen in the first part of the night, after your child has been asleep for two or three hours, you can try to prevent them by gently waking him up about 15 minutes before the typical episode would start. This should alter the sleep pattern and prevent the night terror from creeping into his slumber.
http://www.babycentre.co.uk/a553861/...speed=noscript
Some people have suggested trying planned waking for about a week.

Since the night terrors tend to start around the same time each night, go to him about 10 to 15 minutes before then.
Rouse him a little so that he is almost awake, talk to him, perhaps take him to the toilet or give him a small drink of water.
After about 5 minutes, let him go back to sleep.
This might change his sleep pattern enough so that he does not have the partial wakening later in the night.
http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/Heal...=141&id=2241#4
If your child has night terrors, you can try to interrupt her sleep in order to prevent one. Here is how to do it:

First, note how many minutes the night terror occurs from your childs bedtime.
Then, awaken your child 15 minutes before the expected night terror, and keep her awake and out of bed for five minutes. You may want to take your child to the bathroom to see if she will urinate.
Continue this routine for a week.
http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders...rrors?page=2#3
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Old March 2 2015, 01:54 AM   #13
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Re: Helping a child who suffers from night terrors

One of our three kids had night terrors and she was born 3 weeks early; I don't know if that means anything. We had to wake her up because she flailed around and screamed so we were afraid she's hurt herself. She only had the terrors when she was overtired and she outgrew them pretty fast, it seemed like. It didn't last very long.
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