6 Things Your Doctor Doesn’t Tell You About Night Terrors
Night terrors seem hard to diagnose by doctors. Not sure why. When my son was having them we had no idea what they were called. We tried to explain it with descriptions but no definitions. They doctors acted like they were just bad dreams or ‘not that bad.’ My son started having them young. The doctors told us kids that age don’t have night terrors (only older kids). We were at wit’s end. No one was getting sleep. My son was crying and screaming in the middle of the night, often running in place. Looking right through me, calling for mommy. We needed answers and didn’t know what to do. I asked some moms I knew from La Leche League and one of them told me about ‘night terrors.’ I researched it and try to learn all I could. It definately seemed to be the right diagnosis.
Doctor Apt After Doctor Apt…
They still said it was impossible. He was too young to have night terrors! I was ready to call one of them in the middle of the night so they could hear him screaming! I finally did something different. I video taped it and they were baffled but still said it couldn’t be one! I decided I need to figure it out on my own, since the doctors were useless. I took the approach of ‘what would I do if it was a food allergy’ and did an elimination diet- per se- but with stresses and things that I might be triggering them.
He’d wake up screaming and would often stand up, be pointing at things he ‘saw’ trying to get him, be screaming my name but looking through me, and not see me, would often stand up and run in place, trying to get away from something. It always took a long time to calm him down. This is not what I expected in parenting.
Triggers That caused Them
- He was flat-footed and would have bad cramps in his ankles and calves. Once we got custom insoles from foot dr the night terrors drastically dropped (I think the pain in his sleep would trigger them).
- My husband and I were still married there was always tension in the house. When we split and he moved out the night terrors dropped (that was when my son was 4). So with those two things they went from 3-5 a night, 4-6 times a week. To maybe 2-3 a week.
- Certain noises in his sleep would trigger one. Including the phone ringing, the printer and loud noises.
- If he was having a lot he’d more likely not have more if I let him sleep in my bed instead of his own.
- Going to bed really late after his bedtime, when he was super over-tired would trigger one.
- Having a super stressful day would trigger one.
Your child might have more triggers. But clearly for my son there were clear things that were almost a guarantee to cause one. I’ve also heard of children younger than this having them. Your child is not possessed while they sleep!! You have to see what works for your family. Try to eliminate different things, like we did. It isn’t foolproof. We did have nights where nothing obvious was a trigger but he’d still have them.
Here Is What Helped Us
Clearly all of this does not apply to anyone else, just saying about my household. Overall, for them to go 100% away, there was nothing we could do besides do things to try to reduce them. We tried to make sure he always went to bed on time. Reduced his stresses. Massaged his legs and feet.
A friend that is a nurse told me people that have kids that have them sometimes still have them as adults, or as adults are sleep-walkers. She said if they are running around, not seeing things, like my son was, than she knew people that would put bars on their windows so they would prevent the child from running through the window in an episode (I never did the bars thing, but always woke up and ran to him the second they started).
Also, if he had one than chances are he’d have more the same night. Sometimes he’d have one and then I’d get him back to sleep and be sitting by him or still in the room and I could tell he was starting to have another one so I’d hush him, talk to him and pat his back and sometimes a full night terror wouldn’t happen.
The next day he’d often be more tired so I wouldn’t stress on the time he had to wake up if I felt he really needed the sleep, or I’d make sure he’d have a good nap in the late morning.
As a parent- try to get sleep. I started going to bed earlier, usually when he did, so that if he started having them I had at least gotten some sleep. Me having patience while he was having one helped calm him quicker.
My son slowly (very slowly) outgrew them. I’m not sure exactly when they stopped. They started reducing from a few times a week to monthly. Then if they were monthly it would be on or two (in the same night) and not 3-5. From about age 12 to age 14 they were every few months and then they just stopped. He still tosses around in his sleep. Wakes the whole house when he kicks the walls. He also talks, laughs and sometimes sings in his sleep. But it looks like the night terrors have finally ended. It has been about 3 years since he has had one so I’m hoping they are 100% gone.
What are some game changing tips that helped your family with night terrors?