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Night Terrors

So the last couple of nights have been rough at our house. We are awakened by the sound of our son's shrieking voice, screaming. He's still asleep although he calls for us and then pushes us away and then calls for us again, all with his eyes closed. And then he quiets down immediately and snores. And then he starts thrashing and screaming again. We're told that these are the dreaded night terrors, and that they are typical of two year olds. Greaaaat. (Why is it that most "typical" behaviors are always hard on the parents?). The episodes, I am told, typically last anywhere from 10 minutes to half an hour, and we're told it's best not to wake him up but rather just let him ride it out. This is a difficult thing for me and my husband to do; we want to pick him up and hold him and tell him it's going to be ok. The one bonus is that halfway through his night terror episode, he gets the urge to hug me super duper tightly in a huge long hug, which I just love. But of course then he goes back to screaming.

Has anyone else experienced night terrors with their kids? If so, I'm just curious what, if anything, you did and how long they lasted (a week? a month?).


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Oh this sounds awful. We haven't had this (yet) but I remember citymama wrote about it on her blog a while back. I'd search her blog and/or write to her.

We went through this with our oldest son. It lasted for a few months but wasn't nightly. He would actually get up, walk around, throw himself on our bedroom floor, his bedroom floor and eventually fall sound asleep in a weird place. It was heart breaking and terrible! Like you, there was no consoling him and nothing we could do to help.

With our youngest son, it seemed like we had a small taste of potential night terrors for a couple of nights and then it was over. I think it varies by child. Surprisingly to me, my oldest son had a much worse case and is a very independent person. My youngest son is clingy and needs lots of love and affection and had a very small case.

A therapist did tell me once that when someone is upset and having a terrible dream, often their sub-conscious is working through something gnarly. Waking them makes you feel better and resolves the immediate distress for them but doesn't give the person the opportunity to work through the sub-conscious issue. I don't have any idea of this is true of night terrors as well or if "bad dreams" are different.

One other note is that my cousin had night terrors and my aunt had either been told or discovered on her own that they can be caused by a potassium deficiency. She made sure my cousin had a banana a day (banana chips when we were camping) and it seemed to keep the night terrors from coming back.

I feel for you and hope your son is among those children that passes through this quickly!

Andrew had exactly one of these, and it was while we were travelling. I just chalked it up to him being on an odd sleep schedule. Of course I had 3 or 4 sleep books with me at the time so I figured out what it was pretty quickly afterwards. It's the helpless feeling of not being able to do anything that is the worst. He really wasn't conscious of any of the goings on at all, and the more I tried to comfort him, the harder he'd fight and scream. It was hard on the whole household (we were at my parents' place). The next day he was fine. I hope your little guy gets through this phase quickly.. and *hugs* to mama and papa - stay strong!

My son went through a period of these just before he turned 2. He's always been a light and sensitive sleeper, though the night terrors were distinctly different. In his case, I think they were connected to breathing issues and apneas. My gut sense was that he'd been in deep sleep, have a moment when he couldn'd breathe as easily and panic. I haven't read anything to substantiate this, other than a few posts on the topic on the Berkeley Parents Network, but it intuitively made the most sense in his case. We took him to an ENT specialist who said he could be a candidate for an adenoidectomy, but we decided to first work with possible allergies. Since we've elimiated dairy from our son's diet, his sleep has improved significantly - and no more night terrors.

It is heartbreaking. Our baby sobbed more than screamed, and I'd just hold and cuddle him as best I could. He would rarely wake up. The terrors happened 1-5 times a week for about two months. Since he's been dairy free, he's had a couple that seem to have been triggered by being overtired and staying up too late.

I hope this ends for you all soon!

ooh, that is the worst! it happened only a time or two with my oldest, but my younger son really experienced it for a full 6 months or so, several times a week. it is EXCRUCIATING... not being able to hold or snuggle them through it or wake them up fully. i of course then spent sleepness nights worrying over what was worrying him. what could you be terrified of at two, with a rather peaceful, kind life behind you?! it was driving me mad before i found it was a pretty typical, developmental thing and also could be changed or made worse by diet. i too heard about potassium and the like and force fed him bananas daily. the truth is, i think he just grew out of it and it is a thing of the past for us now. i feel for you, mama, and wish you well through this little time. it's hard... and just the beginning of not being able to protect them from everything!!! warm hugs to you!

Thanks for the comments (and the hugs!) everyone. After hearing they tend to be spurred by being overtired (he had problems napping the past two days), I made sure that we were out and about from very early on yesterday until dinner time and sure enough, he took an almost two hour nap and slept through the night with no night terrors! HOORAY!!! We'll see how he does tonight, but we're just happy we had a great night last night. He even woke up super smiley this morning and was all hugs and kisses to mama and papa.

I also read that they tend to happen during times of transition, when the kids feel more unsettled. I had just returned from being gone for three nights and four days in NYC and it was the longest I had been away from him since he was a wee babe, which I am pretty sure explains the trouble getting into his napping routine with me again, but could also have provoked the night terrors. I hadn't heard about the potassium deficiency until now - thanks Amy and Cindy! We'll be eating some bananas today, just in case :)

I appreciate everyone's comments, and it's nice to know that they do end at some point!

My daughter actually got them really young. She had her first night terror at 3 months. Ever since then she has had odd things with her sleep. The terrors are quite alarming. Our intial reaction was to try and soothe her, but that just makes them worse. What we learned is to just let her be because any interference in what the child is doing adds confusion and may intensify/prolong the terrors. We also learned that they correlated with transitions and milestones. Keeping this in mind we could be pay attention to our daughters day and guesstimate if it would be time for another terror.

My grandson has nightterror and it hurt my heart seeing him so afraid. I am going to try the banana daily. His mother said he had three last night. I,m gald I hide this site, so I can read about other family who made it though. My grandson is five years old. Big hug to you all.

I can't be bothered with anything recently. I haven't been up to anything. I don't care. I haven't gotten much done lately. Not that it matters.

Didn't you think about the possibility of adenoids ?

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