A Mummys View

Telling it like it is

Night Terrors

For the last couple of weeks my little girl has been shouting out in her sleep several times a night, but after a few seconds has settled herself back down each time. However the other night we had a major episode and I have to say it did upset and shock me a little bit.

I was on my way up to bed at approximately 10.15pm, my daughter had probably been asleep for about 2- 2 and half hours (despite being put to bed earlier), and as I got up to head up the stairs from the living room I could hear my daughter calling out, but this time she seemed upset and scared. I went into her room to find her writhing around in bed and sat up with her eyes open. I went to comfort her and she lashed out at me, shouting “no” and trying to hit and kick me. She wouldn’t let me near her and my husband heard and soon came upstairs to see what was going on. He attempted to pick her up and calm her but she was kicking and pushing away from him. He then tried sitting down with her and she fought her way out of his arms and ran back into her bed, where she continued to writhe around and hit and kick the air. All the time she was shouting and screaming and her eyes were wide open.

Eventually hubby got hold of her comforter and showed it to her, which somehow managed to calm her down and she appeared to go straight back to sleep and that was the end of it for the rest of the night.

My daughter has just turned two and I had heard of “night terrors” but wasn’t sure if they could happen at such an early age. However after reading up it appears so! Apparently night terrors are common between three and five but can start as early as 9 months which I never knew!

According to Babycentre.com night terrors occur in at least 5 percent of young children and occur during deep, non-dreaming sleep.

The child will apparently cry, scream, shout, flail / thrash, and even bolt out of bed and though their eyes may be wide open, which my daughter’s were. However they’re not awake and aren’t aware of your presence. Which does sound exactly like what we encountered!

Apparently the night terror can last anywhere for a few minutes to half an hour! However once over the child simply returns to a sound sleep and has no memory of the incident in the morning and again, this seems to be what happened!

As I said my husband and I were attempting to reassure her but we just couldn’t. Having read up further it seems we didn’t stand a chance any way!  Babycentre states:

“Of course, your first instinct will be to comfort him, but your efforts will most likely be futile (remember, he’s not really awake and he’s not aware of your presence). You just have to wait it out and make sure he doesn’t hurt himself. Don’t speak to him or try to soothe him, and don’t try to shake or startle him awake or physically restrain him — all of which could lead to more frantic behavior. In 15 to 20 minutes, your child should calm down, curl up, and fall into a deep sleep again.”

Gosh I am glad this one didn’t last too long I would have felt awful having to watch her so distressed!

So having experienced this it left me wondering why it had happened. Had something happened that had scared her? I started to worry that I had missed something. According to the NHS a night terror attack may be triggered by:

  • anything that increases your child’s amount of deep sleep, such as tiredness, fever or certain drugs
  • anything that makes your child more likely to wake from deep sleep, such as excitement, anxiety or sudden noise

Babycentre on their site recommend ensuring your child gets as much sleep as possible, such as daytime naps or an earlier bedtime, as well as having a calming ritual before bed. We do and always have had a bedtime routine, however as many of you may have heard me say on Twitter, my little girl has taken to singing and chatting to herself for a good hour or so most nights before she finally drops out and she still wakes just as early every morning so easier said than done and it’s likely that her sleep is starting to be disturbed as she is more tired than she realises, but it will certainly make me work harder at getting her calm and to sleep at night! 🙂

I am hoping that this was a one off episode but we will have to wait and see. The NHS do state that:

“If the night terror attacks are frequent and occur at a specific time every night, you may find that waking your child breaks the cycle. Wake your child 15 minutes before the anticipated time of the attack every night for seven days. This can disrupt their sleep pattern enough to stop the attacks without affecting sleep quality.”

Here’s hoping that it won’t come to this!

The whole episode certainly shocked me. Have you experienced night terrors? what was your experience like? how did you deal with and how long did it go on for? I’d love to hear any advice.


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