Monday, February 13, 2012

E's Night Terrors

In November, we had our very first experience with night terrors.  E had a bit of a fever from a bug that was going around day care and thankfully it only lasted two days. However, it seemed to be directly linked to two nights in a row of night terrors.

Night #1. 5:00am - I was woken up by high pitch screaming in E's room. I went in to find E standing straight up in his crib, screaming like I have never heard him scream before. When I asked him what was wrong he did not answer. This was very unlike E. He has always been so great with his words and explaining to us what is bothering him.  I called for Hubby because I was very scared at this moment. E continued to scream and would not answer us.  I tried to take him out of his crib and comfort him but he pushed me away and pulled away from me like I was hurting him. We tried to wake him up/snap him out of it because it seemed like he was just having a nightmare and possibly a temper tantrum. He banged around in his crib, rubbing his head against the crib bars. IT. WAS. TERRIFYING. Hubby pulled him out next and held him close, not letting him lash out.  Suddenly, he seemed to start to snap out of it.  He yelled out, "milk!", so I went downstairs and grabbed a glass of almond milk for him. When I quickly returned he was sitting calmly in his father's lap, smiling and cuddling him like nothing happened.  He drank his milk, we placed him back in his crib, kissed him goodnight and that was it. The whole episode lasted a LONG ten minutes.

Hubby and I went back to our room asking ourselves WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT!? DO WE NEED TO CALL AN EXORCIST? WHERE DID THAT DEMON-LIKE CHILD COME FROM?! It was terrifying to say the least.

The first thing I did when I got to my desk at work that morning was Google "night temper tantrums". I didn't really know what a night terror was and had always thought they were linked to a nightmare or scary thought. E's episode from the night before seemed more like a temper tantrum to me.  Every single thing linked me back to the definition of a night terror and it couldn't have defined our experience any better.
  • Uncontrollable screaming and no talking.
  • Seems frightened but can't be awakened or consoled.
  • Doesn't acknowledge you.
  • Usually lasts 10-30 minutes.
  • Cannot remember them in the morning.
  • Do not wake the child.
  • Protect them from harming themselves.
  • An episode will end on it's own.
We felt relieved to find an answer and were a little bit more prepared knowing what he were up against in the future.

Night #2 - 2:30am - Again I am woken up by screaming and again I walk in to see E standing in his crib.  Hubby tries to hold him. He pulls away from me every time as I try to rock him in the rocking chair to encourage him to fall back asleep. If we put him in his crib he harms himself by hitting his head on his crib.  He fights to be freed from Hubby's arms.  Eventually after ten minutes have passed and he is still screaming we brought him into bed with us and let him kick and scream between us, hoping he will snap out of it soon. Twenty minutes later we had a happy boy again. When we asked him why he was crying it seemed like he had no idea what we were talking about.

Fast forward to last night.  E had a fever at day care on Thursday so we had to pick him up early.  He was not himself all day Friday and Saturday but started coming around yesterday afternoon.  We knew he was overtired because of his constant wakings at night due to his fever, but he would not nap. Finally around 3:30 pm he climbed on my lap on the couch and fell asleep.

Late afternoon nap on the couch for a feverish boy
He woke up only after an hour and was not a happy camper. This time we experienced something similar to a night terror, but in the afternoon. It was a full-out temper tantrum. Poor feverish, overtired little guy.  You just can't get mad at that. He went to bed fine later that evening, but again we had another terror at 3:00am this morning.  It only last a few minutes and soon enough he was nuzzled in bed with me and fast asleep. 

For E it seems these terrors only come when he has a fever and is overly tired.  They can be very stressful for us because you feel hopeless and want to comfort them and stop the crying.  I really hope we don't have many more of these, I don't think my heart can take it!

Have you ever experienced night terrors with your children?


  1. Poor little E (and you guys!) This happened with my little brother a lot while he was growing up. It was definitely unpleasant. We found that putting him to bed with a full stomach helped. He was later diagnosed with Crone's, so we think that may have had something to do with it - having tummy aches and being hungry while sleeping?

  2. My brother had night terrors. I always remember my poor Mom crying because she couldn't help to calm him down. It's just one of those things that they grow out brother is a happy, healthy adult now :) Hang in there; I'm sure it's tough on you.

  3. We have that with Joshua too. It comes in episodes. But I haven't found a link yet to being sick, overtired or else.
    He sees things and is terrified. Screams and points to the wall, ceiling, window, ect. There is nothing we can do but wait for the few minutes it takes to stop. Its horrible. It hasn't happened lately. Lets hang in there:)

  4. Unfortunately yes :( I was a sleep walker as a child and it was worse when I was sick or had allergies. Apparently these types of sleep issues are hereditary because ds5 has had night terrors since he was a toddler. They were worst from 2 until 4 and seemed to come in clusters. We find them worse during the spring and all when his allergies are bad. Treating his allergies helps with the night terrors and it's now been several months since he's had one. They're so scary - I hope E's get better as he gets older too

  5. We had this problem a lot with our oldest. It turned out to be tied to his food allergies - when he had something he was allergic to he was guaranteed to have one. I think a lot of kids have them just because they are overtired or having their sleep interrupted due to illness.

    In any case, it took us years to learn that the best thing really is just to stand by and try not to intervene - touching them or attempting to cuddle them makes it harder. One thing that really does seem to help is keeping up a constant, soft stream of chatter - just saying over and over that Mommy is here, you are safe, you are home, Mommy is fighting the bad guys (actually very helpful), hide behind Mommy, everything is okay.

    Good luck, hope this is just a passing thing.

  6. My daughter also suffered from night terrors when she was growing up. They were actually quite frequent so I looked for ways to help hr after we talked to her doctor about it who couldn't really do anything. One website I found helpful is It offers advice for sleeping with sleeping disorders. The information was really helpful for my daughter so many it will help for other children with night terrors out there.

  7. Our 2yr old had one of these last night actually. It was extremely distressing for my husband and I as our daughter was screaming in terror. She was in bed, kicking and thrashing like something was attacking her. She then was sitting up and screaming but she couldn't see us or hear us. We kept her out of physical danger and kept repeated that we were there, she was safe, we loved her, it was going to be okay. It took about 30mins for her to come out of it. Felt like Forever to us! She has no recollection and is happy as can be this morning.