Monday, May 23, 2011

Maddy and Night Terrors

Madelynn has been struggling with night terrors for about a year and a half to two years now. At first, we didn't know what was going on, or what she was experiencing. From time to time, she would wake up crying, and she wouldn't be consoled by us, or comforted, or calmed down until it seemed that the episode was over. I would usually sit in her room on her bed and wait until it was over, but she didn't want to be held, and she didn't really respond when I tried to talk to her. Over time, I would try different things like asking her to open her eyes (usually they are open already, though), bringing her out into the living room and waking her up a little (which does help occasionally, seems to snap her out of it), putting some water on her face to try to wake her up, trying to distract her by getting her some water to drink or talking to her about something that she is interested in. At times, most of these things worked at some point. But there seems to be no formula for getting these episodes to stop.
I eventually read up a little on these episodes and realized that they were probably what they call night terrors. They are different from nightmares in that the child doesn't remember them the next morning, it's not necessarily associated with a dream, and you can't console the child. For a really informative article, click here. Now, most of the articles say that night terrors are associated with fear. Maddy usually doesn't seem scared, she just cries a lot and seems sad about something but won't stop with anything I do or try.
It seemed that the night terrors stopped for awhile, but lately they have come back pretty frequently. Over the time that she has had them, we have noticed that her being over-exhausted plus going to bed too late will usually equal a night terror. And at times they are violent. Sometimes she will kick and hit and sometimes I have left her in her room with one (usually when she is just crying) and I have had her snap out of it herself and then walk into my room after a few minutes. Like I said, with hers, there has never been a hard and fast formula to getting rid of them.
One of the worst ones was when we went to Disney in September. The day we went to Magic Kingdom, she had a short nap in the stroller, but other than that, had a long, exhausting day, and got to bed at around 10 pm. She had about 4 night terrors that night, or more. She was kicking and screaming and our hotel neighbors were hitting the wall. We knew it was because she was exhausted. But it's hard to know what to do.
So this blog post isn't necessarily a way to cure night terrors, or even get your child to stop it once it starts, but rather some camaraderie with parents who have experienced the same thing, some websites to check out to read more on the subject, and a question asking who has experienced these with their children, and if they have found anything that has helped. Hopefully you haven't had these with your kids, but if you have, the articles say that it is much more common in children (though still rare) than in adults, and they will most likely outgrow it by adolescence. Also, Maddy's night terrors almost always occur about 90 minutes to 2 hours after she goes to bed, and never occur after 2 or 230am. For the most part. There are some interesting facts that go along with these episodes and some might even say to wake them 15 minutes prior to the terror to prevent it from happening. But read up on that and make your own judgement!! Read more on night terrors here and here.
For us, we just know that we have to have Maddy in bed between 830 and 9 at the very latest. I tell her that's her "pumpkin time" and she has been telling people that she has bad dreams at 9:00. People don't have a clue what she is talking about! I'm also going to try to keep a sleep diary and to have a more relaxing bedtime routine (as suggested by one of the websites.) Any more advice is welcome, as always!!


  1. I have friends who deal with this. They did the wakeup after a certain amount of sleep time for awhile. But then they read the best thing you can do is nothing. Don't go in there or anything. And that seems to have worked best in that their daughter is able to console herself and go back to sleep in like 10-15 minutes instead of the 45 it would take them to settle her. And she has no recollection of it or being left in her room or anything.

  2. That's interesting. I always feel like as a mom, I should be in there for her, and not leave her alone. But at times I get so desperate and finally leave and it seems like she does better when I'm not in the room. Because at times, she will partially wake up and then add some of her own drama into it, and then it gets frustrating.

  3. Oh wow, that must be really hard to deal with as a mom knowing that you can't console her. I've never experienced anything like this, but I really hope you guys figure out something that helps her!

  4. My daughter had night terrors when she was 3 and 4 and it was a scary experience as a parent to deal with. One night terror website that I found helpful was I hope this is helpful and I hope that your daughter overcomes this.