night terrors

by humanmama on June 7, 2011

As far as I can tell, this is practice for something. Because it’s so scary and there’s nothing you can do. I’m going to say it’s a life lesson. Okay? Okay.

For about 3 months, my oldest has been having night terrors. Actually she’s had “bad dreams” every week or more for a year, but the night terrors began happening only a few months ago. But now we’ve really stepped it up, with a terrible fit of screaming and lashing out, ending only when she finally urinates on the person holding her. We used to tune out her cries at night, since she’s older, because they often are just a little cry and then back to sleep. A REM-cycle thing or something. But you should see us now running–flat out running–when we hear her start to cry at night. I wish I had taped Carpenter running last night, it would actually have been funny, if I wasn’t so worried about my daughter.

I looked it up. (Okay, I Googled it.) And I asked the Doctor. And they both said it’s normal, happens often in children ages 4-12, and is just a reaction to the transitioning from one sleep stage to another. Basically, when the brain is going from super-deep non-REM sleep to lighter REM sleep (the stage where dreams do occur) there is often a smooth transition. But in 3-6% of kids (lucky us! I should go out and buy lottery tickets!), there is some sort of agitation in-between those stages–my Doctor described it as a rush of adrenaline–and the child begins to yell or call out.

When she first began them it was so scary–just thrashing and yelling. She was calling for us, “Mom! Dada!” and we were right with her, trying to calm her. Eyes wide open, she didn’t know us and seemed totally unreachable. It makes a parent shudder to think that there are moms and dads out there holding kids coming down off drugs, or mentally ill, or with brain tumors or diseases, for which this would be a reality all the time. They tell you not to wake up a person in night terrors, since they’re not really dreaming and would only be disoriented if they awoke, but she usually wakes up after she’s already going potty. We run her to the bathroom and hold her on the toilet now, and she thrashes and fights us and then relaxes, goes, wakes up a little and we get her back into bed. And it’s 3 people that have had a surge of adrenaline, not just one.

If she’s overly tired it seems to happen more often. So I get her into bed at reasonable times, hoping she’ll just go to sleep and stop trying out her new birthday Zhu Zhu pets. But again, this is something you can’t control. It’s just being a parent, doing your best, and guessing at a solution, …so basically, just one more day in the life.

And what a life it is.

I’m so glad they come out as babies. Because I’m definitely not prepared for the Big Kid Stuff. Sleepovers, driving, dating, heartbreaks, alcohol, drugs, sex… So much to try to teach her about and prepare her for. So many things to hope she avoids altogether, and so many things she’ll have to just get through. So for now, I guess, I’ll take night terrors.

One thing at a time, right?

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Katie June 7, 2011 at 11:19 pm

We went through a night terror phase with Dylan a year or so ago and now we’re going through a sleep-peeing phase with Ella. The joys of parenting, right? :)


aj June 9, 2011 at 9:18 am

always exciting. Thanks for the plug on your blog!


Kristen June 10, 2011 at 8:12 am

My 19 month old has night terrors and has for about 1-2 months. Two nights ago she steped it up by screaming on top of her lungs while crawling to the edge or our bed and fell off. I completely woke up when I heard the THUD, she wasnt crying after that and my heart sank, I thought she snapped her neck. I hurried to get her and she was fast asleep on the floor, it didnt even phase her.


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