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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Night Terrors

Since around January, G has been having night terrors on a regular basis. She has them sometimes up to three times a week, usually around the same time at night (between 10-11pm).

A lot of people think nightmares and night terrors are the same thing. I remember when H was about 3 or 4 years old, she had a few really bad nightmares and I thought they were night terrors. But when G started having night terrors, I quickly learned that they are VERY different.

During an episode, G wakes up suddenly and starts crying and screaming VERY loudly. Her eyes are always wide open and wild with fear and she frequently points into the distance and screams about something. We whisk her out of bed because she shares a room with H and M, and we've learned to quickly put her on the toilet (ask Ted how he knows). The night terror usually lasts between 4-7 minutes, and can be very unnerving and terrifying to us, though she never remembers them. She has said on several occasions, "how did I get downstairs?" or "hey, I didn't fall asleep in your room!"

We've learned there is nothing really to do during a night terror but to keep her safe (and put her on the toilet so she doesn't have an accident) and wait it out. We have tried talking to her, reasoning with her, praying with her, singing to her, waking her up by several methods--you name it--but she is FAST asleep. Though her eyes are wide open and it seems like she is talking to us, though she can walk and go to the bathroom and wash her hands, we've learned she is NOT awake. When the episode ends, she just stops crying. We ask her if she is ready to go back to bed and she sleepily nods. Often we've asked her if she remembers being scared and she says no. She has never remembered one of her night terrors, so even though they are unnerving to us, I am thankful she doesn't seem to be affected by them.

When we were visiting my parents last week, G woke up one night screaming. Ted calmly walked over and dealt with the situation as usual, taking her to the bathroom and patiently waiting it out. My mom was surprised at how intense the episode was, and it made me realize I hadn't prepped her at all for the possibility that G might have one while we were gone, so I'm thankful she didn't.

The cause of night terrors is unknown. It doesn't seem to correlate with how much sleep she has gotten and we don't let the kids watch scary movies. However, G is a very imaginative child, so I wouldn't be surprised if her brain is just more active. Night terrors always occur during the beginning of the night, usually an hour or two after sleep, before REM stage. On the other hand, nightmares almost always occur later in the night or early in the morning because they occur during REM sleep.

If you've never experienced a night terror, be glad! If your child ever has a night terror, just try to keep him or her safe and try to patiently wait it out. I would also suggest guiding them to the bathroom, just in case! :-)


Andy and Katie said...

We know these well....Jayna had them for a good 2 years....and they would come and go in spurts. I find the whole thing interesting, how they can be SO loud, yelling conversations, almost....and not remember a thing.

Sparks said...

I've known two people who had nightmares -- I had to wake one myself so he didn't disturb others (we were on a retreat -- I seemed to be the only one who knew what to do...)
I've heard about these, but never experienced them -- it seems quite a blessing not to remember them, but it must wear on you and Ted (and the other girls, if/when they wake).

I'm sorry to hear about it...

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