A few years ago when my oldest son was probably about 2 or 3 years of age, we found ourselves waking up every night around the same time to him crying uncontrollably. We could not tell what caused it. All we could see was a very frightened, out of sorts, half awake little chap.
When we noticed that it was happening too often, I decided to research it and see what was going on. Not long after I started my search I found that all the symptoms linked to "Night Terrors", and this was confirmed by my child's Pediatrician. I didn't self diagnose as I wanted to be certain that he was not in any pain and I didn't want to ignore the fact that something more serious could be wrong.
Honestly I think it was more terrifying for us. Seeing our precious boy so afraid and being unable to console him, was really hard! He on the other hand usually didn’t remember a thing the next morning.
There are many causes that trigger Night Terrors. Things like a fever, being over tired, a lack of sleep, changes in routine and child stress, even excessive sugar. In our case we noticed that it always happened when our boy was out of his normal routine and didn’t get enough sleep that day.
Symptoms we noticed which also happen to be some of the more common ones include...
Child appears terrified and confused
Child does not recognize you are there, but their eyes are open.
Child is not fully awake or awake at all
Child pushes you away when you try to hold or comfort them
What we did to help him ?
Sounds cliche but seriously, stay calm and don't panic. It helped that we knew what it was, and we knew that he wasn't in any pain.
Avoid waking him
Ensured that he couldn't hurt himself in case he tried to get out of bed or walk around.
We tried our best to comfort him despite him pushing us away. It wasn't long when he settled and went back to sleep. As a side note, we often felt so heartbroken for him that we kept him in our bed most of that night sometimes. However when he went to bed his usual time we still put him in his room.
We shared this with our child's caregiver and instructed her on what to do if it happens in our absence.
I would say if you're experiencing similar or the Night Terrors persist, talk with your pediatrician or family doctor.
I found that after a few months possibly even a year, he settled and it didn’t occur again, thankfully. Some kids do ride it out much longer, although it is said that night terrors usually subside before teenage years.
If this is something you are experiencing, I just want to tell you that its something that will pass. It will get better!
Be aware of what’s happening to your child, monitor that it does not get out of hand, get help if needed and do what you can in the moment to help your little one.