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October 13, 2006



Sometimes my littlest freaks out screaming at night and doesn't seem to know who I am, but I never called it night terrors.

My younger sis had those growing up and hers were, like, real hallucinations. You'd swear she was awake (eyes open, lucid conversation), only she'd say things like "Oh my God! Steve Anthony is in your closet! Don't you see him? He's right there!" or she's running down the hall screaming "Aaaaaaahhhhhh! The airplane is landing on us!!! Aaaaaaaahhhhh!" So I always felt night terrors involved a sort of waking dream state - a real hallucination.

My babe (who's actually 3.5) regularly wakes afraid to find me absent, and sometimes in that state Ali describes of fighting me but wanting me to hold her at the same time :P Maybe there are different shades of night terrors, ranging from this strange waking/not waking state all the way to full-on asleep-but-awake hallucinations like my sis and Laura's DD Hannah.


We've been dealing with night terrors since my daughter was 18 months old. (She is now 8) Unlike most kids, hers actually intensified as she got older, until they were happening every night at age 6. Between 10 and 11pm she would 'wake up' and scream, yell, shout, sweat, cry, get out of bed, scream at the mirror, take off her pajamas, thrash around in bed etc. All with her eyes open. Really freaky. But she was not awake, she was in a very deep sleep.

Night Terrors are simply the brain swithcing on the autonomic response system (the fight or flight response) during deep sleep. If you wake your child, you will actually become part of the terror, and intensify it. We learned very quickly to leave Hannah alone. She would have her terror, and then fall back into a deep sleep instantly. In the morning, she had no recollection of the incident.

I brought it to my pediatricians attention last year, as we're getting into sleepover territory. He told me that they rarely happen at sleepovers - the kids just don't get into a deep sleep. He also told me that if I want to prevent a terror, I can rouse her at 9pm, just enough for her to say "mom...go away" and that will disturb her sleep pattern and the terror won't happen.
I haven't had the need to do that though. I just let her be as she is. Since her terrors have continued through toddler and preschool age, she is at a much higher risk for sleepwalking and other sleep disturbances. We will be keeping a close eye on her.

A few years ago Today's Parent had a FABULOUS article on night terrors. I sure love that magazine! I hope this helped a bit, although I see many moms have already responded.


we are familiar with the night terror in our household...

emily had them for about two years. she'd be not-quite-awake, not-quite-asleep. i couldn't communicate with her. i'd ask her if she wanted me to leave. "No!" i'd ask her if she wanted me to stay. "No!" it was incredibly frustrating. and scary.

but once you are able to label it a night terror, it's easier to stop feel so scared and annoyed, and just try to ride it out until the child falls back asleep (and of course, they have ZERO memory of it ever happening...don't you wish that would be the case with you as well???!)

hang in there! hugs.

Mad Hatter

Oh the hats, the hats. They are enough to make a hatter mad with envy.

Yep, Miss M had night terrors--if that's what they were--at 7 and 9 months. They eventually passed on their own in a few weeks.

Good luck.


Night terrors typically occur in the early portion of the night (most often during the first two hours of sleep). Bub has often had periods of waking up screaming in the night, but it's almost always closer to morning, which is more suggestive of a nightmare.

One night he did have what seemed to be a real night terror, a very unusual awakening at 10 pm. He was awake by the time we got to him - scared and crying, but able to see and recognize us, so I can't tell for sure if it was truly a night terror.

In any case, one piece of advice I came across was to avoid overheating, and especially to avoid dressing the child in footed sleepers, so ever since then we've put him down with his feet uncovered. The other bit of advice we didn't get to use (since this was, thankfully, a one-time incident) was to dip the child's uncovered feet in water - it sounds barbaric, but not more so than letting the child continue screaming.

Good luck.

Sunshine Scribe

My guy had night terrors regularly for about 3 months. It was so hard. We tried everything. I understand it is different for every child. For him here were some of the tricks that would give him pause long enough to wake up and calm down:
- sitting on the dryer
- we had a lamp that rotated and cast shadows around the room - I may still have it and can lend it to you
- walking him to an open window or door for some fresh air to hit his face
- there was a homeopathic and a Rescue Remedy that my naturopath prescribed that was magical

Usually we just held him. It was awful. Really, really awful. But it passed. And once we got in a groove through our above strategies we felt less helpless.

Sending big hugs your way. Hang in there.


hi she is so sweet!your little one.you know my baby wakes up like that too sometimes,just screaming & crying& so hard too wake up.it's more distressing too us mums than baby i think.i just try to soothe her as best as i can & hope she doesn't wake up anyone else.even my husband (who could sleep through anything)sometimes wakes up.i sure hope she stops having night terrors soon if thats whats happening.hope wonderbaby stops having them soon too.


Do you have a fisherprice aquarium? Ours has been a LIFE SAVER! Whenever the monkey wakes up at night, she turns it on and falls back a sleep. I hear it go on several times during the night. But, I don't have to soothe her at all. She soothes herself with the aquarium. I also hear that night terrors go hand in hand with growth spurts and developmental advancements. Hang in there, friend. ((hugs)) :)

Her Bad Mother

Jen and Joanne - that's exactly how it seems to be with WB... she wakes up distraught and we can't soothe her. It takes forever. She clings to me and cries and cries until - years later, it seems - she starts to settle to sleep again.

It's the inability to soothe her that is so distressing and so frustrating.

I'll check out those links... thanks...


Ah, Night Terrors.

You, the wicked creature who inspires those ear piercing screams that find me half way to my little boy's room before I am even aware.
You, with whom I am intimately familiar and whom I fight with on far too many nights to count.
The fear of you keeps me up at night while my babies sleep soundly.
You get into little one's heads and trap them in a place of terror between sleeping and waking.
There is nothing that can comfort their cries or lessen their fear when you take over.
As you sit back smirking arrogantly at this horrifying scene you have created I lie next to his trembling body, tears soak my shoulder.
Eventually he calms. Eventually he sleeps peacefully again. You've had your fun. You are gone...for now.
Until the next time.


The first few times my son had night terrors - I was sure there was something wrong with him - medically. I was terrified. The screaming was out of this world. I remember thinking there is no possible way this child is not experiencing some kind of pain. The first time it happened I rushed him to the hospital (of course he settled back to sleep in the car) and they found nothing wrong with him. (I was only 19, a very young mother and I know they thought I was crazy.) Eventually, my family doctor referred us to a pediatrician who diagnosed the problem as night terrors.

I can tell you one thing that distinguishes night terrors from any other sleep problem (teething, gas, looking for comfort). When you take a child out of their crib or bed while experiencing a night terror, you will NOT be able to console them. They will continue to scream hysterically, push away from you and no comfort you offer will settle them. Eventually, it will just stop. I will never forget how helpless and horrible the entire experience made me feel. Talk about feeling like a "bad mother":) I've included a link with some information on night terrors. Good luck! And just remember - if it is night terrors - they will grow out of them. I can't remember when Cameron stopped having them, exactly, but I'm pretty sure by the time he could talk and express himself night terrors were a thing of the past. Sleep walking became a bit of an issue but that's another story. Seriously - good luck with the sleep thing. I guess one more thing I can be grateful for is the fact that I get all the sleep I need now that my babes are growing up!


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