Night terrors: Hi everyone, Need some advice regarding... - NCT


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Night terrors

Eva79 profile image

Hi everyone,

Need some advice regarding my 5 and a half year old daughter.

Since September she wakes up at night between 10 and 11 PM, drenched in cold sweat, shivering, teeth chattering and scared witless. She lashes out with her arms when I try to hold her close and can't tell me what had scared her so. To be fair she seems awake but not. Like when the lights are on but nobody's home.

It is not every night, sometimes she sleeps through ok. Seems to happen more if she had an upsetting day - had a hard day at school, been grounded for misbehaving or feeling under the weather.

There has been a few occasions when she was sick and brought up her entire dinner and some more.

Looking at websites all i could find was that they grow out of it, but tbh I don't want to wait and see her like this most nights. Good thing is she doesn't remember these episodes unless sickness was involved, and even then she only recalls being sick but nothing more.

Any advice on how to avoid these episodes? Other than keeping her awake?

Thank you for any tips or advice regarding this nightmare situation x

4 Replies

Hiya. I don't have experience as a parent with them, but I still have night terrors myself in my 30s so I have a lot of experience of what they are like / why it is happening / what I do to manage. I went and participated in a sleep study in Guys hospital for research purposes, as it is rarer in adulthood, so have spoken with a fair few consultants on this topic.

Night terrors are when you become aware of your physical surroundings, whilst still being asleep. It seems like whatever you are dreaming about is actually in the room with you, and seems very, very real! For example, I sometimes wake up and see giant spiders on the ceiling, or think there is an intruder in the room, things like that etc. The thing about it is that you are still asleep and dreaming (in REM state) and thus can be paralyzed whilst seeing things until you manage to wake up. I see it as in between a dream and a day dream. That's why your daughter appears bolt upright and eyes open but is not actually awake. It might also be that by the time she does awake, she can't remember what she saw (which doesn't particularly matter anyway, it could be anything). This is all very normal, for people with night terrors.

As for what to do, I've tried a variety of things over the years. Sleeping with a light on clearly helps. As is educating yourself (or your child) on what is happening, i.e. 'it's just a dream, it isn't real, no need to worry about it' etc. My partner has tried waking me up when I'm screaming in my sleep, with very mixed results. Shaking awake is probably even more scary and therefore not helpful. The best thing we have found is for him to just calmly say if I'm in paralyzed state 'it's just a dream, go back to sleep' - time and time again, I will just do so. I would definitely avoid any medicated route, as it definitely did me more harm than good (no idea if that is even an option for children anyway).

Hope this helps you a bit. It certainly seems like a scary thing for all involved, but I can guarantee it isn't harmful. Xx

Eva79 profile image
Eva79 in reply to Sfarre

Thank You so much for taking the time to write and to explain what she might be going through. Having dreams and reality mix must be terrifying, especially with the surreal imagination of a 5 yr old at work.

I'll try and tell her to sleep rather than cuddle her or try to wake her.

Thank you x

Sfarre profile image
Sfarre in reply to Eva79

Good, I'm glad that is useful. One other thing I forgot to mention is for me there is a direct correlation between over tiredness / stress and night terrors. If I'm up late the previous night, or had a particularly long day, it's much more likely to happen. Being pregnant now isn't exactly helping!

At the end of the day, childhood night terrors tend to resolve of their own accord. So shouldn't go on too long. Xx

Eva79 profile image
Eva79 in reply to Sfarre

That's what I noticed as well, the more stressed or upset she is the more likely we'll have one 😢.

Good luck with your pregnancy and enjoy your baby and all that comes with motherhood xx

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