Tuesday, September 15, 2009

To Sleep! To Sleep! (Night Terrors)

Reading some fellow bloggers' posts, I realize HOW LUCKY I am that Charlie is a good sleeper. I put her down at 10 PM and she sleeps, most nights without waking, until 9 AM. (I don't really get why some parents put their kids to sleep at 7 PM and then have to wake up at 6 AM.... unless one has to get up for work at 6 AM it doesn't make much sense....)

On a few occasions per month she suffers from night terrors - exactly an hour after putting her down (this is one way I know it's night terrors and not something else bothering her). The pediatrician has told me NOT to wake her during these episodes, but just stand there and be there in case she needs me. It's torturous to hear her SCREAMING in terror and then pathetically whimpering in between screams, and NOT try and wake her. (I forgot to ask the Dr. why I shouldn't wake her... anyone know?) The dream lasts about 5 minutes and she stays asleep and continues her night peacefully.
From Pediatrics.com:
Night terrors are a common sleep problem among children. By some estimates, about 15% of younger children have occasional night terrors. Although most common in children between the ages of 2 and 6 years, they can occur at almost any age.

Although usually considered to be normal or benign, they are often very scary and distressing to parents who often overreact, especially during a child's first night terror.

Symptoms: When you hear how most experts describe night terrors, it is easy to see why parents find them distressing. Children who have night terrors are usually described as 'bolting upright' with their eyes wide open, with a look of fear and panic, and letting out a 'blood curdling scream'. These kids will usually also be sweating, breathing fast and have a rapid heart rate (autonomic signs). And although it will seem like they are awake, during a night terror, children will appear confused, will not be consolable and won't recognize you.

Typical night terrors last about 5 to 30 minutes and afterwards, children usually return to a regular sleep. If you are able to wake your child up during a night terror, he is likely to become scared and agitated, mostly because of your own reaction to the night terror, especially if you were shaking or yelling at him to wake up. Instead of trying to wake up a child having a night terror, it is usually better to just make sure he is safe, comfort him if you can, and help him return to sleep once it is over.

Diagnosis: The diagnosis of night terrors is usually made by the history of a child 'waking' early in the night screaming and being inconsolable. Night terrors are most often confused with nightmares, but unlike night terrors, a child having a nightmare is usually easily woken up and comforted.

The other worry for many parents is that these episodes are a type of seizure. Although different types of partial seizures, including temporal lobe and frontal lobe epilepsy, can appear similar to night terrors, they are usually brief (30 seconds to a few minutes) and are more common in older children and adults.

Treatments: No treatment is usually necessary for routine night terrors. Since they are often triggered in children who are overtired, sticking to a good bedtime routine and making sure your child is getting enough rest can help to prevent them.

For children who get frequent night terrors, it might help to wake your child up before the time that he usually has a night terror. This is thought to interrupt or alter the sleep cycle and prevent night terrors from occuring (it also works for sleepwalking).

Rarely, sleep medications might be used for a short time if your child gets very frequent night terrors.

What You Need To Know:

*Night terrors are also called sleep terrors or pavor nocturnus.
*Similar to sleepwalking and sleeptalking, night terrors are considered to be a disorder of arousal and are a partial arousal from non-REM sleep.
*Unlike a nightmare, children usually don't recall having a night terror.
*Also unlike nightmares, night terrors usually occur in the early part of the night, about 1 to 4 hours after going to sleep.
*If your child gets night terrors, make sure that baby sitters and other caregivers are aware of them and know what they should do if one occurs.
*Most children outgrow night terrors as they get older.

But in general, I am super lucky with Charlie's sleep patterns. Another adoptive mom I know is up from 11 PM to 5 AM every night. She works from home, so I guess that part is lucky for her, but still it seems like my life would end if Charlie's sleep patterns were that extreme.

Last night I had such a nice sleep I dreamt Angelina Jolie was camping in the park across the street and was teaching me how to drive a scooter (while Brad was away do-gooding somewhere). I love dreaming about Angelina because we always have such a blast together. She's a fun dream partner. (I did mention already that I'm lacking in a life, yea?)

Sleep is so important to me, I just cannot function without it and my day can be completely ruined after a bad night. Unfortunately, I suffer from sleep apnea, so that happens frequently. I'm just very thankful that Charlie is so good at night. Especially since there is no husband to share the wake up duties with and a full time job to get to every day.

Does (did) your child have night terrors and if so, did you wake them? Why or why not? What time do you put them down and when do they wake up?


Long Journey Big Dreams said...

My understanding is that if you wake a child from a night terror they can be traumatized from the experience - if you let them sleep through it then they do not recall any of it the next day. They are terrifying for parents however the child doees not have any memory of it once they wake in a natural manner.

Cathy said...

We don't wake Kiya when she does that. I sometimes go in and rub her belly but that is it. They usually pass. I think the theory of not waking them is similar to not waking a sleepwalker as it can be very traumatizing.

We have Kiya in bed usually between 7 and 7:30pm and she is up at about 7am give or take 15 minutes or so. We both work so this schedule works for us. She if totally healthy will sleep straight through once down. We feel very fortunate that we have a good sleeper as well. No night feedings, etc.

She is a morning baby but so is her mama so it works for us :)

Lonnie said...

I'm amazed that little D sleeps so well too. We plop him down in his crib around 8:30 and he wakes up at 6:30 or 7. Occasionally he'll wake up in the night, but he usually just talks to himself for a few minutes and falls back asleep. He talks and talks in the mornings too. It's wonderful to wake up to it over the monitor:)

Shelby said...

After I adopted my son he went through months of nightly night terrors. Absolutely horrifying. I did attempt to wake him a few times, but he was still inconsolable. Not even sure he was truly awake. I did have some luck with waking him up about five minutes before I thought the terror was going to start. Seemed to break the cycle sometimes. Hang in there, it does get better.