I’m covering this one separately because it’s not really related to the whole attachment spectrum of sleep issues, but I see enough parents dealing with Night Terrors that I think we all need to be aware of what a night terror is, and how it is different from nightmares.
Night terrors are scary, and as counter-intuitive as it sounds, it’s best to not wake the child up. Children do not usually remember night terrors, apparently they don’t happen in the part of the brain that talks to the waking part of the brain. If you wake them up, they remember the feeling of being so scared, if you don’t wake them, they won’t remember anything the next day.
I’ve seen a lot of descriptions of night terrors, all of them involve screaming (often described as a blood curdling scream), rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, often their eyes are wide open with a look of panic or intense fear. But the experts tell us, and my own experiences with this tell me, that the child is not really awake. TwinkleToes has had about 6 of these, not enough that it’s a regular thing, and for that I am very grateful.
I’ve heard of them lasting a long time, 15 or 20 minutes. TT’s have only lasted a minute or two. I woke her up for the first one, but once I read up on it I haven’t awakened her for the others, I just pick her up and hold her and quietly console her, then put her back to bed when it’s over. She holds onto me, and her eyes are open, but she’s not really awake.
The statistics say that about 15% of children have night terrors. I don’t know if post-institutionalized children are also at 15% or not. We have a lot of people talking about it, but I have no idea what percentage we may be at.
There are a list of things thought to bring them on – being overtired, stress, unresolved conflict, seeing or hearing violence (real or TV), fever, even constipation gets blamed. For children who have night terrors almost every night, some parents report that if they wake their child up thirty minutes to an hour before the terror usually happens it seems to interrupt the sleep cycle and keep it from happening.
In our case, I think that TT’s night terrors are directly related to her sensory issues. Hers happened back when we were having multiple fits during the day, and I hadn’t yet figured out that the fits were sensory related. Once we started making sure she was getting enough sensory input, the night terrors stopped as well. It’s possible the night terrors had more to do with what her body went through while pitching a fit than the actual sensory stuff, but once we got the sensory stuff figured out, everything else smoothed out as well.