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What can cause night terrors? What can I do to prevent them? How as a mother do I handle this?

My daughter is 1 years old and she has been getting up in the middle of the night screaming, kicking, pushing, eyes wide open. Her dad and I try to comfort her but nothing works. I would try to pick her up to hold her but she just pushes me away like if Im a stranger. It's really hard not knowing what to do for my own child. I want to help her but she won't let me. During the day she's fine, she throws the regular toddler tantrums and is very clingy to me. She always wants me but during the night it's like she doesn't even know me. My husband and I were reseaching online and we came across a sleep disorder called "Night Terror". I want to know what I can do to prevent this from happening to my daughter every night. I want to know what causes this to happen. I want to know how I can handle this as a parent. Please, I need help!

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Asked by Anonymous at 1:58 PM on Apr. 11, 2010 in Toddlers (1-2)

Answers (11)
  • he's the college psychology being put to good use. night terrors happen in a stage 4 non rem sleep. you can't try to wake her, just like a sleepwalker it can be very dangerous. she needs to wake herself up from it. heres the thing about night terrors which makes them differ from nightmares. they are usually not remembered because they are in non rem. so your daughter will not remember them. you just need to let it happen when it does happens and let her wake herself for reasons i'd see a sleep expert because there can be a number of reasons...a lot of ppl have night terrors...they just don't remember them

    Answer by aliishott2 at 2:30 PM on Apr. 11, 2010

  • if i recall correctly from school you can wake the child up after they've fallen asleep (not during the terror), messing up the sleep pattern like that can help prevent terrors but other than that. you can really only let her have them and remember she won't remember them

    Answer by aliishott2 at 2:39 PM on Apr. 11, 2010

  • My friend's son has night terrors and my husband still has them. What you are describing sounds exactly what they have. I believe my son has them too, but he doesn't have them as often. It's really scary, and hard for mom to not be able to calm them. All we've been doing is holding them until it stops and they "go back to sleep". My husband does remember his. As you get older they turn into nightmares that are very real and honestly it's entertaining to me. He will run out of bed screaming, or dive off of it. One thing I've researched about it, is that it's tied to dyslexia. My husband, his brother and my friends son are dyslexic and I read one study saying it's that part of the brain that causes it. I haven't notice any patterns and from what I've studied they don't know what it's caused from. Maybe aliishott would have some more info on it.

    Answer by sunshine58103 at 3:01 PM on Apr. 11, 2010

  • I used to have night terrors. There isn't a whole lot you can do but wait for her to out grow them. I had them until I was 7 or 8 I think, every few nights. There aren't any real discernible triggers. Like aliishot2 said, they occur in stage four sleep. I also sleep walk and talk, which I know is linked to that stage four sleep thing. As she gets older you can help her to understand what is happening, if she remembers at all, but for now all you can do is comfort her if she needs it and let her sleep if she goes back to sleep. My daughter is 16 months and already shows signs of the terrors and talking/walking; we're going to have to fence her in at night if she's anything like me. I don't know about the link to dyslexia; I am not anything close to dyslexic but it could be a link for some. This sleep behavior is often genetic, so you might ask if someone in the family had terrors, talked or walked.

    Answer by preacherskid at 4:07 PM on Apr. 11, 2010

  • Let me know if you have any other questions. I also had really terrifying nightmares as I got older; my mom had to get really creative to help me understand them. A person who has terrors when younger is more prone to BAD nightmares when older; the roommate I had in college who explained the stage four sleep thing also explained that to me but I don't remember why. Just hang in there, she isn't really losing any sleep over this and she will be fine. You can always try to limit stimulation before bedtime, but that never worked when I was a kid. Some things you just have to ride out. Good luck.

    Answer by preacherskid at 4:12 PM on Apr. 11, 2010

  • My daughter - who is now 8yrs old - started having "night terrors" just like you describe when she was about 20 months old - about the time she was ready to start potty training - after a while I figured out that she has more and worse night terrors when she has to go to the bathroom, once she started potty training I stopped giving her liquid an hour or two before bedtime - and had her use the restroom right before she went down. That helped a lot!

    When she goes to the bathroom RIGHT before she goes to sleep they are either non-existent, or not as intense. Sometimes I can't avoid her drinking right before bedtime - if we had a busy day and she's not hydrated enough, I let her take a water bottle to bed. Those night we usually just know she's going to have one.

    She doesn't remember them, so I leave her alone unless they go on for a long time. Pediatrician says she'll eventually grow out of it.

    Answer by texassahm at 6:37 PM on Apr. 11, 2010

  • Night terrors can happen from exsessive use of a television throughout the day and at night before bedtime. I would say cut some of that out if you do/can.

    Answer by Miss.Cullen at 7:38 PM on Apr. 11, 2010

  • Honestly they don't truly know the cause of unexplained night terrors. Like there is no traumatic incidents, no abuse, etc. For all the others that have them its a big question mark. I don't believe the whole dyslexia. I had them and so did my brother but we aren't dyslexic. I have a cousin who is and he never had the night terrors. J

    ust hold her and wait it out. My dd is almost 2 and has them frequently. I just hold her and she kicks and cries. I sing and rock her till she's done and then put her back to bed


    Answer by Xandriasmommy at 10:44 PM on Apr. 11, 2010

  • My son suffers from these and has had them since he was about 16 months old. it was terrifying in the begining b/c i worried he would hurt himself. But I asked my doctor and he said to just leave him alone. He also said it is very common in children. I still wake up to his bloodcurdeling screams but unless he calls for me I don't go to him anymore.
    don't worry she won't hurt herself but could hurt you or your husband if you try to restrain her. I have a scar on my neck from where he scratched me! If it makes you feel better you could sit outside her door incase she wakes up from it and needs some comforting but from my experience they snap right out of it and go back to sleep.

    good luck mama! and don't worry my doc says my son will grow out of it- just like my doc told me that I would grow out of sleepwalking (which I still do). but seriously most kids stop having them when thay are around 3.

    Answer by colorsofgrey at 11:44 PM on Apr. 11, 2010

  • My brother had night terrors when he was little. My parents took him to a child psychologist and he was able to work with my brother and get rid of them. You're daughter may be too young for that to work, but it's worth a try. I'd call your pediatrician and see if they recommend any child psychologists, and then give them a call and see if they think they can help. Good luck. She will grow up and forget all of this, but you will remember the pain of your sad child. Remember it is not your fault and you just do everything you can to help her.

    Answer by JessieAtHome at 9:58 AM on Apr. 12, 2010

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