I think I may have found the solution to why S sometimes wakes us up screaming and crying and is almost inconsolable – Night Terrors.
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Some years ago, S began a weird ‘phase’ where she would go to sleep absolutely fine but a few hours after falling asleep, would start to scream and cry. We would rush in and she would often be sitting up in bed but when we tried to communicate with her, she would stare straight through us and no speak or answer us in any way. No matter how we tried to console her, she would be almost hysterical and you just couldn’t get her to listen or take notice of you.
Both hubby and I struggled with this. We thought she was just so wound up she wouldn’t listen to us. We tried everything. We cuddled her. We talked to her. We tried to calm her down. We even (I’m embarrassed to say) shouted at her. Anything to try and get her to stop and take notice. She would scream and kick and inevitably, this would wake her sister who shared a room with her and then, of course, she would start crying as she was frightened. It was a true nightmare!
The episodes would last anything from 5-20 minutes. When she finally looked at us properly and the hysteria became just sobs and she hugged us, she didn’t really know much about what had happened. She would often say she just “felt frightened”. No matter how much we said she had a lovely room, cute toys around her, etc, it didn’t stop it. She has a very good imagination, so I did wonder if it was just a nightmare (we are careful with TV programmes, too much stimulation, etc) as you never know what they think about or talk about at school.
We bought her a night light. Two. Three. It continued. It was mentally draining having to deal with two crying children, although her sister would go back to sleep very quickly.
We started taking her out of her bed (not easy lifting a child out of a top bunk when they are kicking and crying) and bringing her into our room to try and minimise the disruption to her little sister and the household in general. She would continue the crying and blank stare. We even shook her gently to try and ‘snap her out of it’ but nothing worked.
Suddenly it stopped.
Yesterday, she had another episode. It was awful and she was dripping with sweat too (she’s been ill this weekend and still is). My husband was very over-tired from working 18 hour days and I had a headache. Not ideal to then suddenly have to cope with this weird behaviour. We got angry and told her off but it had no impact on her at all. I picked her up and took her into our bedroom but she carried on. She was doing this odd ‘bouncing’ thing on the bed. She was laying flat but was bouncing her bottom up and down whilst screaming. After about 10 minutes, it subsided and she just started to cry and say she was sorry. Did she know what she was doing? Was this a tantrum of some sort? I just didn’t know what to make of it. She said she didn’t know what upset her.
I turned to Google and put in some of the behaviours – blank start, asleep, crying, looking through you – and immediately a lot of information on night terrors came up. Why on earth didn’t I do this before? Easy, I thought she was playing us up, simple as that!
I feel part awful and part relieved. The awful bit was us thinking she was simply misbehaving. The relief is knowing what it could be.
I remember as a child having a terrible set of dreams (so vivid I can remember them to this day!) but I knew what they were and what was scaring me. However, they did go on for a long period of time. In fact, so long that unbeknownst to me, my parents had seen our family doctor who advised a psychiatrist if they continued much longer. They suddenly stopped. I read on the NHS page that night terrors are something children can get if their parents have a history of it but I remember my dream so I presumed that was a nightmare.
I’ve booked a phone call to our doctor today to chat through it. I want to know if there is anything that we can do to help when this happens and how long it will go on for. He advised to leave her alone when it is happening and just make sure she is safe. Talking softly to her may help. If it happens again, we’ll remove her little sister from the room for a while to make sure it doesn’t upset her and then deal with S. He also said with the infection she has at the moment and antibiotics, it is more likely. However, once she is better, we need to bring her down to the surgery for them to do a few routine checks. That’s kind of worried me but I suppose informed is the best way forward.
Anyone else had this with their children? Doctor said she would grow out of it but when!?