Ever since Sophie was about 3 months old, she started having night terrors. As a parent, this can be very scary. Your child is screaming and crying although tears are not falling. They are looking at you wide eyed, pupils fully dilated as if they have no soul. No matter what you do, their fear is inconsolable.
Although you may feel hopeless because there is nothing you can do for your child, it’s best to just wait it out patiently and make sure your child does not get injured in the process. Sometimes Sophie sleepwalks while having night terrors. I just quietly follow behind her to make sure she doesn’t hurt herself because she has walked into the dining chairs and wall before.
Notice I said night terrors, NOT nightmares. They are two completely different things. A night terror is an episode of fear, screaming and crying (usually without tears) but remains asleep. A nightmare is a dream that the person can wake up and remember the details. A night terror generally occurs in the first 1-3 hours of sleep before going into REM cycle. A nightmare occurs during REM cycle.
I can always tell the difference if Sophie is having a night terror or actually wake and crying. Her cries sound COMPLETELY different and as I said, the night terror cries do not produce tears.
Common symptoms of night terrors include:
- Suddenly sitting up into bed
- Disoriented and confused
- Crying without actual tears falling
- Heavy sweating and breathing
- Sleepwalking (not always an occurrence)
It’s best to NOT try and wake your child during a night terror. It usually doesn’t work, worsens the terror and if they do wake up it’s usually harder to get them to calm down and get back to sleep. Most times, by talking or touching your child worsens their fear because they are completely asleep and have no idea who you are, even if their eyes are wide open.
If your child has sleep terrors it is probably scarier for you than it actually is for them because they do not remember anything that happened. Does your child have sleep terrors? Sleepwalk? Is there anything you’ve tried that has helped your child overcome these episodes?