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Toddler Night Terrors

February 17, 2012 14 comments

Over the past year or so, there have been a handful of nights where D1 woke up screaming – this is different from when she screams just before having to go to bed, which happens quite frequently. When I got to her, she was sweaty and her heart rate was insanely high. I tried to talk to her to ask her what was wrong, but she was completely unresponsive. Our pediatrician later diagnosed these episodes as night terrors. If you need more info on night terrors/sleep terrors, including possible causes and treatment, please consult your pediatrician or Dr. Google. If you’d like to read about my experience or need some support, read on.

Though they’ve been infrequent, they certainly aren’t a welcome development. Particularly now that D1 and D2 share a bed, D1′s night terrors will wake D2 up. As any parent can attest, getting kids to sleep is difficult; getting them to fall back asleep in the middle of the night is down right frustrating, if not infuriating.

I’d like to say I’ve responded well to the night terrors, but I haven’t. Generally speaking, I don’t respond well when I’m woken up in the middle of the night. And if you remember my guest post over at Natalie’s, Monster Mommy Moment – Pop Style, how I’ve responded late at night has been a significant source of parenting guilt for me.

The first episode of night terrors D1 ever had, I woke up really frustrated. Last spring, we moved out of our old home and moved in with my parents. D1 was a very good sleeper and loved having her own room at our old place. We’d also spent the night at my parents from time to time and D1 also slept in her own bed, so we had no reason to believe she wouldn’t sleep well in a room by herself. But she had a tough time sleeping by herself. A really tough time. So we’d been working hard for a month or so to comfort her as she went to bed and we finally made some progress. Around the same time, D2 began sleeping through the night, so all was well in Pop’s family.

Then one night, D1 woke up screaming. My first reaction was that this looked like something from a horror movie – she was tossing about and screaming like she was possessed or something. Not a fun visual by any means. So with all frustration built up over the past month or so, I did what anyloving father would do: I yelled.

D1! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! WHAT IS WRONG?! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!

The fact that she wasn’t responding and just crying made me even more frustrated. I kept trying to force her to lie down and she’d sit back up. I’d lie her down, she’d sit back up. This went on for about 10 minutes or so and then she finally fell back asleep.

It didn’t happen again for a few months, so we kind of forgot about it. When it happened again, my wife and I decided we needed to talk to our pediatrician about it. When I found out that it was an actual disorder and not something that D1 was willfully doing to wear me out, I felt horrible and repented.

A few months later, another episode. Now that I know what night terrors are, I responded well, right? Wrong. My fuse was about thisshort and I was probably worse than I was the first few times. SIGH

When I came back to bed, my wife thanked me for trying, and she acknowledged and appreciated that I was doing it so that she and her 6-month pregnant self didn’t have to get up, but by me yelling, she ends up waking up anyway.

Cue Man in the Mirror. (Am I the only one that thinks of that song & performance when I know I need to make a change)

The next time D1 had a night terror episode, I decided I’d handle it differently. I went in and just held her until she calmed down. Imagine that – being calm, calmed her down and yelling didn’t? We’ve also tried to make sure she’s not overtired by getting her to bed at a regular time. My pediatrician also says that 1-8% of children experience night terrors. Sweet! D1′s in the 90th percentile!

But the real ace up my sleeve?

When D1 wakes up with night terrors, I imagine Darkwing Duck going, “I am the terror, that wakes your kids up at night.” And it’s scientifically proven that you can’t be mad when you think of the Disney Afternoon.

What about you? Did your kids suffer from night terrors? What helped you get through it? Did you run home after school every day to watch the Disney Afternoon?

 

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