Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Mama Life || Living With Night Terrors

Night terrors can make many of us dread night time and it can be an exhausting experience for all involved.

Anyone can experience night terrors at any age and we often find that toddlers start with these pretty early on, which can be pretty upsetting for us parents to watch. Most children do grow out of it by around age 8 though and they usually have no long lasting effects. So, as much as it's horrid, it's also just another of those things we have to endure, support and ride out.

We've all heard of nightmares and bad dreams, they're pretty self explanatory, but what makes night terrors so different? The main difference tends to be firstly the severity of it; It can feel a bit like a scene from a horror film involving your favourite people. When someone experiences a night terror, they are usually not fully awake even if they appear to be. They may not respond when you talk to them, may not recognise you and may even thrash around or scream. Quite often though, the person having the night terror won't even remember the event in the slightest, but partners or parents may be left shaken and tired after a rubbish nights sleep.

All of us have nightmares which we tend to wake from and remember some details, but it's well worth reading up on night terrors if you think someone in your family may be suffering, so you can see if there's anything you can do to prevent it happening or simply make it easier for everyone.

Night terrors happen for all kinds of reasons, the main culprits though are when someone is feeling anxious, stressed, being over tired or hearing an unexpected loud noise in the night. Anything really that can cause a person to wake suddenly in the night or have them in a deep sleep for a long time such as certain medications or high temperatures. For children it may be something as simple as needing the toilet or being disturbed by a noise.

Adam (my husband) suffers from night terrors, so for the last 15 years we've been together we've had him waking up pretty much every night at some point and it's always so much worse when he's worrying about something or stressed in some way. One of the worst night terrors, Adam actually pushed me out of bed and I woke up hitting the floor, Adam screaming and having my hair pulled! He's also tried to peel my head in his sleep thinking I was a satsuma. Funny, but so not at the same time! Usually he doesn't even wake and goes back to sleep, but on rare occasions he wakes up slightly traumatised by it.

Alf has had a few scary night terrors too, particularly at around age 3-4, so we have pretty good experience of it here. I thought I'd share some tips to help deal with night terrors as it is a really horrible thing to go through, particularly when your child seems so scared and unresponsive to comfort.

What to do when your child is having a night terror

Try and stay calm and wait it out. Unless your child is in any risk to their safety then don't try to wake them up. Wait for them to calm down and don't try and interact with them until they have calmed down themselves. Interaction in the midst of a full night terror could aggravate the situation and cause further confusion or distress. 

Try and remember that although it's distressing for us to see, our children won't be harmed from it and probably won't even remember it after the event. After your child has calmed you can wake them to make sure they're OK and use the toilet if needed. Intercepting this deep sleep may prevent another night terror happening later on and break the cycle.

During the day time, speak to your child to see if they have any stresses or worries, it's amazing how much those little shoulders can take on without us realising it and it can affect their sleep. When chatting though, don't mention their night terror to them as it could potentially create anxiety around sleep times. It's unlikely in most cases that anything will be wrong, but always worth asking.

All children are susceptible to night terrors, but just sometimes they can be caused by contributing factors such as worries or noises in the home. It's always good to look for patterns, make a note of times that they happen and if they happen after any significant events. It's so hard not to worry about our babies, especially when they seem distressed but this really is one not to worry about. If you feel it's going on more than you believe is normal, your child seems severely distressed or it's affecting their day to day life with broken sleep, then always talk to your GP/HV for further advice and reassurance.

Night terrors are really common and most people have no further issues with them in later life. I'm hoping as Alf's have stopped, that he won't follow in Adam's footsteps and continue with night terrors into adulthood. For adults suffering, the advice tends to be to reduce stress and incorporate a more relaxing bedtime routine which does seem to help but unfortunately without some kind of medication that he wouldn't take, Adams are here to stay. Good thing I'm used to no sleep ;)

Have you or your little one suffered night terrors before?