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Thread: Night Terrors

  1. #1
    Minister of Love Roger Mexico's Avatar
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    Night Terrors

    Anyone dealt with these? (Either had them or had a child/dependent/family member experience them?)

    My son (age 5) has been having them rather frequently lately. He's had them on and off for about the last year, but has one every few nights as of the last 2-3 weeks.

    He wakes up screaming and yelling for me, but doesn't seem to notice that I'm there. Just now I went into his room in response to one, and he bolted out toward the back door yelling "DADA!" even after I picked him up and looked him in the eye to ask what was wrong.

    It's a bit freaky--he usually claws at his face, stomach and/or mouth, and he'll respond to some questions but not others. He seems to be trying to come up with an answer to questions like "what's wrong?" but his responses trail off and/or are interrupted by more screaming before he can finish them.

    However, this time I tried a different question--"are you scared?"--and he responded "yes." Then I asked what he was afraid of and he said "the water." However, when I asked "what water?" he didn't or couldn't articulate a response. He then wandered back to bed and fell back asleep.

    Several other times, he's had a tendency to cover his ears with his hands, and scream as if in pain when I say anything, even at a very low volume. (Like the sound is painfully loud, even if I'm basically whispering.)

    I'm not overly familiar with the phenomenon--it's not something that's ever happened to me. I gather that it's an intermediate sleeping/waking state, given how he's clearly only partially conscious. (Aware of some parts of his environment but not others.) Sometimes I try to remove any clothing he's wearing in case something actually is irritating his skin, but this doesn't seem to do anything.

    Yes, I've googled it, but thought I'd throw it out as a discussion topic. Is this likely to be more physiological or psychological in origin? He has been through quite a bit of shit involving his mother (a long story I've told elsewhere on the forums before), which I imagine could be quite traumatic for a very young child. Then again, he's always been a very restless sleeper--rolls around all over his bed, usually ending up in a completely different position from where he fell asleep by the time he wakes up in the mornings. I get the impression from my reading on it that this isn't all that uncommon a thing for young children to experience--I've been putting him to bed earlier, since the articles mention not getting enough sleep as a possible cause.

    Anybody know of any good ways to interrupt one or calm someone who is having one? I'm pretty stymied there--so far nothing seems to have any effect, so I just have to hold him or follow him around until it dissipates and he goes back to sleep on his own.

    I'm not overly worried, but it is disconcerting. I'm kind of hypervigilant about looking for signs of mental illness, given the environmental factors of witnessing his mother's behavior early in life along with whatever genetic factors might be present. (She seems to have developed some form of psychosis, although I don't know anything more than that because she refuses to be assessed or treated by a psychiatrist--all I know is it's the "I'm fine, or I would be if all these doctors would stop trying to kill me" sort of psychosis, among other symptoms.)

    I've brought a child psychologist to the house to speak with him. She's supposed to get back to me tomorrow with thoughts on her first session with him. (He's been having some temper/aggression issues on and off, too--maybe normal kid stuff, but sometimes intense enough to concern me because his mother had adult versions of something similar rather often in the last year or so that we lived together.)
    Quote Originally Posted by Ptah View Post
    No history, no exposition, no anecdote or argument changes the invariant: we are all human beings, and some humans are idiots.

  2. #2
    凸(ಠ_ರೃ )凸 stuck's Avatar
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    My family has these, I have them.

    Best my friends ever did was to have rational conversations with me while I was asleep. Here's a couple:

    1. sat up, tried to describe this forked device to my friend. he just played along, I went back to sleep

    2. sat up and answered a question correctly with "back in black" the ac/dc song

    just try to be calm. you can say "you're asleep, go lay down" repetitively. I saw my dad sit stark upright and say "FUCK NO NO MARCHING BANDS". I said "dad, you're asleep." and that was that.

    Another big thing is controlling the sleep environment, making it very repetitive and quiet. All of my incidences were from being woken up by something or other.

  3. #3
    yeah I had them as a kid. I freaked out my parents by walking into their room and telling them that there were kids in their closet.

  4. #4
    New Member Bking's Avatar
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    I had them when I was a kid. It was always about some sort of presence that was going to engulf me. And the sense of doom that gave is what triggered my awakening in a state of terror. I could never conceptualize what the "presence" was/is.

    What helped me is to be held close to my father or mothers chest. The smell and warmth of them reinforced my sense of security. I don't believe any higher reasoning functions are active in the brain during that state. I only felt confused and terrified.

    You could try giving him some Melatonin before going to sleep. Or 5htp. Or possibly some Valerian root.
    Last edited by Bking; 06-11-2014 at 12:05 AM.

  5. #5
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    I assumed this happened to everyone to some extent. Maybe your son can't articulate what he's scared of because he's confused. It was real, and then he woke up and it wasn't there anymore. He's probably too busy trying to process what is and isn't real to answer your questions. And he may be a little embarrassed as he gets his bearings? And also probably sleepy/groggy. I don't know. I'm not sure why kids' dreams are so freaking scary. I still occasionally have dreams that I confuse with reality for a second when I wake up, but they're not scary anymore thank god.

  6. #6
    gryffindor Hermione's Avatar
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    He's at the age, RM. Not to worry. It's a perfectly normal stage of development that the majority do outgrow. And as you see here on the thread already, even those who do not outgrow still are semi-normal. Hi, guys. Keep calm and try not to freak out and break stuff. (I don't have them and never did. Just had regular old 'bad dreams' that sometimes haunted me as a kid. Just, fyi.)

    It's almost like an unconscious brain tantrum. Stuff leeches up from the unconscious as we sleep. Since kids are normally closer to the subconscious even in waking life, well they don't have a proper 'shut off' mechanism hooked up yet. React as you would to a tantrum. (No, don't take them out of the store and put them in the car and go home.) Just act normal and strong and like nothing's up. Keep calm, obviously. Maybe get a glass of water or a trip to the bathroom or whatever. Holding and hugging sometimes puts them right back to sleep. If not, read books aloud until they unwind.
    All lives end. All hearts are broken. Caring is not an advantage. Mycroft Holmes

    I am not programmed to harm human beings. Baymax

  7. #7
    Hasta Siempre Madrigal's Avatar
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    From my own experience I only had nightmares when I was physically ill or coming down with something at that age. My memory goes at least up to the age of 3 (I claim it is more but they say it's impossible) and I remember nightmares I had up to the same age. Moving countries seems to help crystallize memories and I moved twice by that age (Honduras-Argentina-Canada). When I was sick and slept with my mother, I didn't have nightmares, but I knew that if I didn't sleep with her, I would. And it was exactly like that. One night I was so scared of having a nightmare that I snuck into her room and fell asleep under her desk before she went to sleep. So it was because I felt insecure or unprotected.

    If you can discard physical illness, fevers, etc, then maybe you can try an amulet that's worn to bed. A rosary or something else. You obviously don't really want to encourage magical thinking but the cultural weight of a symbol would probably have a greater influence. I don't really think magical thinking is a bad thing in childhood anyway. (Much to my parents' chagrin, I was once given a glow-in-the-dark rosary from a sailor on a boat when I was a kid, after my father told him we were not religious, and to me it had protective magical powers). Or you can try a dreamcatcher, after explaining the myth associated with it. Or if there is some kind of toy/superhero figure he likes (especially if it has a sword or something like that), maybe he can go to sleep with it or keep it by his bed.
    Last edited by Madrigal; 06-10-2014 at 04:47 PM.
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  8. #8
    dormant jigglypuff's Avatar
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    from what i remember of my nightmares when i was around that age and a little older, a big part of it is simply having an imagination that doesn't know when to quit, and certain images and thoughts can haunt a child's mind for weeks or months afterwards. none of it is "real life"/adult fears yet, it's more like supernatural stuff you can't protect yourself against. it's something i grew out of and i can't say what else helped me out of it, but i also shared a room so i was never alone and had another human presence "grounding" me the whole time. the hallucinations are worst when you're sick and/or have a fever.

    i'd say just let him sleep with you in the same room when it gets bad.

  9. #9
    Senior Member skip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bking View Post
    You could try giving him some Melatonin before going to sleep.
    I think there's been some recent evidence that giving hormones like melatonin to children is not a good idea. You might want to look into that before giving him any.
    Yes, I smell like a horse. No, I don't consider that a problem.

  10. #10
    gryffindor Hermione's Avatar
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    Night terrors are a bit more terrifying for the parent, guys. It's not the same thing at all as a kid waking up from a nightmare.Just so you know there is a huge state of confusion around 'are they awake or not, have they become conscious yet, what do i do, etc'?


    Way different thing for the kid (who is wholly unaware usually, or forgets soon after), and looks completely different to the onlooker. Almost makes one react the way you would coming upon someone having a seizure. It is as if they are 'stuck' and can't come out.

    They also do not appear upset, or scared, or sad and lonely, but full on hysterical and very out of it. Like if one were 'having a fit' or gripped by something. It lasts a longer time than any waking up from a bad dream would ever last, also.

    What You Need To Know

    Night terrors are also called sleep terrors or pavor nocturnus.

    Similar to sleepwalking and sleep talking, night terrors are considered to be a disorder of arousal and are a partial arousal from non-REM sleep.

    Unlike a nightmare, children usually don't recall having a night terror.


    Also unlike nightmares, night terrors usually occur in the early part of the night, about 1 to 4 hours after going to sleep.

    If your child gets night terrors, make sure that baby sitters and other caregivers are aware of them and know what they should do if one occurs.

    Most children outgrow night terrors as they get older.
    All lives end. All hearts are broken. Caring is not an advantage. Mycroft Holmes

    I am not programmed to harm human beings. Baymax

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