2.7 year old wakes once or twice per night
Question: Hi Heidi, It has been a long time that I wrote to you. I was just wondering if you could give us some advice. Our 2.7 year old wakes once or twice per night since about 3 months.He wakes up, sitting in his bed, just shouting mummy mummy, sometime mummy hug, hug. We just have to pad him for a few seconds and he falls back asleep. He seems not fully awake. Are these night terrors , is there anything else we can do?
Thank you Heidi!
Bst wishes from Dublin.
Heidi's Answer: Dear Lin, Glad to hear from you. I hope that apart from this current hiccup, things are going well.
The way you describe your son's awakenings, it does not sound very typically like night terrors.
A night terror will usually involve screaming, apparent disorientation and fear, not really "being" present, ... that sort of thing. But not all people show the same signs.
A night terror will also happen soon after first going to sleep - you don't mention in which part of the night it happens but the awake time can be a clue for you going forward.
The plain shouting out for you can point towards separation anxiety, he may be going one of those phases. It can be out of the blue or linked to a recent change (day care, a different family/work situation, some stress or excitement at home, ...). You would probably also notice it during the day: it may have become a tad more difficult to leave him at day care or in a friend's or family member's presence.
It may also simply be a "habit" that he got into. Not out of ill will but just after having awoken a couple of times by accident, called out for you and then went back to sleep reassured, a kind of rhythm (sleep pattern) can have formed.
Two tips I want to give you, for either of the suggested causes:
1. Slightly alter his night time bedtime. 10-15 minutes can be enough. Shift in the direction that best suits: if he is quite tired usually by bedtime, then shift to earlier. If he is still happily awake, shift to later. The slight shift can help resolve a stuck pattern (both aiding with the sleep terrors and the formed habit).
2. At the same time, indulge by reassuring as necessary (to minimze his awake time) but be on the alert to minimize that. Do not stay long (which you already are not doing I understand) and gradually reduce the time you spend reassuring and comforting him. No need to rush, just every so slowly help him practice his indepence again.
Hope this helps,
Best of luck,