My 1 year old baby keeps me up in the night

by Anonymous - Answer by Heidi Holvoet, PhD

Question: My son has never been brilliant at sleeping through the night but would settle with his dummy or a reassuring pat. However at the moment he is waking every night several times screaming and I think it may be night terrors. In the last 5 weeks he has had viral diarrhoea, chest infection,viral infection on his voice box and finally bacterial infection with mucus on his lungs throat etc. I am sure these have now passed but I think the sleep deprivation from all of this has led to night terrors and the other issue is he regularly seems to get a blocked nose during the night and a doctor had told me that using the nose drops regularly could be harmful as they are addictive.

At the moment he is waking around 10am screaming and I had given him calpols which seemed to settle him but I feel I cant keep doing that he would then be awake another 2/3 times until about 1pm and would then settle until only about 3 or 4am then would settle again for another hour or so. as a result he is extremely gizly during the day and this is having a knock on effect on his daytime naps which have become short and unsettled.

It's naturally having an effect on me as I am extremely run down and also have an older daughter who is feeling neglected. Last night I gave him camomile tea at bedtime and I gently woke him at 9.30 so he did sleep until midnight but was still awake screaming again at 5am when I could tell he was struggling again because of a blocked nose. Any practical suggestions would be welcome

Heidi's Answer: Hi, I am sorry to hear about the infections you've had to go through with your son, I know how tough it must have been on you too. But it's good to hear that those are over now.

Waking up screaming in the beginning of the night is indeed typical of night terrors. If he also seems awake but isn't really (even if his eyes may be open), maybe move frantically and breathe heavily, then goes on sleeping shortly after, it may indeed be that. If he does it several times a night, there is less chance it is night terrors. See my page on night terrors for more details, in case you haven't yet.

You mention you 'gently woke him at 9.30pm' last night, was that to try and prevent the night terror? Apparently that indeed worked (pointing to night terrors again) which is a good thing. It's then a good idea to keep doing this a few more nights in a row before stopping to see if he then sleeps through that moment without having the terror.

When he wakes again at about 5am screaming, is it the same screaming as in the early night?

For his nose, a very simple thing to do is the 'onion trick': halve an onion and place it near him when he sleeps. The evaporating juices help clear the nose and facilitate breathing. If he's the adventurous kind, make sure to place it out of his reach or in a sealed container with holes in the lid (some kids actually have tried to eat onion salad at night ...).

You are absolutely right, it's always better to avoid medication such as the calpol and the nose drops if at all possible, and yes they can be addictive.

For more gentle remedies, have a look at my article about how to keep sleeping well in spite of a cold.

Good luck, let me know,

Click here to post comments

Return to Baby Sleep and Parenting Advice.