My 17 month old son wakes up almost every night from what seems like night terrors

by Andrew

Question: Hello, I have a 17 month old son named Mason. Ever since he was about 6 months old about 4-5 times a week he will wake up usally between 11 and 1 screaming like he's hurt. I will go in there and pick him up tell him hes ok and after about a minute or so i can lay him back down and he falls back asleep.

However tonight the same thing happened but when i went in there he tried to climb out of his bed to get me. I tried calming him down and he would stop crying for a minute and then almost like he saw something he would flinch in my arms and start screaming again this went on for about 20 minutes.

I was just wondering if this is normal for the amount of times this happens since its been going on for over a year and with how freaked out he is (only every once in a while he gets this freaked out). He will nap once a day for about 2-3 hours around 1:30pm and goes to bed at 7 or 7:30. i just dont know what i should do. I feel so bad for my little man.

Heidi's Answer: Hi Andrew,

What you describe indeed sounds like night terrors. They do typically occur in the first half of the night, and a quick reassurance is enough to get him back to sleep.

You have probably also noticed that he does not seem to remember anything about them in the morning and he has not felt scared.

And that's the clearest difference with a nightmare, a child can get really scared from that bad dream. This *could* be what is happening at those times where he, as you say, really freaks out: a real nightmare

Do these worse ones occur later in the night?

You could also check with him, see if he remembers anything in the morning (a child usually remembers a nightmare, or at leasdt the fact of having had a bad dream, and having seen you. All of this is not the case with night terrors).

Of course, be careful, you don't want to make this an issue with him. the less he worries about it, the better. But you can simply ask, casually, "do you remember when I came into your room and gave you a hug" something like that.

Let me invite you to read all about night terrors and nightmares here.

What often works best for night terrors is scheduled awakenings, which break the pattern. Writing down when exactly they occur for a week may give you a more precise timing.

Then gently wake him up each night, about 20 minutes before the night terror usually happens. Stay in his room but sit up with him, talk to him a little bit, maybe do a diaper change. Then put him down to sleep as usual.

Then towards the nightmares, avoid restless evenings with triggers from television shows (some simple friendly images that we barely notice, can suddenly turn out scary to the little ones at night).

And finally, given the fact that your son has been having these for such a long time, it's a good idea to mention them to his pediatrician if you haven't already.

Good luck, take care,

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