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Night Terrors 6 year old
Anyone been through investigations?

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#1 Kay1

Posted 06 May 2012 - 04:44 PM

DS1 is 6.5 and has been having night terrors for more than 6 months. They happen almost every night although we've had a few weeks where we've thought they had passed (never more than a week).

I've spoken to the GP and the paed. Both said there was nothing to be done except to try waking him 15 minutes before they happen. This has not bee successful because they don't happen at exactly the same time every night and now seem to be happening very close to him falling asleep. When we have woken him its either triggered a terror or he's gone on to have one at the same time anyway.

They happen early in the night which suggests night terrors but at times he is also aware of them and says he's having the 'nightmare' - he can describe what he sees. Usually large shapes etc, pretty abstract stuff. Fortunately it generally only happens once during the night and if it happens again its usually before our bed time so its not causing us to lose sleep at the moment.

Its been going on so long and seems to be getting worse. He will be sharing a room with his brother soon and I really want to get it sorted. He gets up and runs around at times too so although we always run to him I worry that he might hurt himself.

I am wondering if anyone has experienced night terrors to this extent and had any further investigation/treatment.

I am thinking of asking for a referral to a sleep study or something.

Edited by Kay1, 06 May 2012 - 04:45 PM.

#2 KristyAnne

Posted 06 May 2012 - 05:17 PM

I've experienced night terrors, sleepwalking, and other odd sleep occurrences my entire life. They began  at probably around the same age as your son, and have happened intermittently until now. It doesn't happen as often now, because I recognise the triggers (in my case at least).

Tiredness is a major trigger. I discovered this after several years of having no major incidences, then having my first child. I survived on very little sleep, and during the time I did sleep, apparently I was constantly sleepwalking/talking, and  waking up screaming. It settled down once my daughter started sleeping through.

Something that really helps me is having a light on somewhere in the house. I'd gotten into the habit of having a light on because of the kids, and went for years without any sleep abnormalities, but didn't realise that the light had helped me until I went to visit my parents, and had no light on. My sister (who was sharing a room with me) told me that every night I was screaming and swearing, but I only really had a vague recollection of panic the next morning.

This doesn't apply to your son, but may be useful if he still has these episodes when he is older, but alcohol is a trigger. I don't drink now, but one night after drinking quite a lot, I woke up in front of a gas oven, trying to turn it on (a reason that I refuse to live anywhere with a gas oven now). I've read that drugs are also a trigger, but haven't used them, so I don't have personal experience, but I wonder if maybe certain medications could also be a trigger? Stress is another cause.

Practical suggestions:
-Have a strict sleep routine (in terms of when he goes to bed). Ensure he is going to bed early enough.
-Chat to him about any worries he might have a little before going to bed, minimise any stress he might have.
-Maybe massage before bed would help him relax.
-If he is taking any medication, check with your GP to see if it contains any ingredients that may trigger sleep disturbances.
-Ensure he doesn't eat or drink anything besides water too close to bedtime. I wonder if some food ingredients could be triggers.
-Leave a light on somewhere in the house. Make sure it's not bright enough to wake him up, just enough that he isn't waking up to total darkness.
-Contacting a sleep specialist may help. I never did that (my parents are of the "she'll be right" variety), but perhaps they have methods that could help, and I would be interested in what they have to say if you wouldn't mind posting a follow-up here.

All the best, I hope some of what I've said can be of use to you.

#3 Kay1

Posted 06 May 2012 - 06:12 PM

Thanks so much for your reply Kristy. Its very interesting to hear from an adult who has experienced them. They are supposed to be strongly hereditary but the only relative I know of who has them is my uncle, so pretty far removed from DS.

Its interesting you mention the tiredness being a factor. I have always believed this too and have had a strong bedtime routine since he was a baby which has not varied much and he goes to bed by 8pm every night, often earlier. The interesting thing is that I've noticed that the nights he has no terror, or only a minor one, are the nights when he has stayed up late for some reason. Putting him to bed super early (after a particularly big day for example) usually results in the worst ones. I am reluctant to keep him up though as I don't want him to be sleep deprived but when we had a babysitter recently I let him stay up later than usual and she reported that he only stirred in his sleep which is a huge improvement.

He is a deep thinker and worrier - he worries about dying a lot. We do talk each night but I find that if we get into anything 'heavy' he actually gets himself into a state. I tend to try and keep it upbeat but calm at bedtime.

The light thing is interesting too. He has always had the bathroom light on outside his room - but when I started turning it off (summer time) he actually had fewer terrors. Now that its dark at bedtime he insists on having the light on at bedtime so I can't do that any more. I also leave the light on at the top of the stairs as I am afraid he'll fall down them in a terror (he does seem to be able to see where he is going). He's not on any medication nor having any new foods. He's a very conservative eater so eats very plain food and only has milk or water to drink.

I will let you know if we have any breakthroughs but thank you again for your insights.

#4 karenlee63

Posted 06 May 2012 - 07:09 PM

My son had night terrors when he was about 7, occurring weekly roughly.  When he had them, it was usually when my husband and I were getting ready for bed, so perhaps we disturbed him.  He would run into our bedroom, get our attention then run around the house and back to his room.  He would be incredibly agitated and jump up and down on his bed, trying to make us understand what he was upsetting him.  If we didn’t follow what he was saying he would get even more distraught.  It was impossible to console him until he calmed down on his own.  

  One night I recorded an episode, and was then able to show a child psychologist without my son being present. She suggested sleep therapy (I think this is what she called it).  This involved rousing my son but not waking him up properly, every night before the time he would usually have the terrors.  We then spoke to him, reassuring him that he was safe and that we loved him.  I’m a bit sketchy about the details as my son is now 23.  He still sleeps with the light on!  The night terrors did stop after starting the sleep therapy but I can’t remember how long it took.

  Perhaps it would be worth while getting advice from a child psychologist.

  I hope that your son stops having night terrors soon.

Edited by karenlee63, 06 May 2012 - 07:10 PM.

#5 daruma

Posted 06 May 2012 - 07:16 PM

Hi KristyAnne.  My son is 5 and has been having night terrors for a few years and he sleep walks regularly and sleep talks every night.  He also wakes alot.  We took him to a sleep specialist and he said similar things to what the PP has said.  He said they will be worse if he is tired, that is a major trigger.  He had just started school when they got really bad again.  I have suffered from all three as well including the terrors and haven't had one for a while.  The specialist said they are meant to start slowing down around this age but given my history I might expect it to last longer.

I also use for him Brauer's Children sleep.  It is a homeopathic formula that helps calm the nervous system and that makes going to sleep easier. With my son he never remembers that it has happened but he also has nightmares and he does remember those.

When we went to the sleep specialist he said he had seen 9 children that day and our son was the only one he wasn't recommending a sleep study for.  I would definitely recommend it even if it is just for peace of mind.

#6 mumto3princesses

Posted 06 May 2012 - 07:38 PM

Hi, we have also experienced night terrors for years with DD2 (now 8.5yrs). They are horrible.

Just when we thought she had grown out of them we have discovered we now get some extremely weird sleepwalking and talking (or yelling) episodes. To be honest they are so strange I don't know what is worse! We saw our Dr about them but he thinks they are similar to her night terrors. They do seem to be worse when she is overtired or sick just the same as her night terrors were.

Lavender oil can help. Just a few drops under the pillow before bed and even a lavender scented bath before bed. Lavender is meant to relax the mind and the body. DD2's night terrors reduced a lot when we started using lavender.

What I also suggest is keeping a food/drink diary and making a note of when he has a night terror. There can sometimes be a link with food or food additives. And food additives can cause all sorts of problems including night terrors. sleep disturbances - Fed Up with food additives website

#7 EBeditor

Posted 06 May 2012 - 07:47 PM

Both of my children have had bouts of them.

Over-tiredness, an emotional day and sickness all seem to be triggers.

Every night is really hard though, I hope you can have some success with a sleep therapist or clinic.

#8 Kay1

Posted 06 May 2012 - 07:50 PM

Thank you Jane. I wonder how you found a "sleep specialist"? I am in Sydney. I know there is a sleep clinic at the Sydney Kids Hospital so I will ask the paed about that. I will look into the Brauer's sleep remedy.

mumto3princesses - thank you. I am sorry your DD is still having sleep disturbances. DS also has some sensory issues and hates anything smelly so I can't use lavender (I tried it and he made me take it away).  I haven't done an actual food diary but I did read the fed up site and for a while had a theory that it was his multivitamins but its not that. I might try the diary.

Amber - thanks.

Edited by Kay1, 06 May 2012 - 07:55 PM.

#9 worknmum

Posted 06 May 2012 - 07:58 PM

Just another thought... Does he get hot when sleeping? My eldest ds seems to have them when he gets hit in his sleep?

#10 Psiren

Posted 06 May 2012 - 08:00 PM

I've experienced a variety of sleep phenomena my whole life too and still have night terrors.  Sometimes I'll be aware of them, sometimes I won't, so the fact that your son vaguely remembers things is actually quite normal.  Apparently you're more likely to remember your night terrors the older you get.  I'll often wake terrified but not know why, yet feel I need to offer an explanation to DH, so say dumbass things like 'Oh, I was just checking the window was still there'.  The advice PPs have given is great.  The only thing I'd add would be to remove any electrical devices from his room, as the electromagnetic energy can disturb the sleep cycle.  I took everything out of our bedroom except for lamps and while it didn't fix things, it certainly improved them.

#11 mokeydoke

Posted 06 May 2012 - 08:05 PM

DS1 used to get them, usually triggered by over tiredness, change in routine or waking up un-naturally (so if I tried to rouse him or another child woke him up).

Also, and I don't know if your DS is totally night-toilet trained, but his night terrors usually ended by going to the toilet. I wonder then if they were started by the urge to go but that urge meaning he wasn't getting a full round in a sleep cycle. So it might help to make sure his bladder is empty before bed, just in case.

#12 Kay1

Posted 06 May 2012 - 08:06 PM

The only thing I'd add would be to remove any electrical devices from his room, as the electromagnetic energy can disturb the sleep cycle. I took everything out of our bedroom except for lamps and while it didn't fix things, it certainly improved them.

Thanks, I'll try that!

worknmum - I don't think its heat. Doesn't seem to matter what the temperature is but he does always feel very hot when he is having one. I think that's more because he is so agitated, he sweats etc.

#13 Kay1

Posted 06 May 2012 - 08:12 PM

Thanks Manlou -
Also, and I don't know if your DS is totally night-toilet trained, but his night terrors usually ended by going to the toilet. I wonder then if they were started by the urge to go but that urge meaning he wasn't getting a full round in a sleep cycle. So it might help to make sure his bladder is empty before bed, just in case.

He TTed at night at 3.5 and has never had an accident. It is sometimes triggered by needing to wee I think - so we always make him go to the toilet last thing before bed. Sometimes it does help him to do a wee when he's having a terror, other times giving him a drink helps.

#14 mumto3princesses

Posted 06 May 2012 - 08:23 PM

Oh, I think DD2's sleep walking/talking episodes are triggered by needing to go to the toilet sometimes too. If she's carrying on or wandering around rattling on about weird things I try to guide her to the toilet. She comes out with some very strange ramblings while she does though. After getting her to go I can usually get her to get back to bed. Sometimes it continues a bit but mostly she will just lie back down and settle.

With the night terrors though I found for her they got much worse if I spoke to her or touched her.

With the additives. I think there are particular ones that can possibly cause sleep problems. All the 600 numbers are good ones to try or MSG, Hydrolysed vegetable protein etc.

Edited by mumto3princesses, 06 May 2012 - 08:23 PM.

#15 wallofdodo

Posted 06 May 2012 - 08:25 PM

You say he has vitamins. I went through a period of disturbed sleep. I worked out it was because I was having a multi vitamin before bed. Apparently it is something to do with the vitamin b. I always make sure I have any vitamins before lunch.

Could it be something like that?  Good luck, Imhope you find a solution.

#16 Kay1

Posted 06 May 2012 - 08:29 PM

Yeah thanks, I thought that was it for a while. I cut the vitamins out entirely and at first the terrors stopped for a couple of nights but then came back.  He is still having the vitamins now but in the mornings after breakfast.

#17 Alacritous~Andy

Posted 06 May 2012 - 08:33 PM

I'm another who has a long personal history with night terrors and vivid nightmares.  

I think different things set them off for different people.  For me, I have found my triggers are:
- illness
- being too cold
- needing to pee
- eating or drinking too close to bedtime. I try to leave at least 3 hours between eating and bed, and no drinking 1hr before bed.  I also can't eat dessert, as I find sugar to be a particularly strong trigger.  
- getting too overtired

Other things that I found helped when I was a kid:
- white noise
- a vaporiser
- meditation cds or audiobooks (with happy stories)
- progressive muscle relaxation

#18 Beltie

Posted 06 May 2012 - 09:00 PM

Hi OP.

My DD2 had night terrors from about 9 months to 2 years old. This is early but not that rare. We couldn't get through a night without at least one screaming and thrashing episode. It was awful and exhausting. Even our nextdoor neighbour was politely exhausted by it.

PPs have covered every trigger I know. Sleep terrors lie on the sleep disturbance spectrum which ranges from teeth grinding through sleep talking, sleep walking and on to the terrors. I'm from a family of sleep walkers and talkers. I used to sleep walk nightly and still sleep talk frequently.

I took DD2 to a paediatric sleep physician in Sydney. We were referred by her paediatrician but a GP can refer. PM if you would like the name. The sleep physician is a respiratory physician with an interest in sleep disturbance. He is well respected in medical circles and I refer my patients to him now.

Treatment will vary depending on severity and the family. For example DD2 responded to a "no touch" approach meaning no bright lights, no talking, no touching during an episode. This was ok with us because she was still in a cot so relatively safe from harm. We did follow strict sleep routines to prevent overtiredness.

Good luck with it. As the specialist said to us, this is often a family problem because everyone is sleep deprived. Those who haven't seen it cannot understand how distressing it is and people find sleep problems "quirky" because they imagine the hollywood version of funny chatting while asleep or walking with your arms stuck out in front of you but with your eyes shut. The reality is scary.

#19 Kay1

Posted 06 May 2012 - 09:15 PM

Thanks Beltie I have PMed you.

#20 mokeydoke

Posted 06 May 2012 - 09:34 PM

Interesting, DS1 is the only one of my kids who grinds their teeth and the only one who has had night terrors more than once or twice.

They are horrible sad.gif

#21 Beltie

Posted 06 May 2012 - 09:52 PM

I just remembered something.

Between our 2 appointments we had to keep a sleep diary to help track the terror, the timing and duration.

We had to record all periods of wakefulness, periods in bed but not asleep, periods of sleep and periods of terror/disturbance. This was daily for 4 weeks I think. I used coloured textas on a grid with 24 boxes across representing each hour of the day. It was quite cool to see a pattern emerging. I never saw it before because DD2 had terrors at about 1-2am and I was so sleep addled I couldn't tell you my own name.

If you do go to see the specialist you could do this in advance. It would give him a good picture of your son's sleep pattern and a lot of concrete information to base his suggestions on.

#22 Kay1

Posted 07 May 2012 - 07:21 AM

Thanks, that's a great suggestion Beltie. original.gif

#23 Munchy-Chipmunk

Posted 07 May 2012 - 10:58 PM

Sorry I can't offer any advice but I am sitting here on the verge of crying as I just watched my 7.5yr old again have another terror.  DH is away and normally calms him down but tonight I had to do it.  I read all the comments about not touching them but I can't not do anything.   sad.gif

I just searched on EB and found your thread OP.  I think I am going to start a food diary and see if that can give us any clues. He clutches his stomach all the time and is continually coughing/choking action so I am wondering if it is something to do with food.

I wish you and I both luck OP.

#24 judy_

Posted 08 May 2012 - 02:10 AM

My DS1 had night terrors for about 3 years between aged 2 and 5.  They were very predictable and always the same.  They would happen in the evening (we were usually still awake).  He would scream out in a voice that wasn't his!  he would talk in tongues and his eyes would look like he was possessed. He would shake uncontrollably. He was not awake and he was barely responsive to questions.  He could sometimes answer a simple question with yes/no but his voice was not normal.  It was like he was talking through clenched teeth.

We tried everything at the time.  Waking him, not waking him etc.  In the end we would turn the lights on, hold him, take him out of his room, put the tv on and take him to the toilet.  they would end as quickly as they would start and he would go back to sleep immediately.  But they could last 20 minutes plus.  He never ever remembered them in the morning.  They only ever happened once a night.

They would occur when he was tired and when he got hot.  They would happen for a few nights in a row and then stop for a while.  For us we would try to avoid overtiredness and he only has a light cotton doona on his bed and 100% cotton sheets and pjs.  He has always slept with a night light since the day he was born.  There may be some relation to needing to go to the toilet as for us the best way to end it each night was to get him to pee.

DS2 has had 2 of them in his life and he's 3.5 but his are not as bad and he is much easier to get back to sleep.


Posted 08 May 2012 - 06:16 AM

Our 18yr old used to get them and one day we realised it seemed to happen after particularly hard academic days at school. By that I mean days where she had been concentrating too hard on things like tests. With her we would turn the hallway light on to put just a small amount of light into her room and then talk softly to her about the dogs and different things and she would eventually calm down and just go back to a peacefull sleep.

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