I’m running on fumes today. My almost 15 month old, who has been sleeping through the night for a while now woke up screaming and thrashing her body around at 3 a.m.

I’ve seen it before.

All my kids have had night terrors.

Night terrors are not the same as nightmares. With a nightmare, a child knows she’s scared. She is glad when you comfort her. During a night terror, the child never really wakes up and is impossible to console.

I held my baby for the better part of an hour while she scratched at my face, arched her back, and screamed. I was sure the entire neighborhood thought I was torturing her. At some point, she calmed down and just continued sleeping. She didn’t really go back to sleep because she never really woke up at all. Her eyes were closed the entire time.

The next morning she is as happy as can be while I’m rethinking my personal ban on caffeine.

happy baby

The next day she is all smiles.

I remember the first time my oldest son had a night terror. I was distraught that I couldn’t calm him down. I thought he must have been in pain. I’ve since learned, as each of my other children have experienced the same thing, that night terrors are just something you have to wait out.

I hold my kids through night terrors, mostly because it makes me feel better. Unlike nightmares, kids don’t remember night terrors the next day (although my toddler is still too young to tell me what she remembers). They are harder on the parent than the child.

For my kids, the only thing that seems to help is to hold them until they calm down. I keep the lights off so they don’t wake up all the way and have trouble going to sleep. They seem to experience more night terrors when they haven’t gotten enough sleep – young kids need upwards of ten hours of sleep a night. I do what I can to prevent them and do my best to make it through each night terror as it happens. In ten years of parenting I haven’t found a better solution than to simply survive them.

Have your kids ever experienced night terrors? How do you handle them?  

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