Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Night Terrors

I know this is long but I wanted you to know what night terrors are. Marians screaming at night isn't a result of "Steve." At least I don't think.

Within fifteen minutes of your child's  falling asleep, she will probably enter her deepest sleep of the night. This period of slow wave sleep, or deep non-REM sleep, will typically last from forty-five to seventy-five minutes. At this time, most children will transition to a lighter sleep stage or will wake briefly before returning to sleep. Some children, however, get stuck -- unable to completely emerge from slow wave sleep. Caught between stages, these children experience a period of partial arousal.

Partial arousal states are classified in three categories: 1) sleep walking, 2) confusional arousal, and 3) true sleep terrors. These are closely related phenomena that are all part of the same spectrum of behavior.

When most people (including the popular press and popular parenting literature) speak of sleep terrors, they are generally referring to what are called confusional arousals by most pediatric sleep experts (Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine in the Child, by Ferber and Kryger). Confusional arousals are quite common, taking place in as many as 15% of toddler and pre-school children. They typically occur in the first third of the night on nights when the child is over-tired, or when the sleep-wake schedule has been irregular for several days.

A confusional arousal begins with the child moaning and moving about. It progresses quickly to the child crying out and thrashing wildly. The eyes may be open or closed, and perspiration is common. The child will look confused, upset, or even "possessed" (a description volunteered by many parents). Even if the child does call out her parents' names, she will not recognize them. She will appear to look right through them, unable to see them. Parental attempts to comfort the child by holding or cuddling tend to prolong the situation. Typically a confusional arousal will last for about ten minutes, although it may be as short as one minute, and it is not unusual for the episode to last for a seemingly eternal forty minutes.

During these frightening episodes, the child is not dreaming and typically will have no memory of the event afterwards (unlike a nightmare). If any memory persists, it will be a vague feeling of being chased, or of being trapped. The event itself seems to be a storm of neural emissions in which the child experiences an intense flight or fight sensation. A child usually settles back to quiet sleep without difficulty

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Marian has what are called true sleep terrors. The fun part of when she has them she doesn't have to be at home. We've been in hotel rooms and had them happen. Now that's what I call fun. Someone always calls the management and then in turn management comes to our room. Sound like fun? Like a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
Once we were at my aunt and uncle's. She started really screaming there. My uncle ran to where she was sleeping sure that someone had gotten in her room and was brutally stabbing her. I had already got her but couldn't calm her down. Oh the joy. The next morning none of knew what to say to each other. I apologised profusely. We were very embarrassed even though there wasn't anything we could have done.
To this day she still has them every now and again. We try to keep her schedule consistent and when she is over tired I try to sleep close by her. We have come to realize that if I can catch her right as she is first going into a terror and I rub her arm or back etc and speak calmly and softly to her it snaps her out of it.But sometimes you just don't know.
What I do know is this. In twenty two years I don't think I've slept seven full nights. Kids....Posted by Picasa


KimberlyDi said...

I sleep walk. :)

Stacy D. Briefing said...

Much sympathy. For both of you. Her for her terrors. You for your sleepless nights.

Our youngest's Autism used to cause sever meltdowns. Often in public. Mind blowing screaming and trying to run away if a noise startled him- THAT is a lot of fun to deal with too. People thinking your child is misbehaved or that your a stranger trying to kidnap him. So, I can kind of relate... Poke ya in the eye with a stick indeed! LOL!