Dealing With Infant Night Terrors
One minute your little one is sleeping peacefully like an angel, the next he or she is screaming, mumbling or thrashing about. You have probably comforted your baby after an occasional nightmare. But if your little one has ever had infant night terror, you may have experienced difficulty consoling him or her. Infant night terrors might be a little scary and heart-wrenching to witness, but they don’t hurt your little bundle of joy. When babies or toddlers undergo night terrors, parents often try to work out the possible reasons. The sight of seeing your baby distressed is not a pleasant one. Some mothers, especially first-time moms, even develop postpartum depression because of this. Lucky for you, this article will tell you everything you need to know about infant night terrors and how to effectively manage them.
What Are Infant Night Terrors?
Simply put, a night terror is a sleep disruption that occurs when your kid gets extremely agitated suddenly while in a deep state of sleep. Your baby won’t have any memory on the night terror the following day as he or she was in deep sleep when it took place. If your child has sleep terror issues, he or she is more likely to have bed-wetting and sleepwalking problems. Infant night terrors frequently take place 2-3 hours after your child falls asleep, unlike nightmares that occur in the second half of the night. Often confused with nightmares, a night terror is much more dramatic. During a night terror, your little one will be completely asleep even if they may appear and act awake. It is difficult to calm them down as they are unaware of your presence. During a night terror, your baby will sit up in his or her crib, open their eyes and cry or scream. After a few minutes, your baby will calm down and return to sleep with no memory of the incident.
What Causes Infant Night Terrors?
Infants have different sleep cycles compared to adults. Most of their sleep is in Rapid Eye Movement. REM is the phase of sleep where nightmares frequently occur. Infant night terrors are a result of over-arousal of the central nervous system during sleep. Night terrors occur during the transition from the deeper stage 3 non-REM sleep stage to hr lighter stage 4 REM sleep. A night terror episode can last from a few minutes to just about an hour.
Events That Can Trigger Night Terrors Include:
- Stress, sickness or fatigue.
- Too much caffeine.
- Lack of good-quality sleep.
- Taking a new medicine that affects the central nervous system.
- Anesthesia from a recent surgery.
- Overfull bladder.
- Sleeping in a completely new environment.
Should I Be Worried?
Studies link infant night terrors with concepts of fantasy and imagination. These two factors are vital in an infant’s life. It is worth mentioning that though upsetting, night terrors are usually a harmless phase of your little one’s life. They don’t reflect mental or emotional problems in your little one. Nor are they an indicator that your child will experience problems in future. Worrying too much on what could go wrong can lead to postpartum depression.
Which Age Group Has More Risk Of Experiencing Night Terrors?
Statistically, night terrors only affect 3-6 percent of children. The age group most affected by nightmares is children aged between 2 -6 years (40 percent). Babies as young as a year and a half old have been reported to undergo infant night terrors. This disorder usually stops before adolescence. Boys are more likely to experience a night terror when compared to girls the same age. Night terrors can be hereditary. If a family member has experienced night terrors (sleepwalking or sleep-talking), your baby may inherit a tendency for them. Your little one can have one night terror or a couple of them before they stop. On many occasions, the night terrors stop on their own with the development and maturity of the nervous system.
Signs and Symptoms of Infant Night Terrors
- Kicking and thrashing.
- Scared facial expressions.
- Bolting upright in bed.
- Not responding or recognizing you when you speak to them.
- Screaming or shouting in distress.
- Wetting the bed.
- Heavy breathing (tachypnea) and a racing pulse (tachycardia).
- Staring wide-eyed with no expression.
- Getting from the bed and moving uncontrollably.
- Throwing things.
- Being inconsolable and any other aggressive behavior.
Dealing with Night Terrors
There are conflicting ideas in different parenting forums on how parents should manage infant night terrors. Some experts argue that the baby needs to be gently woken, reassured and soothed back to sleep. Others insist that the parent being in the same room as the child is enough to ensure that they don’t hurt themselves. The feeling of helplessness when you can’t comfort your baby can upset you. We did extensive research to present to you medically proven ways of dealing with infant night terrors. First of all, do not panic. Waking your child during a night terror is not advisable as it confuses and disorients them, and they may need more time to settle back to sleep. A good trick is waiting for them to stop thrashing around and guiding them back to bed. The best way to deal with night terrors in infants is to avert the causes. There is no cure for infant night terrors, but you can prevent them by following the home remedies below:
- Establish a simple and relaxing bedtime routine (bath, bedtime story, and bed).
- Ensure your little one gets enough sleep.
- Look for ways to reduce your baby’s stress.
- Don’t let your little one stay up too late.
- Get rid of all sources of sleep disturbance.
- Avoid giving your child caffeine.
- Let your child sleep after a visit to the toilet.
- Use a dim nightlight.
- Ensure your child is not fatigued.
If your baby experiences a night terror around the same time every night, you can try waking them gently up minutes before then to determine whether this can help prevent future night terrors. This remedy is referred to as scheduled awakening. The recommended time to do scheduled awakening is 15-20 minutes before your kid usually has a night terror. When done repeatedly over time, your little one may learn to wake up on his or her own to avert the night terror.
When to See a Doctor?
If infant night terrors persist even after trying the remedies discussed above, consult with your pediatrician or sleep specialist. Don’t develop postpartum depression because of infant night terrors. During the pediatrician’s evaluation, he or she will be able to exclude other possible disorders that might cause night terrors in your child. Before making a doctor’s appointment, make a list of the symptoms you witnessed and all medication you child is taking. Conclusion Understanding how to deal with night terrors can give you much-needed peace of mind, and allow you to have a good night sleep yourself.
Has your child experienced infant night terror? How did you manage it? Keep the discussion going by sharing your experience in the comments below.
Until Next Time-