When my daughter was two we went through this horrible phase of night terrors. She would wake up screaming, but she was still mostly asleep. It was such a helpless feeling as a parent, to sit there and watch her and not be able to do anything to make her better.
What a night terror looked like for her
When her night terrors started, they were pretty regular. We would be woken up to her screaming and at first, we would try to hold her and talk to her to try to get her calm. Soon we realized that when we did this she would get louder and more upset. She was mostly asleep when she had a night terror and she never remembered them the next day. After a while, she started to sleepwalk during her night terrors. She would always walk to the same spot, our back door. She would just stand there and scream.
After the night terror
Once the night terror is over then it is important to make them as comfortable as possible. My daughter was still pretty out of it after an episode but she would make requests like wanting milk, her blanket, and her monkey. We tried to have these things ready for her so that she could go right back to sleep and get some rest.
Look for patterns
I read online that night terrors can happen from stress or exhaustion. I looked back at anything stressful that could have caused her to start having night terrors. The only thing that we could think of was trying to wean her off her pacifier. After one night terror, we gave the pacifier back to her, but she was still having the night terrors after that. The night terrors started to fade after several months. She would still have them but they were less often. We noticed that the days that we had a lot going on were usually the days that were followed by a night terror. So we connected her night terrors to being overtired. We tried to make sure that she was getting plenty of sleep and if she was tired we made sure she was able to rest. She is five now and she hasn’t had a night terror in over a year.
How we coped as parents
It was very hard but all we could do was stand there, close to her, and make sure that she did not get hurt when she had an episode. I remember one night when she had a really bad episode and she was flinging herself all over the place she hit her arms and legs on the bed and the walls. I ended up moving her to the floor away from everything just so that she didn’t get hurt. It made me feel better knowing that she didn’t remember any of it and that after she was done with an episode it was over for her. I didn’t have to worry about her being upset the next day or worrying about having another one, because she had no idea what was going on. That was the thing that comforted me the most because it is honestly one of the hardest things to watch as a parent. They look so scared and upset and all you want to do is hold them and comfort them and make it all better, but you can’t.
Remember moms, this is just one phase of their childhood. It will come and it will pass and then there will be a new phase. I hope this post helps you get through those episodes that feel like they go on for hours and to let you know that you are not alone. Being a mom is the best superpower there is.
I would love to hear about your stories and how you got through the night terrors with your toddler. What things did you do to help and what things made their episodes worse?