Baby Q&A Could it be night ter­rors?

Your Baby & Toddler - - Contents -

Q:My 18-month-old daugh­ter started sleep­ing through at around 11 months and used to be a very good sleeper. But for the past two weeks she has been wak­ing up at least two to three times a night, scream­ing in­con­solably, re­fus­ing to take the dummy and get back into her cot. Could this be the start of night­mares or night ter­rors, or is it just a nor­mal phase for her age?

A:Ann Richard­son re­sponds:

It cer­tainly sounds like your lit­tle one may be suf­fer­ing from night ter­rors. These ter­rors should not be con­fused with bad dreams (or night­mares) and they ac­tu­ally oc­cur when a child is in a deep sleep.

They are dif­fer­ent to night­mares in that the child wakes up (usu­ally scream­ing), look­ing ter­ri­fied and anx­ious and is ut­terly in­con­solable.

There is not much you can do for your child at this time other than hold­ing her tightly and re­as­sur­ing her that you are there when she wakes up. You may have to en­sure she is fully awake be­fore you at­tempt to calm her down. Stay calm, sing a re­as­sur­ing lul­laby and sit it out. Most night ter­rors sub­side af­ter a few min­utes, but may oc­cur more than once a night.

Re­search has shown that night ter­rors are com­mon in chil­dren with ab­nor­mal sleep sched­ules, so try to en­cour­age a day­time nap, move her bed­time ear­lier and avoid ex­ces­sive stim­u­la­tion and sen­sory over­load dur­ing the day, par­tic­u­larly in the evenings be­fore bed­time.

It is also im­por­tant to bear in mind that 18 months of age is a peak time for sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety, so try to spend some ex­tra time with her dur­ing the day dur­ing this phase.

Night­mares are dif­fer­ent to night ter­rors in that you can eas­ily com­fort your child af­ter she’s had a night­mare, and of­ten they don’t even wake up fully from sleep dur­ing a night­mare. They oc­cur when we dream dur­ing the light sleep cy­cle of sleep and are part of nor­mal sleep.

They are usu­ally a pass­ing phase and have no last­ing ef­fect on your child – nor are they as­so­ci­ated with any spe­cific emo­tional prob­lems. YB

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