Jun 12, 2011

Night terrors

Baby-boy has been experiencing night terrors. Not often. About once a month or so, since his birth. They occur in the early part of the night. He wakes up screaming - not just any kind of scream, but the type you might hear when someone is being stabbed. That kind of scream. Utterly terrifying. 

When it happens, I get the shock of my life. My adrenaline shoots through the roof. While still half-groggy, I shoot out of my bed to run over to his crib. He's clearly still asleep but all the while screaming his head off. Sometimes his eyes are open. When I pick him up, however, it's clear he's still asleep because his body is entirely floppy. He seems to feel comforted when I pick him up and after half a minute or so, he calms down enough for me to put him back to sleep. It's as if nothing ever happened. For him at least.

Me, I am still trembling at that point. We had one of those terrors last night. And since his lung capacity is now much bigger, the screams are even more jarring. Needless to say, I was very shaken and had difficulty getting back to sleep. I kept checking on him every 10 minutes to see if he was alright. As far as baby-boy was concerned, he went back to his regular sleep schedule, and even had a longer sleeping stretch than usual in the latter half of the night.

So this morning I scoured the internet for information on night terrors in young babies. Experts disagree. Apparently, they used to think babies couldn't dream (idiotic - in fact, babies already experience REM sleep while still in the womb). Some also say that night terrors don't occur until a child is about 2 or 3 years old. Again, this seems wrong. Clearly, my little one isn't experiencing a regular nightmare from which he wakes up and doesn't want to sleep again. This is very different, and very much follows the pattern of a night terror. Other experts and mommy blogs confirm that night terrors are indeed possible in newborns, but only happen to about 5% of babies.

While terrifying, I'm glad to know that these don't seem to be a cause of, or cause, psychological distress. Rather, sleep deprivation appears to be an indicator. I'm inclined to believe the latter is true, since baby-boy didn't have that many naps yesterday. So now, I'm trying to make sure he gets enough naps during the day time!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Judith,
    Braden has these too. They don't occur regularly, and sometimes they're mild, but other times he is screaming his head off all while still asleep. He's had them since he was about 6-8 months old. He goes months without them, then they come back for no apparent reason. Ray's brother also had them, as did one of my nephews. They have both outgrown it, so there is hope that soon I won't be startled out of a sound deep anymore. Hang in there. You're not alone.