General Question

fluthernutter's avatar

Why does this work?

Asked by fluthernutter (6323points) March 15th, 2012 from iPhone

My two-year-old sometimes has night terrors on days when she takes short naps (less than one hour).

My pediatrician recommended that we wake her up an hour after she falls asleep. This seems to work. But it’s not entirely foolproof.

Sometimes the night terrors come as early as 45 minutes into her falling asleep. Other times, we think we woke her up. But sometimes shaking her shoulder gently and saying her name isn’t enough.

I’ve figured out a new method that works pretty well. Instead of trying to wake her (which, at times, can seem pretty rude), I play some music about 45 minutes after she falls asleep.

Why does this work?
Why does waking her also work?

I suspect it has something to do with her REM cycle?

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9 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

Music you hear while asleep gets incorporated into your dream and actually shapes the dream. Just a few nights ago, I had the Detective Conan soundtrack running while sleeping, and I had a dream about Sherlock Holmes.

funkdaddy's avatar

Hopefully you get some good answers here.

To get things started, I’d say vivid dreams generally occur either when you’re falling into “real” sleep or when you’re half awake and not quite up yet. 45 minutes sounds about right from when you lay her down until she gets fully asleep, so that’s when she’s in that first transitional period.

Waking her up just a little bit would kind of shake her out of that first initial sleep or give her a point of reference in the real world. Kind of like when you notice something off just enough in a dream that you realize you’re dreaming. Or how it takes you a few seconds to figure out if someone really just knocked on your door, or you dreamed it.

I would imagine music would work the same way, but might be less effective as she gets used to it.

Once she’s asleep, she’s out, so while she dreams they aren’t the same vivid dreams that you generally remember. I have no idea why “bad” dreams would be less likely in the morning, but I would imagine we’re less likely to have nightmares when we’re well rested or when it’s light out.

JLeslie's avatar

You are interferring with her dream state probably, which is not necessarily a good thing, unless I assume she is returning right back to sleep and still experience deep sleep, which is needed for good health. The music might be interrupting her dream state also. Children spend a long time in deep sleep, longer than most adults, I am not sure how much dreaming happens during that time. For sure we cycle through the stages of sleep several times a night, so waking her after she has fallen asleep, does nothing I would think for when she is in the same sleep stage later in the night. But, it seems you only do it for middle of the day naps?

Maybe @funkdaddy is right that bad dreams are more likely in the first hours of sleep? I have no idea.

funkdaddy's avatar

I may have misunderstood. My understanding was the terrors happen at night, on days where she hasn’t had her usual naps or they’ve been shorter than usual? Rereading the question, it could be that the terrors happen during the naps?

fluthernutter's avatar

@ragingloli I do remember incorporating real life sounds into my dreams. But night terrors are not the same thing as nightmares. Still trying to figure out how it affects night terrors…

@funkdaddy So the music is helping her adjust to the next cycle of sleep by giving her a point of reference somehow? Hmmm…interesting idea.

@JLeslie This only happens at night. When we rouse her, she goes right back to sleep (for the rest of the night). When we play music, she doesn’t wake up at all. Yes! We cycle through these stages several times a night, that’s partially why I don’t understand why this works! Maybe what @funkdaddy said about vivid dreams happening early on?

fluthernutter's avatar

Googling some more. Looks like it has more to do with slow-wave sleep than transitioning into REM. That explains why just rousing her once works.

Still don’t understand why scheduled awakenings or music works. Especially since some articles recommend keeping the room quiet and reducing external stimuli?


cazzie's avatar

My son had night terrors and I cut out all fake vanilla and it helped. If you daughter eats cookies or cereal with vanillin in it, you may want to try cutting this out of her diet. I am not sure how I came across the information about the vanillin but when I discovered they were looking at it as a drug to help with Parkinsons, I realised that it must have some affect on the brain.

He now tries to have lucid dreams, but it doesn’t always work. He is 7 and has seemed to grown out of his vanillin sensitivity, but when he was younger it was horrible.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@fluthernutter This happened with our son, as well. Yes, rousing the child will help. I’ve had to do this for children in my care in the past, too. Why it works: as I recall it disrupts the disruptive dream state sleep pattern.

What we did with our son was a bit different. Instead, since his were happening so frequently, we had him fall asleep on the couch (he was afraid to sleep alone due to the bad dreams he was experiencing). Then, I’d wake him up after a ½ hour, have him try potty again, then put him to bed. It worked. After a couple of weeks, we had zero incidence of terrors.

We only eat organic foods, and have cut out all intolerant foods. You may want to keep a food/activity journal. We find our son’s sleep is better quality when he has a good workout (we call it a hop, skip, run, walk…which is just what it sounds like, for about 20–30 minutes around the neighborhood park trails).

He also takes Melatonin prior to bed and has done so since age 4.

If you haven’t already done so, cut out food, TV and any major stimuli at least one hour prior to bedtime.

Like @ragingloli I highly recommend either soothing music or a meditation CD for children. (we have a collection of these that we use prior to bed and certain CDs/songs are used for falling asleep to).

fluthernutter's avatar

@cazzie and @SpatzieLover I hadn’t thought about diet. I’ll have to look into that some more. Thanks!

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