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phoenyx's avatar

How can I help my daughter who keeps waking up scared in the middle of the night?

Asked by phoenyx (7380points) February 24th, 2008

I have a three-year-old daughter who has started waking up abruptly in the middle of the night. She’ll be screaming and confused and can’t be reasoned with. If I try to hold her she reacts by punching and kicking. Right now I just try to talk to her soothingly until she calms down, which usually takes about five minutes or more. After that she either goes to the bathroom or just falls back asleep. I’m a deep sleeper so I’ve only experienced this a few times, but I think my wife deals with this about 3–4 times a week.

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5 Answers

sndfreQ's avatar

Ah yes…night terrors. My son has these too around the same age-I believe it’s normal and occurs around that age (3-ish) and could be related to (normal) brain develoment and psychology. It was kind of scary with my youngest son as he would throw major fits and really was inconsolable-I remember on one particular ‘lovely’ evening, my wife and I trying to talk him down from a tantrum-like frienzy, and we had ended up on the kitchen floor trying to give him water from a sippy cup, only to be doused by his throwing the cup through the air at us. I swear it was like Damian from The Omen!

After a bi of reading up we learned that he was actually still in a dream state, but that it seemed like he was awake from his energy and intensity. The best thing to do is to keep her safe from harming herself (if she wants to wander from her room), and to keep a water by the bed. Also night lights may not be enough as they get disoriented from the darkness, maybe try keeping table lamps on in the rooms at night. The other big one for us was the manner and method/routine for putting our sons to bed. The imagery from some bedtime stories/books may be intense, as can be with watching television at night. These are but a few suggestions based on personal experience (our eldest son never had these issues btw, and slept through younger one’s tirades!). There are other things to look out for, but you may want to seek the advice of your (daughter’s) pediatrician, as other factors may be involved (e.g. food allergies). Good luck and take turns handling it with wifey…we feel your pain ;)

sndfreQ's avatar

Speaking of the devil…my son just woke up too-similar but mild this time…while laying in his bed to get him back down I found this .this site is informational and not to be considered professional medical advice, but the guy who created it apparently is a life-long sufferer of this-also from reading this site there are a lot of sleep disorders (parasombnias) that are pointed out. An interesting read (I found it from a reference link on wiki).

ironhiway's avatar

A couple more links dealing more with children, In the, what to do part they advise not trying to wake the child up durring the event. And as sndfreQ pointed out keeping the child safe and checking with the child’s doctor.

http://pediatrics.about.com/cs/sleep/a/night_terrors.htm
http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/children/parents/common/common/566.html

Charlie's avatar

I am 66 years old and I still have this problem. It is a dream of fear of the unknown. Mine is a gray cloud that comes at me, that to me, is evil, sinister. I can’t find anything that I can relate it to but it started with me when I was about 4–5 years old and have lived with it since. My MOM said it has to do with something that shocked me, an incident, that I didn’t like and never accepted. Yet, I have no idea what it could have been. I would say that since this is youth, to sit down and talk, try to find what the fear is, the cause of it. It may be some small thing as mine is, yet who really knows the mind. It could be a fear of the dark or the fear of falling asleep without knowing it. I would say, and I don’t know, but it is, at this age, a fear of the unknown that causes this. Alot of kids have this. The fear of going to sleep which a person told me was a relation to dying if one can’t handle the sleep, secumbing(sp), to sleep.
Hope this helps

blueberryme's avatar

My boyfriend’s daughter was experiencing some fear at night time and nightmares. Father and daughter discussed what was frightening her (ghosts, I believe) and what she felt would scare the scarer (tigers, I believe). He then made her a night shirt with a tiger on it, and she slept much better, feeling protected and empowered. Excellent! However, if your child is experiencing night terrors and/or is not able to think through what causes her fears and what might help, this might not be a useful avenue for you. Good luck! It’s a heck of a thing for everybody involved.

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