When my son was ten months old he woke us up, screaming. I rushed to his side to comfort him believing he was just having a nightmare. I was horrified to find him crawling around his crib, banging his head on the railings. I picked him up so he would not hurt himself, but the screaming continued for another 20 minutes. I was unable to wake him up from his nightmare. Then, just as suddenly as it had begun, the screaming stopped and my son went back to sleep.
The screaming, of course, had awakened my other child who my husband went to put back to sleep. Needless to say nobody got a good night’s sleep that night. Slowly, I fell back to sleep wondering what had caused my young son to have such a nightmare. And, like most parents, we didn’t give it a lot of thought the next day. Little did we know we were about to embark on a wild ride that would last for five years.
The screaming spells happened every night for a week. They usually began about two hours after my son went to sleep and I always found him banging his head on the crib railings. I knew it was time to call our pediatrician. As soon as I described what was happening she informed me that my son was suffering from night terrors which are different from nightmares.
The pediatrician was unable to answer my questions so I turned to the internet. I was dismayed to see that there was no treatment for night terrors but every site stated that children typically outgrow the condition on their own. Not content to sit and wait for that happen, I began to keep a daily journal to determine a pattern. There was none. I would have to wait.
For the first three years after the night terrors began, they occurred almost every night. We developed a regular routine. I would make a small bed of soft blankets for him on the floor where he could not hurt himself. When he woke up screaming, I would place him in the bed and lay down next to him on the floor. At age three the night terrors decreased to three to four times a week. However, he had started walking in his sleep so we installed a baby gate in the hallway to prevent him from getting outside. Yes, he was fully capable of unlocking and opening doors. By the time he turned four the night terrors only occurred once in a while.
I finally began to allow myself to hope that the night terrors would stop altogether. I got my wish. By the age of six my son no longer had night terrors. For the first time in many years I did not have to worry whether I would be awakened in the night by those blood-curdling screams. We were all free.