Terror in the Night

by The Momma on September 12, 2011

We’ve been really lucky, for the most part, with the Noodle’s sleep. Beyond the typical disturbances during illnesses or teething, or a developmental or growth spurt, we’ve *mostly* had a good sleeper.

With one exception.

F*#K!NG night terrors.

The Noodle has had night terrors for a while. From what I can gather, for him they’re from being overtired–if he hasn’t napped well that day, if he did too much, if he didn’t sleep well the night before. We can usually count on them on daycare days, as well as days when his normal schedule gets truly out of whack. That’s not to say they’re routine, but there are usually some warning signs. If you’ve never had to deal with them, you’re lucky, because they’re pretty heartbreaking.

They’re also creepy as hell.

See, the thing with night terrors is that your kid can seem like he’s awake, even though he’s totally not. So, you come into the room because of the heartbreaking screams, and you’re faced with this zombie looking kid. Eyes open, glowing by the light of the nightlight. Looking AT you, but not seeing. For the Noodle, he’s usually sitting up, ramrod straight in the middle of his bed, facing the door, eyes open and screaming.

Seriously, it’s creepy.

Then, you face the decision of what to do. Most of the advice I’ve read has said not to pick up or hold a kid who’s having a night terror. My kid seems to scream with less intensity when I *DO* hold him, so that’s usually the way I deal with them. But that means that I have to deal with a thrashing, screaming, zombie baby. Who’s looking at me with his unseeing eyes.


Luckily night terrors don’t last too long–20 to 30 minutes seems to be the longest for us–and they don’t really affect his sleep once he’s through them. He doesn’t seem to have any recollection of them in the morning either. He’s fine once he’s got a decent night’s sleep. It’s just me who’s traumatized.


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jamie September 12, 2011 at 11:58 am

EEEK! We have a zombie-kid, too! Is she possessed?!!??!?! My 4yo just started having them a month or so ago. She cries out, “Oh no, Mommy! Oh, no! Oh, nooooo!” and it breaks my heart every time. We’ve concluded that she has them on days she doesn’t nap, which is more often than not lately, so at least they’re predictable. We pick her up, take her to the bathroom, and sit her on the potty. She generally wakes up mid-pee and is right as rain and the night terror ends after 3-5 minutes (and she never remembers a thing). We were getting used to this until…


That’s right, she was sitting on the toilet when she suddenly spewed everywhere (praise the LORD this happened in the bathroom). She woke up 5 minutes later while lying on her back in the bathtub, no idea that she threw up (and we knew if we told her she’d freak. She HATES vomit). She just thought she was taking a relaxing bath.

So that was it for me. We decided we needed to find some way of making this stop. I read somewhere that if you can figure out how long it takes from the time your child falls asleep to the time they have night terrors, you can wake them up during this deep sleep and it might disrupt their sleep pattern enough to keep them from having the night terror. We have been waking our 4yo about 45 minutes after she falls asleep on “night terror night” and taking her to the bathroom and I’m pleased to report IT WORKS!!! The only time she’s had a night terror since we’ve started this is when my husband woke her a but too late and the moment her eyes opened she was in the night terror already.

Good luck, fellow Zombie-Child Parent!


The Momma September 12, 2011 at 10:40 pm


I seriously should never complain about night terrors again. I mean, talk about creepy and horrifying. You have my sympathy for having to endure that!

Although, I must admit it cracks me up that she woke up thinking she was taking a bath.


TechyDad September 12, 2011 at 12:47 pm

NHL had a period of night terrors. We quickly learned that we needed to take him out of bed to the bathroom during these because he’d go from night-terror kid to peeing night-terror kid. Also, the change of scenery helped break the night-terror. (Maybe it was the light in the bathroom going on.)

Lately, NHL’s been sleep walking. He wakes up, gets out of bed and goes to the bathroom. But if you talk with him, it becomes obvious that he’s still asleep (notwithstanding the fact that his eyes are open). Last night, after I guided him out of our bedroom and into the bathroom (whew!), he mentioned being scared. I asked him why and he said something like “you know that thing that babies do at the end?” Didn’t make sense to us either. At that point, I just reassured him that he was safe and all was well and he fell back asleep.

(I have a history of sleep walking, so he probably takes after me. Just one more thing that can be blamed on me! ;-) )


The Momma September 12, 2011 at 10:43 pm

So far, taking him to another room doesn’t really help, but your story makes me wonder if the bathroom thing might come into play when we start potty training him. Since he’s still in diapers, who knows if he’s peeing or not, but later…that could get messy.


Kate September 13, 2011 at 6:11 pm

eegads! These sounds terrible. I know that the occasional time that Beckett wakes up with a nightmare is enough to make you sit up ramrod straight in bed with a pounding heart. I can’t imagine having the zombie-like state mixed in, too. You totally have my sympathy.


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