Baby Night Terrors?
You asked and you shall now receive. It’s only fair for us to share all of this stored up knowledge about a baby and what happens once the baby is born until they are no longer called a baby but a toddler! We now will answer, in a very public forum, all of those burning questions about babies and those first 12 months. Each Tuesday, we will tackle a commonly-asked-question from the point of view of a new parent. Chiming in to give her feedback will be an expert who has been there and done that as well as has oodles of professional experience with babies. Earmark, share and add your own input to today’s question; it’s good karma.
My baby cries out at night and I think he is having night terrors? What are they and how do I know?
Toddlers and preschool aged children can have two types of sleep disturbance:
- Night terrors
Nightmares which occur in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep stage are when a child has “bad dreams” which a child wakes up frightened and scared because of something they dreamed and can often remember such monster dream, etc. When nightmares happen children are usually consolable with your reassurance and comfort after a few minutes. Once they realize they are safe with their parent a child will calm down and fall back to sleep.
Night terrors are different. When toddlers or preschoolers have night terrors they wake up screaming and shouting and are inconsolable for 15 minutes or more. Children often sit upright screaming and are not responsive to your presence or your attempts to comfort your child. Your child’s heart rate can increase, she may breathe rapidly or sweat. Although your child’s eyes may be wide open they are still asleep in deep non-REM sleep. No amount of affection, comfort or talking calms a child when night terrors happen for at least 10 or 15 minutes.
There are different stages of sleep when a toddler or preschooler sleeps. There is REM sleep where there is rapid eye movement. This is where most dreaming takes place including nightmares. Night terrors are what pediatricians describe as physiologically based and happen during non-REM sleep. Night terrors are when your child body reacts with fear and fright physiologically when there is a transition from non-REM sleep to REM sleep. Usually this transition is easy and trouble free.
However there are times during toddlerhood and preschool when a child may have had a stressful event such as an illness or hospitalization, sleep deprivation, fever, etc which can trigger a child to have night terrors. When children recover and calm down from a night terror they have no memory of what happened except maybe a sense of fear. They will have no memory of the event when they wake up the next morning.
Expert: Dr. Gina Lamb – Amato MD
Gina is a general pediatrician and developmental pediatrician who works at Village Pediatrics and Agho Medical practices both in Manhattan, NY. She has a masters in child therapy and works with a child psychologist Rosa Vasquez PhD performing office and home consultation for newborns and parents, office and home developmental assessments, school consultations and parent child playgroups where play and art along with baby massage and other techniques are used to help parents bond and support their child’s development. Formerly, Gina was the Director of Pediatric Special Medical Needs before she went into private practice where she cared for medically fragile infants and children. She is also a Early Intervention Pediatrician for Early Intervention which assesses and treats infants from age zero to 3 years. She has extensive experience in Early Head Start programs which work with infants from prenatal to 3 years of age. She is the mother of a beautiful daughter who is 3 years old and the joy of my life. Her husband is an artist, producer and owns Synchronicity Space, a non-profit arts organization that supports emerging artist in fine art and theatre. Finally, she is also an artist who paints mainly babies and children.