Things you don’t know about parenting until you try it Number 63: Night Terrors.

2012-11-06-153One of the surrealist things about having kids is night terrors.

McMini is getting over a sick bug and has a slight temperature so it was pretty much a given that he’d have one. They are also more likely to happen to very active children and McMini is extremely active. He started crying in that certain way and I went upstairs and found him sitting in bed shaking with fear, sobbing his eyes out and staring at something only he could see. Normally I talk to him, sometimes he responds, sometimes I just sit with him to make sure he’s OK and reassure him when he wakes up.

“Mummy…” crying.
“It’s alright mate,” doing the special calm voice, “I’m here. What’s up?”
“Where am I?”
“You’re in bed. Are you scared?”
“Yes,” sobbing, “but Mummy, can’t you see them?”
“The Power Rangers lined up in front of the curtains.”
“I’m afraid I can’t.”
“Why not?” still sobbing.
“Because you’re asleep mate and I’m not in the dream with you.”
“Yeh. It’s OK you’ll wake up in a minute.”
“Will I?”
“Yes. Are you scared.”
“I’m not surprised, I would be too but don’t worry, you’re just having a night terror. Would it help to sit on my lap until you wake up?”
“Yes please.”
McSmall climbs on lap.
“What’s a night terror?”
“A very vivid type of dream. I still get them sometimes. Mine are when I can see the room I’m in but I hear a noise which I know is not real (but is still very scary). To be honest you probably won’t remember this when you wake up. Do you want a drink of water?”
“No thanks.”
“Sure? It’d be nice and cold on your throat, might wake you sooner.”
A beat. McMini stops sobbing abruptly.
“What are you doing here?”
“Ah, have you just woken up?”
“Yes. Why am I on your lap?”
“You got on here.”
“I don’t remember.”
“That’s OK, you wouldn’t you were asleep. You’ve just had a night terror that’s all. D’you remember what you were dreaming about?”
“Well, it sounded very exciting because while you were asleep you told me it had power rangers in it.”
“D’you want to hop back into bed now?”
“Yes please.”
“Right o.”
I hug him and give him a kiss.
“Night kiddo.”

Night terrors. So surreal. If you’re little one is having them fear not. I found a few things on the NHS website which helped me feel more relaxed about it so I thought I’d share them:

  1. It’s scary for sure but try not to freak out. This is easier if you can remember having them yourself. Just sit with the child, hold them if it seems to help. Speak calmly to them if it helps you – sometimes they talk back quite lucidly and calmly, even if they’re crying their eyes out.
  2. Their eyes may well be open.
  3. It’s NORMAL, don’t worry, your small one is fine. It’s basically, a normal nightmare but at a different stage of the sleep cycle.
  4. It’s tempting to wake them but most pundits agree you should let the terror run its course. It will take anything from 5 to 30 minutes if our own experience with McMini is anything to go on.
  5. They are more likely to happen when your small person is extra tired, has a fever, and is going to sleep more deeply. They can also be caused by things that are likely to wake them up, excitement or sudden noise, for example the huge firework some complete bastard let off outside our house just before tonight’s terror started.
  6. Once the attack is over, if they start sleeping peacefully again, it’s often useful to wake them as this can break the cycle and stop them having another one.


Filed under Blimey!, General Wittering

9 responses to “Things you don’t know about parenting until you try it Number 63: Night Terrors.

    • It’s very strange, isn’t it?! I would have completely freaked the first time if I didn’t have them now in a different way. I rang my Mum and she confirmed I had them that way as a nipper so I just relaxed and let McMini get on with it. The first time he was very wee and screamed for about 15 minutes. We took him downstairs and gave him a bottle of milk (used to calm him) he stopped crying, drank it all and then quite clearly woke up and gave us a look as if to say, “what the hell am I doing here?”

      It’s always easier if he talks back.



      • Yep. When my son was about four, he had a terrible one. We couldn’t wake him, and ended up at the emergency room because he screamed every time he tried to turn his head. At the time, a meningitis scare was in the news, and one of the symptoms was a painful and stiff neck, so we panicked just a bit.

        By the time he was ten, he’d transitioned to having full conversations in his sleep with whatever he was dreaming of–far preferable to the screaming!

      • It’s such a relief to read that. It’s why I posted it really, because when these things happen the first time, you’re operating in a vacuum and it’s so scary but the minute someone says, ‘oh yeh, mine did that’ everything is ok again! 😉

        Edited to add: I put the post up for that reason I mean rather than because I was hoping someone would come along and reassure me but thank you anyway!



  1. SO interesting and well written too! It brings to mind the terrors my youngest had when she had a high temperature as a little girl. I t was quite frightening for the Mum too eh?

  2. I remember having one when I was younger and suffering from tonsilitis (there were skulls all around the lounge, where I was sleeping at the time). Our daughter had the just screaming variety for a while, where we coudn’t wake her and just had to ride it out. Yet to see whether son will.
    I loved your conversation during and after! What a calm and rational parent you are!

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