Monday, September 27, 2010

Night Terrors

Anyone out there know anything about night terrors? Not just nightmares, but night terrors. Two different things, but I'm having an issue figuring out if we're experiencing one or the other or neither. We had a rough night last night. I feel a little bad about that because I feel like Jacob's weekend sleeping played right into it. We drove to Buffalo at 11:15 on Friday night, and while Jacob slept through the whole thing, I can't imagine all of the activity getting into the car seat, traveling, and getting out of the car seat didn't disturb him a little bit. He napped well on Saturday but had a heck of a time going to bed that night and was up bright and early on Sunday. Sunday's napping was screwy, with about 30-45 minutes around 11am (part of which was spent dozing off in a Target shopping cart), and an hour or so on the way back to Rochester in the car from about 4 to 5pm. He went to bed at a decent time, but was restless around 10pm. He said his feet hurt and I wondered if they had fallen asleep and felt prickly to him. I had him stand up for a few minutes and he seemed better. But then he woke up two other times, once at 11:30 and then again at 1:30, I think. Both times he was inconsolable and rather incoherent. We'd go in and hold him, rock him try to talk to him, and he just cried. Hard. Sometimes it sounded like he was trying to talk, but it was just babble...nothing coherent. After about 15 minutes the first time, he seemed to finally get to a point where he could communicate that he was scared and wanted to come sleep in our bed. At that point I figured it might be the only thing that would work (I remember being scared by bad dreams as a kid. Even now I'm grateful I can roll over and hug someone), and I really thought he would actually sleep instead of tossing and turning. And he did. And an hour later when I woke up I carried him back to his room.

An hour after that, it happened again. Same inconsolable crying, same incoherent babbling, same inability to get an answer from him about whether he was in pain, scared, or what. I ended up giving him a little Tylenol just in case, which was a challenge in itself, and then tried rocking him more. In the back of my mind both times, I kept thinking, "If this is a night terror, they always say that it's best to leave them alone. They don't remember it, and trying to interact with them can make it worse." So since what I was doing wasn't working, I put him down in his crib. And suddenly he quieted down, rolled over, and was out. Ummmm....o-kay.

But I'm having a few issues here. This isn't the first time this has happened, and every time it seems to go similarly. Normally if Jacob's crying in the middle of the night, our arrival in his room calms him down almost immediately. In this case, it's as if we're not even there. Holding him does nothing, the sound of our voices is useless. Standing, sitting and rocking have no impact. Nothing works. He's not violent or anything, but he is usually pretty squirmy. That seems to indicate a sleep terror. But the fact that he sometimes does start responding seems to go against the usual sudden return to sleep that I read about with night terrors, but I guess we could just be waking him up. When he finally does become a little more coherent, it's still more of a gradual thing than I'd expect from the usual "night terror" descriptions. It's hard to tell if he remembers the events (they're not supposed to remember night terrors), because sometimes I wonder if we're asking him loaded questions that lead him to answer one way or another. He's a little younger than most kids that have night terrors, and his episodes seem to happen later in the night than they should. The experts say that they usually happen early in the night, 90 minutes after falling asleep. Last night was an exception, as the 11:30 occurrence was within that time frame if we count from when he would have officially fallen back asleep after his 10pm wakeup. But often they've happened later in the night...but perhaps he had wakeups then too that I didn't remember or take into consideration when calculating the 90 minutes. But all I know is that he's not himself when he does this, and it's scary.

If it is night terrors, then obviously something is stressing him enough to cause them. Lack of sleep? Something we're doing? Something related to his tendency to hit me? Day care? His insane obsession with sports? He comes from two worriers, so I guess he comes by whatever it is honestly. If it isn't a night terror and just a nightmare, I'm concerned about what would distress him so much that he'd have such a hardcore reaction to it. What is he experiencing in his daily life that would haunt him in his sleep? But then again, maybe it's neither. I'm afraid that he's in some sort of pain and can't tell us, either because he's too tired or can't describe it yet. He's done teething, but maybe there's something else that only bothers him at night. I remember having growing pains and things like that, so maybe it's that. Or something else entirely. But what?

One of the things I'm really perplexed by is how we should handle this. Eventually we can go to the doctor and ask their official opinion, but without a sleep study I don't think there's any way to know for sure. And considering that we're usually half awake when we run to check on him in the middle of the night, it is so hard to make a determination about what might be going on. Do we pick him up and risk making things worse? Or do we not pick him up and risk making him feel unloved in the event it's NOT a night terror? Do we just try to comfort him even though it may not work, or just let him cry it out and try to salvage what we can of our sleep? I know that last option sounds selfish, but if nothing you do is going to help, it seems so pointless to be spending all that time trying. It's hard to watch him be that miserable and be able to do nothing for him. I know we have to be there, but it's just weird and frustrating. Maybe we just hold him for a few minutes and when it doesn't work, put him back down and just sit there until he's done. It seems sort of cruel, but again, if it's not going to help and could only make things worse, what choice do we have? Hopefully these episodes will be few and far between, but now that it seems to be a bit of a trend (albeit a sporadic one), I still feel like we need a plan for when it does happen. Any ideas?

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