Did you know little over 80% of school aged children display signs of night terrors, sleep walking, nightmares or sleep talking? Typically in boys although girls are still prone to night terrors, and aged between 3 and 12 years of age.
Here I will discuss the night terror, it is not to be confused with nightmares as they both show individual signs and are very different from each other.
A night terror will typically occur in the first part of the night’s sleep, the deeper sleep (NREM). This is the Non Rapid Eye Movement.
This would be from bedtime until around midnight.
So how do you distinguish if your child is experiencing a night terror? Well, your child will “wake” very suddenly, almost like a shock to the system, sit bolt upright and wide eyed. You may think they are actually awake because they look very alert and of course their eyes are open. However they are still asleep and in a very deep state of sleep. Your child may scream and it could be a very loud ear piercing scream. The scream may even scare you, and my experience of night terrors it sure scared me. Then what may happen, well you child will probably get out of bed, start running around, start talking, almost in a fit of rage and seem like they are on a serious mission looking for something or perhaps nothing. They can be very forceful and if you are dealing with an older child here they can be very strong and physical, almost aggressive. They may be inconsolable cry loudly and look like they are terrified.
Your child is in a super deep state of sleep. They are completely unaware of what they are doing.
How long will each episode last?
Research tell us about 10 minutes or so.
How should you respond?
It is vital you keep calm yourself and do not wake your child. If you wake them you will only frighten them more. You must calmly and gently guide your child back to their bed. Don’t force them. Don’t wake them. Just offer you love, support and comfort.
What cause’s these night terrors?
Here I explain the reasons and some ways to prevent night terrors occurring,
The best way to do this for preventing night terrors would be to start taking a diary of the times your child is waking with a night terror. You may see a pattern, for example at 10pm every night. It will most probably be in the earlier part of the night. Then once you have noticed a pattern you can rouse your child about 30 minutes before this time. Do this for 7 consecutive night for a week. The following week do it for 6 consecutive nights. The following week do it for 5 consecutive nights and so on…until you get to one night and potentially they may have ceased.
Did you know your child has an 80-90% chance of experiencing night terrors if it runs in the family along with sleep talking and sleep walking?
Seek professional medical advice if you are in any way concerned, if your child is experiencing many night terrors on a regular basis and or several times a night.
Settling your child...
SETTLING YOUR CHILD
All babies respond differently to settling techniques and a lot of this comes down to the temperament of your child. Of course they have to be of an age and stage of development that they are ready for learning new skills of sleeping independently and we need to ensure we have set up the perfect environment for them to sleep in. Have they had the right naps today? Are they going down at appropriate times according to their awake windows, are they hungry, are they too hot or cold….there are a lot of variables to consider.
Of course when settling a child to sleep and indeed encouraging them back to sleep highly depends on what technique will suit them best. A technique that you may have used when they were 6 months old may very well not work when they are 2 years old and may not suit your friend’s child. Even the circumstances have an impact which method you choose to settle your child. Every child is different and we have to come up with a loving, caring plan that takes a holistic look into their world of sleep and their environment.
Up to the age of 12 weeks it is most common and very usual to use a hands on method such as rocking, feeding or motion to sleep. Sucking for young new-borns is also a great technique because that is what they can do best and it is super calming for them. Of course if you can settle them in their own sleep space and not on you or with motion this is amazing and will stand in great stead for future sleep.
When your baby nears 8-12 weeks you may find naps become shorter, maybe even cat napping starts or waking after one sleep cycle (30-40 minutes) or they may be waking every 2 hours in the night. There may be a few different reasons for this and it could be the settling technique or perhaps something different like over tiredness from the previous day is the culprit.
Don’t forget to introduce positive sleep associations for your baby during the New born stage (0-12 weeks)
New-borns may rely heavily on things such as sucking, rocking, and motion to sleep and at this age it is all about supporting to sleep so if you find yourself rocking your New born to sleep go for it. The aim in these early weeks is supporting sleep.
This age is a real game changer. Babies are so impressionable at this age and once through the 4 month sleep “progression” they are ready to learn new tricks and skills! This is particularly so if you are experiencing disturbed nights.
The technique you used when they were tiny may very well not work now. Perhaps they have a sleep crutch such as a dummy or feed to sleep. It may have worked previously but not now. They have outgrown that technique and need a different approach.
6 -12 MONTHS
Your Little One will be going through a lot of developmental changes and if sleep is an issue it is now time to seek solutions on how to help your Little One sleep independently. If you would like your baby to nap well during the day and settle themselves back to sleep in the night the sooner you tackle this the better chance at succeeding sooner rather than later. Of course babies over 12 months can and will absolutely learn how to sleep independently but they have stronger personalities and can push back more.
Children of all ages over 4 months are absolutely capable of sleeping 11-12 hours a night and not require a feed but that statement is very age and stage dependent. Many babies still need a feed until the age of 12 months.
Always bear in mind the temperament and age of your child when deciding what technique you would like to use when teaching your Little One to self-settle to sleep independently back into a peaceful slumber.
If you would like some help and advice with your Little Ones’ sleep do get in touch, your free 15 minute Discovery Call is there waiting for you! I take a loving, caring, in depth, holistic look into your child’s world of and will advise accordingly.
Just when you thought sleep was on track in your home BANG! A temperature rears its ugly head or you are changing bed sheets for the 5th time after they have been thrown up all over…and sleep has gone all out the window! Now what..?
How do we deal with sleep when our babies and children are ill? Here in this blog post I hope to answer that question and help you keep on the right track of great sleep...
You may have noticed your child is a little clingier, a little more whingy, a little off their food and a little less interested in playing and of course their sleep is disrupted.
What I can tell you is if you had a great independent sleeper before your child got sick, then that same great sleeper will return once they are fighting fit and healthy once more as long as you do not introduce any unwanted sleeping habits.
So how do we navigate our way through this illness with disrupted sleep…?
Research tell us and we know all too well from our mums drumming it into us that sleep helps us heal, helps us recover, sleep helps the body to recuperate and builds the immune system back up again and helps fight those bugs and infections coursing around the body. Sleep is a vital part of preventing illness and the healing process. Keep life simple for a few days, don’t overstimulate your child, give them time and space to recuperate. We would do the same right..?! We need to be there to offer more cuddles and kisses, to snuggle up on the sofa together and have a little extra snoozle or two! Keep their special teddy close to them for comfort and just slow down for a few days.
Stick to routine
If you had a great routine before your child fell ill try to stick to that routine as much as you can. Your child will most likely be sleepier and more lethargic and need more sleep during this period so pop them down a little earlier for their nap but try to wake them at their usual wake up time. It’s okay to let them sleep a little extra, after all the body is asking for it and needs it.
Make sure you keep their fluids and calories up
You don’t want them becoming dehydrated especially more so if they are ill with vomiting and diarrhoea. Offer more feeds and water in the day. They may also need it at night as well. If your child is old enough to understand they have a water beaker next to them at night leave it there for them so if they wake thirsty they can reach for a drink. Of course please be sensible about this and follow safe sleep guidelines, you do not want them to choke on water in the night.
Keep their sleep environment consistent
Of course when our child is sick we want to be close to them and especially at night, how those cheeky bugs know to disturb night sleep more is one of their talents…You may be tempted to bring your child to sleep in your bed for the night. Your great independent sleeper will now potentially start to get used to sleeping with you, old sleep habits may return and you will find yourself back in that sleep deprived state again… Equally they actually may not sleep any better in the bed with you. Certainly if they are used to sleeping in their own bed. All that hard work you put into achieving a great little sleeper has come undone.
It would be a better idea for you to move into their room for the short time they are ill. Set up a mattress on the floor or get that blow up bed from under the stairs and spend a few nights in your child’s room. Why? Well simple really, it will be easier for you to leave their room than it will be for you to get your child back into their own room and bed. You want to keep their sleep environment consistent, the same, so don’t disrupt it.
By keeping their sleep environment the same you will be keeping the consistency and familiarity of their bed and room. If you are in their room it may also be easier for you to help them settle back to sleep rather than fighting for a little bit of space in your bed, especially if your child has a high temperature, they don’t need to have extra body heat coming at them from both sides from your partner and yourself. Their bed has the space they need to sleep well.
Give pain relief. Seek professional medical advice and get the anti-biotics that may be needed. Most sniffles and temperatures are sorted with a few days on Calpol. Childhood medication is there to help fight those bugs. Always read the label and follow advice from your GP.
Get back on track
When all is well again and you are confident you have your healthy child back fighting fit, now is the time to return to usual sleep habits. That routine you had before should come back easily and you can slot back into it. Those sleep habits and practices you had before should and will just fall back into place. If you had a great independent sleeper before, they will return and I expect pretty quickly without too much sleep shaping help from you.
If perhaps it was more recently you did some sleep shaping and you are struggling to get back on track again, return using the same method you did previously. You know it won’t take long because they know this game and they know how to play it!
Hang in there. Rainbows will shine bright again soon….