- They are distinctly different from Nightmares. Emma would sit up quickly, exclaim loudly (sometimes screaming or crying) and be completely unresponsive. She would then just lay down and be asleep. It's really freaky, especially when it happens the first time!
- Having a child be completely unresponsive, especially at night, is a heart-stopper for anxious moms! (or Dads or other caregivers.) I don't know how many times I went in to see her knowing she was having these Terrors and I felt so completely helpless. I would hug this stiff-as-a-board little girl while she cried or carried on, or sometimes just gestured wildly, and would just get absolutely no response. Eventually she would relax and just be completely asleep. It was mind-boggling for me. I did finally manage to acknowledge there was nothing I could do, but while it didn't really make me feel better, it did allow me to go back to sleep myself after tucking her back in.
- Being over-tired made them worse. If Emma had a really drawn-out bedtime (which she always had, so I mean an extra-long 'drawn out for at least an hour' bedtime) there was a greater chance she'd wake with a Terror. Same deal if the day was really busy or she didn't nap (which she never did for me anyway...)
- They will almost always happen just after you fall asleep. Most of the literature about Night Terrors suggests they happen 2 to 3 hours after the kid falls asleep. For most households that's likely the time parents are getting into bed and falling asleep themselves. Of course.
- Kids grow out of them. Our daughter didn't really start with them until after our second was born. Correlation? No idea. Emma would have been approaching 3 and a half. Most things I've read suggest kids between 4 and 12 can have them. Emma is now 7 and hasn't had one in a long while (maybe even a year.)
We didn't actually have Emma checked out and diagnosed with Night Terrors, but Dr Google and Dr Mom agreed that that was definitely what was going on with her some nights. She didn't remember any of the episodes she had, so much so that she would argue with me at the breakfast table that she never woke up once (which I guess she technically never did!)
If you think you're experiencing Night Terrors with your little one, take heart! They will pass, and they aren't dangerous (unless your child is prone to falling out of bed, which did happen at least once here!) They're scary, but more for the parents than the child. Read up on them online like I did and maybe understanding what they are will give you some measure of reassurance.
Please share your experiences in the comments, and if there's any other helpful tidbits I didn't touch on, share those too! But remember, nothing can replace the advice of a physician when diagnosing anything anywhere ever.