Night terror or sleepwalking? - FamilyEducation
Night terror or sleepwalking?
05/18/2008 at 14:58 PM

FYI: Before I begin this message, I realized (for anyone else who's experienced this problem), that when posting a new discussion, you must click on "Display/Hide WYMeditor" at the bottom of the Body field of your message before submitting your post. I tried to submit this message before, as well as another message, but neither one posted in the boards. Please pass this info on to others in the forum. Thx! Anyway, here's take 2 for this one.

My youngest son (now 3 1/2) will sometimes wake up in the middle of the night, stand in the hallway and cry. When I approach him, he's groggy but awake. I usually give him a cup of water, then eventually coax him back to bed. So, I think, ok, a bad dream. This happens every once in a while. More frequently, however, my son will wake up, walk down the stairs, then lay himself on the couch where he eventually will fall back to sleep. During the times I've witnessed him do this, I've observed him groggy, but w/ his eyes wide open, and him well aware of my being there. When I tell my son, "Let's go back up to bed," he gets very upset and starts to cry. The only thing I can think of is that he'll often fall asleep on the couch at night, and we then have to carry him up to his bed. When he wakes up (for whatever reason), he probably realizes he's not on the couch anymore, and he gets upset. I don't know if this is the case or not, but it's a theory. Overall, he's not the easiest to get to bed at night, and it usually takes some extra effort to get him to sleep.
Could our son be sleepwalking, though? The only fear I have about this is that he can get hurt, especially if he falls down the stairs. Also, I don't want this to escalate to a point where he wonders out the door into a harmful situation. Maybe I'm over-reacting, but I don't know how to stop this. My husband and I are usually asleep at the time this happens, so we have no control over it until he's already down the stairs. Also, let me mention that my husband's brother used to sleepwalk when he was little. Could this be passed down in families? I'm not convinced in these instances that our son's having night terrors, b/c he doesn't look frightened when I approach him. He only starts crying when I ask him to go back to bed. Does anyone else have any thoughts on this, or have you experienced anything similar?

Does your son remember anything about it in the morning? If he does then it is not night terrors. My son used to sit up in bed, look around him for a while, then lay his head back down. He had nigh terrors too. He could get quite distressed through the night and he didn't remember a thing in the morning. Your son could be sleepwalking or just unhappy waking alone in bed when he though he was on the couch. Could you fit a safety gate to his door perhaps or some sort of alarm system which would alert you. Lock the doors and put the key on a high up hook which he can not reach. Is there something in his bedroom which scares him. Try talking to him in a calm manner and he might be able to shed some light on what is happening. I don't know if it is something which runs in families. I used to sleepwalk when I was young. One night I got up and did my German homework. I was totally puzzled in the morning as to how it got done. It must have been worrying me.

Sounds pretty normal to me. My 2 1/2 yr old, gets up at night and takes his blanket to the hallway and sleeps. He's not hurting anyone, so I let him be. I think you may be right about him waking up and being upset that he isn't in the same place he was when he went to sleep. That can be unsetteling, even for an adult. I wouldn't really worry. Even if he is sleepwalking, it's not likly that he'll get hurt. Sleepwalking is pretty common. I'd put a baby gate at the top of the stairs and make sure you lock your front and back doors. You could also get a baby monitor so you would know exactly when he gets up. I had night terrors as a child, and so did my middle daughter. You would know a night terror if you saw one. There were times when I would just have to leave the room and let her scream while I cryed in another room. It was so frustrating. I couldn't help her. This went on for about 6 months, and has never happend since. Just one of those things I guess. Again, don't worry too much. Take care.

Thank you both for your advice. I'm going to be more observant next time this happens, and in the morning see if my son remembers anything. We tried the baby gate idea, but b/c of the railing on the one side of the stairs, we can't get it to stay securely. I can try the monitor (I have to buy a new one b/c we got rid of the one my kids had when they were babies). I'm hoping this is just a phase and that my son will outgrow this. Thx again.