can night terrors be driven by anxiety?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by jesshas?s, Feb 10, 2009.

  1. jesshas?s

    jesshas?s Guest

    Our 7 yr old daughter has anxiety, some depression and some anger issues. However she is undiagnosed. We are unfortunately one of many families who don't have health ins and make just a lil too much for medicaid. So I have done most research myself with hopes of her seeing a psy. dr soon.

    Anyways, she has night terrors. Most are few and far between. They started when she was a toddler. Cry, scream, look around as if something were all over walls, wouldn't recongnize mom or dad. Horrific! But we have learned what to do to help lesson the severity of the night terrors so they aren't that bad anymore. However she has had 2 in 1 week recently. This last one, her eyes were wide open, speaking very clearly, and crying with some screaming and doesn't recall anything happening. The things she said was; I need Help! I am Mean! I am Mean! I am So done! No, you are So Done! All this was stressed and very clear. She doesn't recongnize us and seems full of fear.

    She doesn't like many things. School being one of them. She gets frustrated very easily and has social anxiety as well.

    What I want to know is, has anyone experienced night terrors like this or know someone who has?
  2. totoro

    totoro Mom? What's a GFG?

    Our Daughter K had night terrors. They have become way less frequent in the past year or so.
    Since we have her on a medication that kind of zonks her out at night.
    She did take Prazosin for awhile for the night terrors, it is used for military PTSD related night terrors, but they have found it to be helpful with night terrors for some not experiencing PTSD.

    K's night terrors stem from her Mood-Disorder which has an anxiety component as well. When she is unstable her anxiety is worse and so is her sleep.
    It is all cyclical.
    We have found that Melatonin and Trytophan helps. Heavy blankets and sound machine. We have to have black out shade so nothing disrupts her sleep, I turn her clocks away from her as well, the light from that can also disrupt them.
    But watch Melatonin, some kids, this can trigger nightmares, possibly night terrors.

    I personally don't know if night terrors can be caused from just anxiety? I would have to do a bit of research, but with our kids I am sure anything is possible.
    I would also try some tea and possibly a bath. These things about an hour before bed. we read and then massage K.
    It is a lengthy process but it helps my poor kid sleep well!

    Good luck
  3. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Our easy child had night terrors way more than our difficult child. I think it has to do with-parts of the brain working overtime, and our difficult child has never been creative, either asleep or awake.

    We took our easy child to a hypnotherapist (I realize you're on a budget and this costs $ but we only had to go twice, and he sent a cassette tape home with-her). He said she was overtired and going straight into REM with-o going through the other sleep phases first.

    Anxiety and being overtired contribute to it.

    She only has one or two a yr now, and it's evolved into sleepwalking rather than terrors. Don't know which is worse! :(
    He "planted" the suggestion, assisted by having her listen to a tape of his voice every night, that it was okay to fall asleep slowly, and even to wake up in the middle of the night and relax in bed and just feel how soft the pillows are, etc. I suspect that any tape would have slowed down the sleep process ... maybe you could just play soft music for her or some kind of boring story, to relax her, but half keep her awake during the initial sleep phase, Know what I mean??

    Your profile doesn't say that she's on any medications so I'm thinking you're putting that off until you get a good diagnosis and some $, is that correct?

    It is terrifying for the watcher as well as for the sleeper. Our easy child didn't recognize us, either, and kept screaming "Mommy! Daddy! Help!" and reaching out her arms. She was stiff as a board and her eyes were glassy.

    One night 2 or 3 yrs ago, she stood in the hallway and I heard her around 2 a.m. I asked what she was doing and she said, "Going for a walk."

    She had her foot extended over the stair and at 2" taller and 20 lbs heavier than I, there was no way I could catch her. I had to outsmart her b4 she went head-over-heels.
    I said, "Oh, I'll go with you! Let's sit on the front steps, right here. Isn't it nice outside?" Or something to that effect.

    She sat on the top step, believing she was outside.

    After a few min., I rubbed her arm and said, "Want to go back inside?"

    She said sure, and we got up and went back to her bed. Arrgh.

    Our difficult child used to get up in the middle of the night and urinate in the closet, thinking it was the toilet!!!!

    We talked to him about REM and sleep, and that it's okay to get up in the middle of the night and go to the REAL bathroom ... it gradually tapered off.

    I feel for you.
  4. Jess,

    Both my Dad and I have suffered with night terrors for many years. I really believe, at least for us, this problem is genetic. Thank goodness neither of my guys seem to have the problem, although difficult child does sometimes walk in his sleep.

    I know that my problem is entering REM sleep immediately upon falling asleep. I can (and do ) fall asleep anytime and anywhere - and the dreams start right up. That kind of sleep is definitely not restful, so I fight against it. Movies at the theatre are definitely out, I just can't stay awake for them. There is no way that I can have a restful nap!!

    Sometimes I know that I am half awake- dreaming and sometimes I don't. This is only after many years of experience ; and I never knew when I was a child. Then, it was all "real" to me. The problem is that I can get up, move around and talk when I am in REM - and I'm guessing that your daughter can as well. It's all just kind of a mixed up rush of visions and ideas from my day and it really makes no sense when I "talk" to someone when I'm asleep. However, it's all very real at the time. Overexcitement and fatigue definitely contribute.

    I have found over the years that I do better if I gradually "wind down" in the evening. I take a warm bath, and I listen to soothing music. I usually read a calming book, and enter my sleep state in that way. Definitely no exciting movies , television, music , or conversation are allowed! This has definitely helped me to ease the entry into the sleep cycle.

    Maybe you can find some techniques that work for your daughter - a pleasant story time, with a little massage? I know that it is terrifying to see your daughter in this state, but I truly believe that with time you can help her to calm herself and prevent the episodes.
  5. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I used to have night terrors and really bad nightmares. It went on for years, even after I married although husband's presence has been very helpful there. He made it clear right at the beginning, that if I had a nightmare I had to wake him up for comfort.

    With our kids - they all had nightmares when very young, the difficult children had them for a lot longer. difficult child 1 would sleepwalk a lot and talk in his sleep a lot. Same with easy child 2/difficult child 2. difficult child 1 even sleeps with his eyes partly open - he's been at camp and had someone think he was awake and they were talking to him, then realised there was no response. "Freaky," they told him next morning.

    I tink it's connected to a number of things - a very active mind (such as high IQ, or vivid imagination, or an incredibly stimulated day, or a combination of these), a very high level of mental activity or concentration (I would get very vivid, exhausting dreams after an important exam), or a great deal of unresolved stress.
    In your daughter's case, school sounds like a stress factor (for a number of possible reasons, including the need for something to be assessed so she can be helped).

    One technique I share with you, from something I personally worked out for myself and then successfully shared with my children - when my kids had nightmares and came into my room, I tried to get them to tell me about the dream in detail. Sometimes in the retelling, it's not so scary especially as you begin to wake up more and get back in touch with reality. This also buys you time, andalso makes the child face what they were afraid of. I would talk to them about the dream and what it perhaps really meant ("Honey, you dreamt that a big burning dog was chasing you down the street and that if it got you it would turn you into a zombie - I think that dog represents the things you're afraid of, maybe the new subjects at school that you're not sure you know how to do yet, and you're scared that if you can't get the hang of it that people will think you're a dummy. But now we know about this, we can beat this problem in the daytime, I'll have a look at the work with you and see if I can find a way to help you understand it better.")
    And the real trick - when the child was gonig back to bed eventually, I would tell them to make sure they lay back down on the other side to the one they woke up on, so the bad dream could trickle out their ear and not bother them again that night.
    This works. And the reason it works - our brain is extremely sensitive to te slightest change in our environment, even when we're asleep. It incorporates our environment into the dream. For example, you dream the phone is ringing, and in the dream you answer the phone. But it might in reality be your alarm clock. Or outside your house while you sleep a car drives past. In your dream, you're in a car, or watching one go down the street, maybe waving goodbye to friends. Your brain has used it. But if you change sleeping position, your dream changes too. But your brain has already given you a vivid nightmare (your brain doesn't distinguish between nightmare or dream) and in so doing, has given you "food for thought" which your subconscious can now continue to work on. The job is done. You're unlikely to have another such experience in the same night. By changing sleeping position, you're making it even clearer to your brain, "that is done, time to work on something different."

    THAT nightmare won't be back, not that night.

    I hope this can help.

  6. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    My difficult child 1 had a tough time with these when he was younger. It peaked around age 4 and improved a bit as he got older. He also has significant anxiety issues, so I would say that yes, they tend to stem from that. He was always an easily-overstimulated baby, he had horrible separation anxiety as a toddler, and even now as a teenager he struggles with anxiety issues.

    Have you asked your school district for an evaluation for your difficult child?
  7. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    Hi Jess--

    Like Marg, I have suffered vivid nightmares and night terrors.

    The nightmares are definitely worse when I am under stress or feeling anxious--but as Marg pointed is easy to talk about them and calm down after being able to analyze all the ways in which they were only dreams and not real at all.

    Night Terrors, on the other hand are completely different. For me, I am awakened straight out of a deep sleep by a sensation that "something" is coming right into my face. And I have awakened screaming and desperately scrambling out of my bed to get out of the way of whatever it was that has come upon me. Sometimes there are giant black spiders crawling straight across my pillow....sometimes there is a voice directly in my ear....sometimes it is fire or flood. These, I cannot "Talk myself down" from, because I SAW or HEARD or FELT it, very clearly and it was a moment of absolute terror.

    These, there doesn't seem to be any solution other than a hug from husband and a few minutes to recognize where I am and that there is no one next to the bed, I am not on fire, and there are no spiders on me.

    I think that the best thing to do is reassure your daughter with hugs and help her double-check that whatever she saw, heard, or felt is not there and that it is safe to go back to sleep.

    Hope this helps....

  8. Steely

    Steely Active Member

    Just wanted to chime in here as one who used to suffer from night terrors and as one who still suffers from a myriad of sleep disorders - until about 3 years ago when I began Ambien. Ambien, which also has anti-anxiety components in it, has turned my sleep world around. I can finally sleep without the plethora of sleep maladies I had.
    There are still times when I wake up with anxiety attacks, and if I do not take a Xanax I have nightmares the rest of the night. So I have some on hand, just in case. Those 2 medications in regards to my sleep, have changed my entire world.

    So yes, anxiety can/does cause night terrors, and many other sleep disturbances. And for some, the only choice is medication.
  9. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    Many neuros believe night terrors are a form of seizure activity. I don't know whether or not there has been an solid research to back this up or not. But I've had more than one tell me this over the years.

    easy child had both night terrors and sleep walked for years. As an adult she talks constantly in her sleep. Drives her husband nuts. lol
  10. skeeter

    skeeter New Member

    NF had some bad night terrors until about age 5. Usually after an extremely busy or exciting day, but we also began to equate them with his food allergy issues. After we got those under control, they seemed to lessen a lot.

    He also would grind his teeth horrible. He eventually had to have some major orthodontia work done which pretty much cleared that up - but he actually ground all the chewing surfaces off his molars and the early ones need to be capped.

    Both he and his brother talk in their sleep, to the point that when they shared a bedroom they would have full fledged conversations, but both be completely asleep and not have the slightest idea the next day that they were talking.
  11. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    If someone grids their teeth you can save the teeth (if you get it early enough) by getting a special plate fitted which they wear at night. Insurance might cover something like this, it would be worth enquiring.

  12. skeeter

    skeeter New Member

    Marg - in my son's case, his bottom jaw was about 3 sizes too small for his top teeth. He would actually dislocate his jaw in his sleep and try to "fit" it - hense the grinding.

    He had a lot of appliances put in his mouth, including full "rail road tracks" and a system of springs called a Jasper Jumper to get his bottom jaw to stretch and grow. If all this hadn't worked, he would have had to have his jaw broken and cadaver bone put in to increase the size.

    Everything is not the right size. He has a permanent retainer so that his jaw fits properly into the top.

    But he still talks in his sleep!