Out of nowhere, your child is "waking up" at night screaming and talking gibberish. She's clearly scared and distressed, but there's nothing you can do. You go to her, hold her, bring her into another room, rock her, talk to her, smooth her hair, try to comfort her. Her eyes are open but she can't see you. She stares past you, through you, seeing things that aren't there. Obviously horrific, terrifying things. And she's calling for you, she needs you, but you're right there! Nothing you can do will shake her out of it. She'll go on and on, then out of nowhere, appear to "drop back to sleep". As you return her to her room, sometimes she'll wake up, and ask you why she's not in bed. She remembers nothing.
One of my daughters just started having night terrors. She's had three in about a week and a half. First time in her life. I'm at a loss.
I have been told by multiple sources including friends, family, social media, and even academic studies, that there is nothing you can do. You just have to wait them out. Apparently, children grow out of them. I'm slightly concerned because in my opinion, five and a half is late to develop these terrors. I was under the impression they started most often at two and three, and wrapped up around now. So there's that.
I can't really sit around waiting it out, so we're trying various things. I feel certain (as many people have suggested) that it has to do with over-tiredness. The girls have stopped napping entirely in the afternoon, and I know better than anyone that they are tired. They go to bed around 9 p.m. and get up at 6:30 a.m. each morning. It's like this because of my husband's work schedule. He doesn't get home until 8 p.m. most nights. The schedule was working fine when they napped after school, but without that extra hour-two hours, the girls are struggling. So, we're trying to adapt down to an earlier schedule.
I thought it was perhaps a recently started allergy medicine, Zyrtec. I stopped it. But three days after stopping it, she had her third terror. So, it's most likely not that (although I haven't started it again, just in case.)
It could also be sugar. The day of the third terror, she'd consumed more sugar than an army of kids should consume. It was her half-birthday (we celebrate those), so she had had cake, cotton candy, regular candy, and root beer. Damn. So, we're trying to cut down on the candy, too, but of course, it was just Valentine's Day, so there's going to be a lot of "no" and a lot of tantruming in this house forthcoming.
Somebody mentioned red dyes. We don't have too much of that, I don't think.
Anyway, if I ever figure it out, I'll let you know. But for now, it looks like I'll have to sit by absolutely helpless for 10 minutes or so every so often while my daughter screams in terror, unable to comfort her.
The only relief is that the kids going through this don't remember it happening.