Thursday, 26 May 2016

Sleep Disorders And Night Terrors - Our Five Year Battle (And Counting)

Night terrors are kind of crazy.

For my middle son they happen most nights, about an hour after he goes to sleep.

He always screams.

He's always inconsolable.

He always wakes the baby.

There's nothing we can do for him; there's no comfort we can give him, no amount of trying to cuddle him, no amount of kind words or asking him to stop.

They come right out of nowhere.  Some nights he can be absolutely fine.

But most nights he wakes in this howling, screaming, terrified mess.

Hard to believe it, but they are tougher on us than they are on him.

He wakes in the morning with absolutely zero recollection of what has happened.  No awareness.  Just a nice, peaceful night, sometimes with a funny dream.


We put the three boys to bed each night within a routine which has never really changed within the annals of time.

Bath, Supper, Teeth, Story, Story-tape, Bed.

It's pretty much the same every night.

It can be time-consuming.

Difficult to put into motion at the end of a long day.  It's important to me boys always go to bed happy.  Always with a hug and a kiss.

However, for poor Ethan, however much we tried, this wasn't always the case.

He may well have no memory of his night terror as they are now, but he used to have other fears at bed time too.

He's still scared of the dark.  He still fears the silence and the darkness around him when he wakes alone in the night.

His wee imagination goes into over-drive.

It all started when he was about a year old; the sudden middle-of-the-night screaming, the 'temper tantrums' which we just put down to sheer bloody-mindedness of our 'difficult' child.

He was never easy to put to bed.  He was a handful when he was awake!

But we all dreaded bedtime.

Our eldest son had always gone to bed nicely, easily, quietly.  But not Ethan.

He was terrified of going to sleep; absolutely adamant that he wasn't going to do it.

Every. Single. Night.

We'd spend hours indulging his night-time whims, reading him to sleep, changing bedrooms, changing lightbulbs, putting up blackout blinds and curtains on top of blinds.

We tried staying in the room and holding his hand, letting him sleep in our bed, letting him sleep in a sleeping bag, letting him go to bed with a million cuddly toys, as he was convinced that 'this time, mum, this time they'll look after me'.
Yup, this has been in the bed too! It's a bloody dressing up costume!

We tried to convince him he was being silly, it was 'just a phase', that he was big and didn't need us.

We listened at his door as he cried and screamed and pleaded with us to come back in the room until he fell asleep and we tried toughing it out.

We let him fill his belly before bed, we tried only letting him have something small, we tried different diets.
Reward charts.
Books which supposedly hypnotize.

It felt like we tried absolutely everything.

What we didn't know at the beginning, was that Ethan had terrible glue-ear, which was so profound that the doctor at the ENT clinic told us that basically, Ethan spent the first two years of his life hearing as though he was submerged under deep water all the time.

It took until he was two years old to diagnose, and then another year before he would get the grommets inserted, which changed his life overnight.  Suddenly he became verbal, a lot less frustrated and a lot easier to deal with.

The grommets were certainly an improvement beyond everything else, but we still had to deal with the fear and behaviour which comes from not being able to hear properly in those first three formative years.

It's had a huge impact.

He's a great kid.  He is very funny, with a rapier wit way beyond his years.  He is very clever.  But he has struggled.

Hearing properly very much contributes to other functions:

  • Social interaction: He's never struggled to make a friend, but there's been a lot of misunderstandings and a lot of upsets!
  • Communication: We've dealt with a LOT of tantrums, a lot of frustrated screaming and a lot of shouting.  Gradually we are teaching him to tone it down, but yes, this is a very hard thing to explain to others, especially as they think he is being horrible.
  • Reading and Writing: He started school this year and he has tried so very hard, and is getting their, but his failure to hear words as they are supposed to sound for a long time has mucked up his internal alphabet system.  He has fought very hard for every single letter.
  • Sensitivity: The grommets are great, but whereas before he didn't hear much, now he can hear everything, and to him it is very very loud! He therefore gets upset in places where there's more than your average noise levels, like parties, concerts and gym halls.

As he gets older he is becoming more and more able. His ability to communicate gets better and he is becoming less frustrated with life, which is great.

He now goes to bed with a lot less hassle.  Well, there's still some, but compared to what we used to deal with, it's nothing really.

We are however, still dealing with the night terrors. The last bastion of sleep disorder hell.

Apparently he'll grow out of them.


I really hope it's soon!

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