Monday, August 11, 2008

Sleepwalking Child--Need Help!

So, as a kid I sleep walked and sleep talked. I'd sometimes find myself asleep in front of my parent's door, or on the living room couch. After sleepovers with freinds they would tease me about thing things I said. Stuff like "Oh no, I dropped the drunk!" And "I'm awake, I'm awake!" I never remembered any of these episodes.

Child #2 is much like that. We'll find her on the couch, curled up with a coat she got from the closet for a blanket, or she'll giggle and tell nonsensical jokes in her sleep. There's been times we've talked to her and she communicates with us, does what we ask, and remembers nothing about it in the morning. It's cute.

But child #4 is changing the way sleepwalking and talking is done at the Kilpack house. She gets up and starts walking around, but in a panicked state. She starts to cry, then scream, and is sometimes nearly inconsolable for a few minutes. Other times, I go running to her and tell her she's okay, to calm down, and she does--immediately. She'll get back in bed and go right back to sleep. Sometimes once she's back in bed, that's the end of it for the night, other times we go through it again an hour later. In the morning she has no memory of it, in fact I'm not sure she believes us when we tell her about it. It's been happening nearly every night for about two weeks and I'm exhausted. A few nights ago she was up three times, one of the times she came into my room crying because she needed a screen. I was in some lovely REM sleep and between the two of us we were not making a bit of sense.

"I need my screen!" she said, crying.
"You're what?" I ask without even opening my eyes--I was so tired.
"My screen?"
"A screen? You mean like a piece of paper?" I have no idea why this made sense to me.
"Yes, a piece of paper would work."
"Then why are you crying?" I'm starting to wake up now myself.
"I don't know!"

I led her back to bed and she climbed right in. An hour later she's sobbing again. In the morning when I told her she giggled about it.

So, anyway, I'm asking if anyone has some advice. Some details to perhaps help with the diagnosis (yes, you are all my panel of experts).

*She'll be 7 in a few months.
*She has always had a tendancy to wake up at night, usually 2 or 3 times a week because she has to go to the bathroom, but we've pretty much trained her to do it herself, without calling for help, so we haven't done that much in the last year.
*She's the youngest of four kids
*She has always had a tendancy to be whiny and cry over small things
*She's super affectionate and cuddly
*She recently changed bedrooms, going from a room upstairs where mom and dad sleep, to a room downstairs. She's dealt with some fears about this, even though it was her idea, but we've gotten her a new night light, we leave the door open, we say special prayers. Last week she said she wanted her old room back. Her dad (bless his little pea-picken, Las-Vegas livin heart--which means he doesn't have to do the work) agrees this is what we should do and thinks it's the reason for her night issues. I, with stark memories of packing up her room, moving her room, unpacking her room, paint-planning her room, and other uses for her old room, would much rather find a way she can stick it out. But I'm definitely the hard line parent and, much as it pains me, I accept I might be wrong about this one. I certainly don't want to put her in a situation that's somehow traumatic, but it's better for all of us (yes, I do think it's better for her to be downstairs with the other kids) for her to stay put.

So, anyway--shed your brilliance on me! I'm ready.


Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

Wow...sounds like some version of night terrors to me. I don't know much about it, but my best friend's second child went through it. Night terrors are a bit more extreme than that. Usually involving a lot of mindless screaming and the parent not being able to get through to the child easily.

No good advice here, but lots of sympathy!

Karlene said...

Yes, it does sound a bit like night terrors. My son had those. We could rarely get him to calm down without sticking him in the tub. Warm water seemed to soothe him and then he'd wake up and go back to bed. Eventually he grew out of it. Sleeping upstairs or downstairs seemed to have no effect on the terrors.

Heather Moore said...

Sorry to hear this. Not fun at all! This sounds more extreme than regular sleep walking. Maybe give a call to the pediatrician.

Lu Ann Brobst Staheli said...

Yep, it's night terrors.

My husband is a nurse and used to deal with kids with night terrors all the time at scout camps. This is what he says to do:

Don't wake her, just talk quietly to her. Gently stroke her head. Take all stimulation out of the room (use subdued lighting, remove extra people and noises). Bring her into your bed to lie down with you, continuing to console her until she wakes up. She will go back to sleep, then wake up at little bit later and realize something was going on. You can talk with her, explaining the she had a bad dream and she will start to develop her own subconscious loop that helps her deal with it on her own, sort of grow out of it.

hi, it's me! melissa c said...

Wow, interesting. I would hate to do all that moving again but I value my sleep above all else! I would move her back and pray that that was the issue.

I would also consider talking to a therapist and getting some advice. Dreams stem from what is going on in our lives and if she is having bad "dreams" it might be worth the time to talk to someone about it. It can't hurt at any rate, except your pocketbook maybe! he he

Many say that at this age, it could be night terrors. They say they grow out of it. Who knows for sure?

Unknown said...

I have always been a very vivid dreamer and sleep-talker. I used to have terrible nightmares. When I was little my mom encouraged me to pray every night for "good thoughts and good dreams" and I admit, I still do this. Now my little daughter does the same thing. She talks in her sleep a lot, but we've never been sleep-walkers. I wonder if you could try singing a lullaby, a primary song, even having some primary music, piano music playing on a CD to calm her?
You could find a favorite song and sing this every time she has an episode. Music is very powerful and might help.
Whenever my daughter has a bad dream or is talking really loud in her sleep, we go in and rub her back and hum or shush her softly and say, "It's okay."
I hope that things settle down for your little one soon. Good luck!

Sandra said...

Ok, sounds more like panic attacks than night terrors to me.
Try this:
I like the relaxation and sound sleep, but the stress free and deep stress relief might work as well. (I actually love most of their products but these sound best for your daughter)

Or, the free demo version of this program might be enough

You have to have a cd player and stereo headphones in order for them to work. I put them on, lay down and drift off to sleep. I wake up just enough to take the headphones off and drift back to peaceful sleep.

Dreams are the body's way of processing what is going on in the wakeful time of our life. Something seems to be stressing her, and this is the way her mind chooses to process it. Give them a try.

Julie Wright said...

I used to sleep walk and sleep talk too. My friends in high school thought it was funny but pretty well left me alone about it. My friends in college were brutal because they thought it was funny.

These night time disturbances sound like something that really needs to be looked into. I would ask her about what she wants as far as moving back to her old room. If that's what she wants, then do it. We can plan a day and I will drive up and help you. You may also want to call her pediatrician and see if he has any bright ideas. Like Rachelle, I used to pray for good sleep and good dreams. I found that the nights I forgot to pray or forgot to pray for that specifically, I always woke in a cold sweat from the nightmares. I still pray for good sleep and good dreams. My youngest has problems with it too and I've taught him to pray like this and it works for him as well.

Good luck! You have all my sympathy!!!!

Josi said...

Thank you guys for all the great advice. I've implimented the prayer and music and being a bit more snuggly with her at night. We've had two nights terror-free, without changing rooms. I'm definately going to look into the audio suggestions Sandra made and be more open about moving her back upstairs if we can't get this resolved. I so appreciate all the help and sympathy.

Annette Lyon said...

From what little I know (itty bitty bit), it does sound like the night terrors thing.

If she has a history of waking up with a full bladder, that might still be an issue. My #3 would wake up screaming and crying for no apparent reason. I'd take her to the bathroom, she'd do her business, and quiet right down and go back to bed.

The only reason it occurred to me to try that was because my parents said I did the same thing as a kid--only I ran around the house screaming and just needed to pee. :)

Regardless, good luck. I can't function w/out sleep, so my sympathies are with you!

Amanda said...

This isn't really advice, per say, but our pediatrician once told us that when kids start to have long fits of nightmares and/or night terrors, it often means that they're about to make a developmental leap, that's why you get it often with really young kids. So there's a possibility that your kid is about to make a breakthrough in learning, and that's a good positive thing to keep in mind in the middle of the night when you want to be asleep. :)