Why My Child Wakes Up Shaking and Crying – Tips to Note

Children’s tears are an everyday occurrence. Which kid has never shed one tear or two out of hunger, anger, or desperation to get something from their affectionate parents?

But it is an entirely different story if that child wakes up shaking and crying in the middle of the night. Something horrific must have triggered that sudden reaction!

As a parent, it is time you dug deep into the bottom of the issue behind your child crying in sleep.

Our guidelines could lend some pointers to the dilemma: Why does my child wake up screaming and crying?

Why My Child Wakes Up Shaking And Crying

Why My Child Wakes Up Shaking And Crying

What shakes your kid out of his peaceful slumber is none other than night terrors, unless a giant cockroach or spider is occupying your wall, waking, and scaring him.

Common myths assert that nightmares only attack older children or adults. The truth is that such occurrences can strike anyone – even toddlers! 

This scientific fact probably explains your question: Why does my toddler wake up screaming and shaking?

1. What Are Night Terrors?

Night terrors are categorized as a hereditary condition – in which children or toddlers endure nightmares or scary dreams amidst a night of deep sleep.

As per reports, nocturnal terrors in children account for 2% of the total number of patients.

Over-exhaustion and inconsistent sleep patterns are often cited as among the common triggers of sleep issues, prevalent in youngsters between the ages of one and eight.

Even healthy children with no past traumas nor medical history can be subject to it, too.

2. How Do I Know If My Child Is Having Night Terrors? 

Symptoms of a bad dream are pretty straightforward: you will realize it is coming once your kid awakens screaming at night after two hours of sleep – and does not cease doing so for at least 20 minutes.

Shaking them out of their intense fear proves to be quite a challenge. The kid seems restless and fully awake, but in fact, their brain is still sinking deep into whatever they see at that moment.

These children might stand up, run, yell, mumble incoherent stuff, or even look straight at you with rapid eye movement – but they never truly acknowledge your presence.

More severe cases even report children confusing people in the house with potential threats, such as ghosts and shadows.

For some mysterious reason, nothing that happened will linger in your child’s mind the next morning.

While you were awake all night trying to calm them down, the child actually slept throughout the whole ordeal!

And how long does each episode last? The answer varies across each night and each child.

One great news, though, is that this bothersome disorder often resolves itself when the youngster reaches the age of 12 – probably even earlier than that under some circumstances.

How To Stop A Night Terror

Well, you cannot – if the child is already screaming and crying. Still, you might turn on the lights and give him a few encouraging words, which can calm the kid down a little bit faster.

Try your best to keep him in the bed, too, or else he might injure himself.

Also, in the future, make sure your babies always have enough rest. That will reduce night terrors baby risks to a great extent.

Method 1. Calm Them Down

First, gently push your kids back to their regular sleep patterns, establishing a transitional stage between restless and peaceful slumber.

It’s better safe than sorry, so you should start building a sleep schedule soon, like setting the sleeping time when your baby turns 4.

Waking them up is impossible, so do not waste your energy on that. Instead, turn on some lights to minimize his confusion between you and the shadows.

Calming encouragement such as “You are alright. It’s ok!” could also help.

Certain kids might clear their heads much faster with a loving arm around them.

Still, most other youngsters may push, kick, or pull you away, seeing their parents as a danger. So take extra caution if you decide to put your hand on them.

Method 2. Steer Them Clear From Danger

As the children are still deep into the nightmares, they do not have an accurate and complete awareness of their surroundings. Stair tumbling, wall crashing, or even window shattering might occur.

Your next step is to guide the child to bed as quickly as possible, keeping him from bolting out of the room.

Method 3. Keep Exhaustion Away

As mentioned above, over-exhaustion is among the most common factors behind sleep disorders.

Ensure your child has plenty of sleep, and remind yourself to keep a regular bedtime routine for him. Late hours and lack of sleep lead to nightmares quicker than anything else! 

Aside from nighttime rest, afternoon naps are also crucial. If the kid stopped taking naps long ago, try to reinstate those sleep habits.

You could tell him that this is “not sleeping, only an hour of silence” if he refuses to shut his eyes.

When Should I Be Concerned About My Childs Night Terrors

Most children suffer from bad dreams at least once in their lives. Hence, do not worry sick if these nightmares are not a frequent affair.

On the other hand, you might have to turn to specialists when these scenes occur almost every night and only worsen over time – accompanied by behavioral changes.

1. Low Frequencies – No Need to Worry

Nocturnal terrors are more common than you would think. Thus, medical support might be a stretch if they only strike your kid from time to time.

Adopt some of our guidelines above to minimize the consequences.

2. High Frequencies – Two Possibilities Ensue

Suppose the nightmares come back more often than expected. We suggest you give them three or four months, and pick up our instructions above to see if there is any progress.

Provided that no further issues transpire, the disorder should vanish after a few weeks.

In the worst-case scenario, these dilemmas will grow more problematic. The child might also experience major emotional shifts, showcasing more signals of frustration, rudeness, and pessimism.

No attempts to make conversations with his parents is another indicator. A case in point is your kid ignoring you when you call his name.

With all these red flags, maybe it is time you brought him to a trusted clinic or hospital for expert support.

How To Differentiate Night Terrors With Regular Nightmares And Sleeping Paralysis

Victims of common nightmares and paralysis can still be awakened and recall what they saw in these dreams.

Furthermore, people under paralysis utter no screams at all, having been paralyzed into silence. Sleep terrors have none of these characteristics.

1. Night Terrors Versus Regular Nightmares

We admit that this article has mentioned the term “nightmares” quite frequently up to this point.

Still, keep in mind that nightmares stemming from sleep terrors are far different from regular bad dreams.

Dreamers of common nightmares can be shaken out of their slumber and still vividly recall what happened, for one.

Meanwhile, victims of sleep terror attacks will keep sleeping throughout the night. Children barely remember the specifics upon waking up, while adults can only retain a small portion.

Sometimes, serious cases of sleep terrors might develop into sleepwalking.

2. Night Terrors Versus Sleep Paralysis

Sleep paralysis is worlds apart from nocturnal terrors. The latter might attack victims of all ages, while paralysis is quite rare in children.

Also, no shouts or screams are involved. People with paralysis – as its name suggests – are paralyzed into a very still posture and utter no sounds at all.

Furthermore, these cases tend to occur in early mornings, while sleeping terrors take place within the first part of a slumber.


How To Stop A Night Terror

Our guidelines have dived into symptoms and possible treatments of night terrors – the reason your child wakes up shaking and crying.

Though these issues tend to fade at a certain point without further ado, you might want to speed up that process by picking up some advice we introduced above!

Feel free to reach us if certain aspects still confuse you.

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