Subject: Why is my 22 month old is waking up multiple times a night screaming bloody murder?
Question: It started a couple of weeks ago. My girl has been waking up screaming and freaking. She cries so hard she makes herself choke and gag. When I try to console her (I've tried soft words, a hug, carrying her, trying to rock her to sleep, a bottle, leaving her alone, laying with her, a night light, changing her mattress, adding a foam pad to her bed, calling grandma and grandpa, etc.) she screams NO and continues kicking and screaming hysterically.
Ive tried leaving her door open and she would get up and walk to it calling for me (mommy) but then when I go to see what she would like she starts screaming again and slams the door in my face. One time she asked me for a bottle and when I got up and walked towards her she started freaking again. She then ran into her room and slammed the door again. It seems as if when she wakes up like this she has no idea who I am or what is going on. This started a couple of weeks ago. It was only once a night at first now its up to 5 or 6 times a night. Sometimes only 20 minutes apart. Can you please help me figure this out. Thank you.
Answer: Dear Tracie,
There are so many possibilities. I always suggest starting with he doctor. It could be a simple as her cutting her 2 year old molars and her having a hard time with them. Ear infections are common with teething. Parents often forget by the time a child turns 2 that there are still one more set of painful molars that come in the hard way.
It could be that she has sleep terrors. She is dreaming in pictures and they are scaring her. Sleep disorders are not uncommon in small children we are just not adept at diagnosing them yet. Try and be aware of her daily routine. Small children do not have the same sense of time that we adults do. They don't really have a concept of time until they are about 8 yrs of age. Their sense of time is based upon their routines (not schedules, routines#. They gain a sense of safety and security from a daily consistent routine of knowing what comes next. This is why they love to hear the same stories over and over and over and over...their days need to be the same, over and over and over and over....
Abrupt changes in who they see each day or what they do each day can terrorize a child. The same is true for changes in their diet. Parents often assume that children must eat a variety of food regardless of their personal taste and sometimes miss the cues for food intolerance. Think about whether or not she is eating a new food that may not agree with her. Certain types of spices keep me up at night. Children's bodies are not much different and they have their own preferences for food as well. #Caution: I am not saying let them eat whatever they want to eat. I am saying they don't have to like all vegetables and all fruit. They may like some and not others...this is okay. I don't eat all vegetable either! Do you? #
I hope you get to the bottom of this soon as you both need your sleep.
Another suggestion if you don't' already do so is to have a quiet bedtime routine. Bathing, reading books, doing things that are soothing. Playing soothing music # I recommend Mother's Touch/heartbeats# and providing a full body massage are great ways to end the evening and provide a deeper sleep. Also, make sure to set the scene at least a half an hour before bedtime. TURN OFF the TVs' and other electronic devices to lower the stimulation in her environment and this also cues children that bedtime routine is coming soon.
Dr. Mary Kay Keller
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