Ethan + Night Terrors = Scary Stuff

Ethan and Zach both had night terrors when they were babies. I remember being a young and frightened mama, whose babies would thrash around and scream, for no apparent reason, while not responding to me. One second they were reaching out for me, and the next they would push me away.

nightterrorsFast forward five years… Zach hadn’t had a night terror since he was a baby, but Ethan was now almost 6 years old and the night terrors were becoming quite frequent.

I remember one afternoon, in particular, because it scared me silly. Ray wasn’t home, and I had just settled the kiddos in for a nap. Josh, my baby at the time, was finally sleeping and the house was quiet when Ethan started screaming. He stumbled out of his bedroom towards me and doubled over, crying out as if in pain. I ran over to him to make sure he was okay and he started yelling, “It hurts, mommy. It hurts.” Not realizing that he was asleep, I asked him what was wrong and he yelled, “Make it go away.” I held him, not knowing what else to do, but he began to grunt.

He then jumped out of my arms and pointed across the room, saying “It’s over there. It’s over there…” At this point, he spread out his arms and arched his back, leaning forward over me, all the while grunting. He yelled again, “Make it go away.” Instantly I began to pray… at this point there was nothing else to do. He collapsed in my lap, a sweaty mess and began to breathe normally, fast asleep in my arms.

Talk about a scary afternoon!

This happened again several nights later, and again.

Fast forward two more years… There was one night that Zach and Ethan both had night terrors. They both ended up in bed with Daddy and me, at different times. It was pretty unusual for Zach and he hasn’t had another night terror since.

A year went by and nothing. Until last night. As Ray and I were watching a movie with some good friends, I heard screaming coming from the boys’ room. Some of the boys had been sick, so I assumed it was one of them, but then I heard it…The ear piercing scream of my oldest son and then that of his twin brother.

Ray and I both ran upstairs to find Zach in hysterics and Ethan pacing the room. Zach was awake and convinced that something was horribly wrong with Ethan, but it was yet another night terror.

Ethan was clearly not awake. I could tell by the look in his eyes. He looked at Daddy, then at me, panting as he paced. He started crying and screaming all at once, as he mumbled something about Josh and Joshie’s bed. Ray calmed Zach down, and got him settled back in to bed, and I held Ethan in my arms. I tried to sooth him, but I knew it wouldn’t be over until he woke up.

Still, I had to try. It’s pure torture for a mother to watch as her child appears to be in such pain and stress.

As I was explaining to Ethan that Josh was okay, knowing full well that he wouldn’t remember anything in a few minutes, it was as if a switch flipped and Ethan was awake. He gazed at me, confused and wondering why he was standing in front of me as I talked about Joshie and his bed.

Scary stuff, but I thank God that Ethan never remembers any of it!


  1. says

    My heart goes out to you. My oldest (just 6) has had a few night terrors like this. Several were very violent in nature and scared us. He never recalled anything. Once again they are starting up. We think it has to do with anxiety about school and losing his first tooth. Good luck to you and your boys.

  2. says

    Oh Chris, night terrors are the worst.

    We went through a year of it with Bo when he was around 9 years old. Every night, around anywhere between 1 and 4am he’s just start crying and screaming in terror, shaking like he was in fear for his life. Scared me terribly the first time. He’d never even had bad dreams, let alone this terror, before that. I remember trying to get him to tell me what was wrong but he just kept crying. Then I realized what it was. Our home had burnt down about a year before the terrors started and I think that it was his mind’s way of finally processing it.

    Pretty much every night for a year, crying, shaking, incoherent for about 15 minutes then he’d settle. He never remembered it the next day. Finally as quickly and unexpectedly as it began it stopped and he hasn’t had any since (he’s almost 15 now).

    I’m hoping Ethan (and you!) don’t have to suffer them again. I swear I got one grey hair for every sob that year.
    ~ Merlene

  3. says

    My son Ethan started having night terrors when he was three years old. It honestly is the scariest thing I have ever seen. His usually consists of tigers chasing him. He’ll be screaming with his eyes as wide as they can possibly go, and start breathing really deep saying they are after him.

    He usually gets about 2 a year. He’s 7 now and really hoping they go away soon. Thanks for talking about it!


  4. says

    My husband suffers from Sleep Paralysis and I am always worried that Top Ender or Baby Boy will develop it.

    I hope that you don’t have to experience this again :)

  5. Stacy says

    I sympathize with you. My nine year old now had a few when he was around 7 years old.. The first time it happens it was so scary .. They point at things and think they see stuff and you wonder what is going on and you figure out real quick that their sleeping and having a night terror.. My pediatrician says they dont know what causes them.. Luckily we havent had any since that year..
    I hope they stop soon… God Bless

  6. says

    My best friend growing up had night terrors. I met her when we were eight, so the worst of them were over by then, but I witnessed a couple night terrors of hers over the years. Scary stuff!

  7. says

    My 3yo has them occasionally and even sleep walks. When he has night terrors he usually hits if we try to hold him, so we just have to watch him closely and make sure he doesnt hurt himself. Hasnt had any in a few weeks, but I can totally relate. Its hard to watch your child go through that and not really be able to do anything to help.

  8. says

    Oh I haven’t had to deal with anything like this! You are such a brave little Mom! Keep praying… and hopefully your boys with grow out of it or something!