Are sleep terrors from unresolved trauma, especially since he has type 1 diabetes (T1D)?
Sleep terrors can be distressing to witness as they involve a sudden apparent arousal from sleep followed by what appears to be terror. Although they can be related to (and sometimes made worse by) things like stress, changes in routine, sleep disruption, and not getting enough sleep, they do not generally represent unresolved trauma. It can also be reassuring to know that those experiencing sleep terrors will not remember them when they wake up, as they are actually asleep when it is happening. Most people grow out of them by the time they reach adolescence.
Sleep terrors first tend to occur as young as infancy and they are not uncommon (according to one study up to half of all children experience these). As mentioned, many factors make experiencing sleep terrors more likely – especially a family history of parasomnias (including confusional arousals, sleep talking, sleep-walking, and sleep terrors). Sleep terrors on a particular night can then be triggered by missing out on sleep or experiencing disrupted sleep. Factors that can impact sleep are plentiful, and include, amongst other things, stress. Many of these things might be relevant given how stressful it can be to adjust to a new medical diagnosis. In addition, diabetes itself and associated monitoring can disrupt sleep, making sleep terrors potentially more likely to happen.
Adjusting to a diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes can be challenging – so if you are concerned that your child or any family member is having a difficult time with their thoughts, feelings, or behavior, please talk to your diabetes team to see whether they would recommend a referral to a psychologist who specializes in helping families adjust to a new medical diagnosis, or specifically diabetes management. The team can consider all of the salient factors including the sleep terrors and decide whether your child would benefit from additional support.