My baby screams during the night then resists being held or comforted. What is going on?
It’s possible that your little one is having a sleep terror or a confusional arousal (something like a less intense sleep terror). Sleep terrors are the exact same thing as sleepwalking but more dramatic. They are often related to being sleep-deprived and typically occur during the first half of the night. They also tend to run in families and are more likely to happen if your little one is sick, doesn’t get enough sleep, or has a disruption in his schedule.
During a sleep terror, check on your child but don’t speak to him or try to soothe him, as these often make the sleep terror worse. Most children will resist being comforted during a sleep terror and will appear confused and disoriented. Trying to soothe him will only exacerbate the sleep terror. Instead, just let the sleep terror run its course, and stand nearby to make sure your child doesn’t get hurt. They typically last only about 15 minutes, and your child won’t remember in the morning. Also, know that sleep terrors have not been linked to any underlying psychiatric diagnoses, such as anxiety or depression.
If you are having trouble figuring out whether your little one is waking during the night or if he is actually having sleep terrors, check with your health care provider.
About Dr. Erin Leichman