When Ethan was 8 months old, he started having night terrors. Since it’s very rare for babies to experience night terrors, it took us a while to figure out that’s what it was. (Night terrors are not nightmares and they occur when a person gets stuck between sleep cycles. Children usually scream and cry in a way that is different from their usual crying and they sound terrified. Often they can be kicking and screaming and will have their eyes opened, almost looking possessed. Around the time Ian was born, Ethan’s night terrors stopped. He has always experienced intense nightmares as well, though those aren’t quite as frequent as they were when he was 2 and 3yrs of age. I can still remember in vivid detail how scared I was the first few times Ethan experienced night terrors and how upset it made me.
A week or so ago, Ethan had two episodes of wetting his bed in the middle of the night. He hasn’t done that in well over a year so it came as a big suprise to both of us. Ethan told me that he thought he was using the bathroom and then woke up to find that he was in his bed and had wet it. I determined that he must have dreamt that he was in the bathroom.
Last night, he came into our room, got into the bed and just stared at me. I kept asking him “Ethan, what do you need? Why did you come in here?” He didn’t answer and just made noises and kept moving around. He finally got up and went back to his room. I realized after he left that he must have been sleepwalking. This morning I asked him about his coming into my room to see if maybe he had woken up at some point when I was talking with him last night but he said that he never came into my room. He was quite upset to learn about the sleepwalking.
I remember my sister sleepwalking when she was a child and I know that this can run in families. I had trouble going back to sleep last night because I started worrying that between the bed wetting and now the sleepwalking, he was developing a serious problem. When he was a baby and I read everything I could find about night terrors, I read about the bizarre and scary things that can happen to people while they are sleepwalking. I had to stop myself and confess to God my anxiety about it and ask him to protect Ethan.
In my research today, I’ve found that Sleep Terror Disorder and Sleepwalking Disorder are more prevelant in gifted children, and more so with boys. I haven’t found much advice on how to deal with it. A friend of mine has a gifted child who was a sleepwalker and she cautioned me to make sure that the doors are locked at night for safety. I’ve read that having a regular bedtime routine is important, which we’ve always had one, so there isn’t much to change there. I will be praying that God would keep Ethan from trying to go outside and that we would always wake up and hear him if this continues.