There are few absolutes known about the phenomenon called night terrors. Pediatricians liken it to sleep walking, only with a rather dramatic twist. A child (adults can get them too, although it is not very common) will suddenly "wake" up screaming, and usually experiencing some manner of delusion that is incredibly terrifying. The causes are nebulous, including sleep deprivation, poor day-time routine, stress, and development of the imagination in toddler years. Experts agree that resolution of the night terror is best done with a hands-off approach. Trying to fully wake the child, intervene, and even talking to the child can exacerbate the terror, making it intensify or last longer. Parents are encouraged to "run interference", keeping the child safe from any stairs, windows, or other physical dangers. This sounds all fine and dandy until it is your precious 3 year old screaming that bugs are crawling all over her.
Mary experienced her first night terror about six months ago. She has had them two times since, with the last one occurring on Wednesday. Mary awoke at 4am, screaming so loudly she woke all of her sisters, and thrashing around in her bed frantically crying for us to, "get the bugs off!" Between 4:00 and 6:30 that morning she alternately dozed, and desperately sought to find the source of bugs in the bed. We moved her into our room, where she snuggled between her Daddy and me while we quietly explained over and over that there were no bugs. We prayed, we tried to rest, we felt terribly that Mary was seeing bugs, and we waited...
Our sweet girl finally collapsed from exhaustion at 7:20 in the morning. Of course it would be the one morning I have a commitment, and at 8:30 when I tried to get her up and dressed she was like jell-o, complaining, "Mama, I so tired." Tell me about it!
So now what do we do? Well, we are working to ensure that our activities during the day are not causing these disturbances at night. But perhaps more importantly that that, we are praying every night that our Lord remembers his word:
I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for you alone, O LORD,
make me dwell in safety.