My son wakes up screaming at the same time every night. Is it an act?

My son is almost two, he is smart and a delight to be around. He naps at daycare on a mat and when I put him in his crib at night he goes right to sleep. Between 11:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. every night he will wake up and scream until either my husband or myself bring him to our bed where he falls asleep almost instantly. His screams sound so painful that it is hard to ignore him but the fact that he falls right to sleep in our bed can only mean it was all an act. He will scream/cry uncontrollably to the point of throwing up. He’s gone for close to two hours before we go get him. My husband and I both have demanding jobs. Our family (we also have a four-year-old girl) gets up at 5:30 a.m. on weekday mornings. Letting him cry it out is not working because he eventually gags and vomits and then we have to go in and clean him and his bed up. I’ve even tried getting up with him and letting him play and then trying to put him back to bed the way I initially do at the beginning of the night. I really need to know what I can do to help him sleep through the night.

It is difficult to determine what is happening. But it is important to figure this out.

If he has a very high heart rate and a scream that is almost unreal, he may be having night terrors.  Night terrors are a heightened state of arousal that occur about 90 minutes to 180 minutes after the onset of sleep.  When they are interrupted, children are still asleep.

If it is night terrors, it is not an act. It is real. It is caused by a bit of immaturity in the brain that stops the natural arousals we have during sleep. Discuss this with your son’s doctor in order to get a diagnosis.

I would suggest you continue to manage this as you have. He will likely grow out of this as he develops. Alternatively, you can try waking him up before the time he usually has the night terror. This may interrupt and change the pattern.

Your son’s doctor can prescribe medications that change his sleep patterns and may interrupt the night terrors.

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