Q & A with Heather Harrison D.O

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Are night terrors normal for children, and what can I do about them? My daughter started having night terrors when she was 18 months old. She would wake up screaming and throwing a tantrum, and even though her eyes were open, she wouldn't be awake. In the morning she wouldn't remember anything. She's now 4 1/2 and they are a lot less frequent, but every now and then she'll be throwing HUGE tantrums in her sleep and not be awake. She kicks, screams, yells, etc.

Michelle P.

Dr. Harrison: Just to review there are two types of "scary dreams" that children may have.

  1. Nightmares occur typically from 4 - 6 am. This is when your child is awake and may come to you saying they had a scary dream and has trouble getting back to sleep. Nightmares can often occur after some type of stressful event. The best way for you to handle nightmares is to reassure your child that they are safe.
  2. Night terrors usually occur from 1 - 3 am. With night terrors, your child may be screaming, sweating, breathing fast, and even though they may seem awake, they are actually asleep, and will not recall the event. With night terrors, you should make sure the environment is safe for the child. Again because the child is not awake, make sure doors are locked, so that they can not go to the outside, there are gates on stairs so they do not fall down, and do not put a child with night terrors on the top bunk bed where they could fall off.

Most kids grow out of both types of scary dreams overtime, and rarely may last until several years old.

My two year old daughter has always slept through the night until we started potty training her. Now for the past 5 months she wakes up 2 to 3 times a night and permanently at 5:30 am. All I do is put her back in bed and she usually goes right back to sleep. Sometimes she has to go to the bathroom or wants a drink. What she really wants to drink is milk, but I only let her have water. I'm at the end of my rope with not being able to get a good night sleep and need some help. If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them.

Thank you, Stacey G.

Dr. Harrison: Often children will change their sleep schedule if there has been a change at home. Sometimes a new baby, move, or recent travel will make your toddler change their schedule. The best thing to do is put your child back in their bed. Make sure to have your child go to the bathroom before going to bed. Often they ask for a drink to delay going to bed so try to avoid giving a drink after they are already for bed. Work on a bedtime routine with a bath and reading a book, tuck your child in and remind them how big they are and can sleep in their own bed all night. Positive reinforcement works well. You can try using a sticker chart for the times they stay in their room all night and give a reward when they reach a week. As a week straight becomes more common, you can extend the time period for a reward. Also, reassure your child that they are safe in their own room and bed.

I want to get pregnant soon. How can I tell when I am "fertile"?

Thanks in advance, Jenna T.

Dr. Harrison: Women can often tell when they are ovulating (fertile) by several methods.

Temperature charting: With this method, you should be checking your temperature first thing every morning before getting out of bed. Your temperature should rise 0.4 to 0.6 degrees when you ovulate. You then have about a 36 hour window to try to conceive.

Cervical Mucous: During ovulation, your cervical mucous changes to a stringy/mucousy discharge. If you pay close attention to your vaginal discharge you can notice this difference and have intercourse during that time.

Ovulation Prediction Kits: You can purchase these kits at the grocery store/pharmacy. They detect the LH surge (hormone that increases to induce ovulation) by dipping a test strip in your urine first thing in the morning. You should check this test daily starting a few days before anticipating ovulation up to a few days after. You can determine the best time to check by keeping track of your periods, and know that ovulation is usually 14 days before starting your period (i.e. if you have a 30 day cycle than you should ovulate on day #16, so start checking ovulation kit on day 14 - 18). You have about 48 hours to try to conceive once this test becomes positive.

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