Night Terrors / General Anaesthetic

(9 Posts)
dubbletrubble Tue 10-Sep-13 22:17:19

My 10 yr old son has been having very frightening nightmares for several months - almost every night. He is terrified. He had an op in the spring under GA and had a very upsetting return to consciousness - was clearly having a very bad dream & it was terribly distressing for me to watch. Since then he has been having these night terrors almost every night & it's so distressing to watch him being so upset & I can't do anything to prevent them. He comes into bed with me every time it happens and sometimes when he gets back to sleep I can tell he's still dreaming with anxiety. I took him to gp last week who said there was no verified link between GA and nightmares but has heard of it - "it's just a phase... He will grow out of it" etc. that's all fine & well but my heart is wrenched watching my boy being scared out of his wits every night. Please please can someone give me any helpful information or advice on this - there has been no major upset in his life and he's a happy, bright boy with a loving family and lots of good friends. I can't think of any reason why it's not linked to this awful reaction to the gen anaesthetic as there was never any episodes of even night waking never mind nightmares before that point. I'm feeling helpless & really upset as it becomes clear there's no way I can solve this sad

Andro Wed 11-Sep-13 22:25:05

Months of nightmares isn't a phase, it's a problem.

Surgery can be traumatic, there's no disputing that. A lot of people suffer nightmares in the immediate days and weeks after a operation (I think I read somewhere that it was ~20% of patients). There might not be a cast-iron link between GA and nightmares, but there is a well known link between trauma and nightmares...and trauma is a very individual thing!

Are the nightmares affecting his willingness to sleep? Do they seem to affect the quality of his sleep? Are they affecting his daily life (either due to tiredness/anxiety/unwillingness to sleep over where previously there wasn't a problem)? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, I would seek a second opinion and/or the advice of a therapist with experience of dealing with trauma.

Encourage him to talk to you about the nightmares as well; discussing them in a bright, comfy place with mum or dad there to give a hug/kiss/ruffle his hair to make him squirm or laugh can help to reduce the power of the nightmares.

I've spent 3 years supporting my own DS through trauma and phobia therapy (yup, he had a double whammy), the dreams are horrible to witness.

dubbletrubble Tue 24-Sep-13 21:29:35

First of all, huge apologies for delayed response. Have had broadband trouble for 10 days now & couldn't get access to wi-fi at a suitable time to reply to your post. All fixed now - so thanks very much for responding, and sorry to hear you've had a trauma to go thru with your ds and that it's had such a long reaching effect. I'm convinced there is a link between the op & the nightmares, but cannot establish whether ds woke during surgery or was indeed having a nightmare during recovery - but I'm doing my best to deal with the effects now and it's not something that can be 'fixed'. To answer your questions, no - it doesn't seem to be affecting him during the day, or in getting off to sleep - it's just that he wakes almost every single night terrified. By day he is a confident & very popular & bright boy - who has no worries. I don't think doc can do anything - but this has been several months now, if it doesn't start settling down soon - should I be resorting to some kind of therapy?

CinnabarRed Tue 24-Sep-13 21:35:28

What you have described sound like nightmares rather than night terrors (sorry, I don't mean to sound picky but each has different causes and I only have experience of night-terrors. I don't want to offer advice on nightmares in case I get it wrong).

What I can say is that DS1 suffered dreadfully from a whole range of parasomnias - he was under a paediatrician but the doctor basically told us to put up or shut up until such time as DS1 grew out of it, if he ever did.

We were recommended the name of a private sleep clinic and I can't praise them enough. If you want, I'll PM you their details. I have

CinnabarRed Tue 24-Sep-13 21:38:21

Oops.

...no idea if they can help with nightmares, but I'm pretty sure they'll tell you upfront if they can't. Also, all of our consultations were by phone, which meant DS1 was unaware that we were getting help (which was important, because one thing that really helped was for us to stop talking about his sleep issues)

CinnabarRed Tue 24-Sep-13 21:42:44

BTW, if your DS has no recollection of the episodes the next day then it might actually be night-terrors.

In which case please be aware that no matter how he seems to you then his experience is not one of terror.

He only reason I say that is because - if it is night terrors - then talking it through might make it worse. (Nightmares could well be different though.)

dubbletrubble Mon 30-Sep-13 22:47:18

Thanks for responding cinnabarred - I'm not sure whether this is nightmare/terror but it's very upsetting. I've been recommended a sleep clinic locally that I may look into if the episodes don't settle down.

Andro Mon 30-Sep-13 23:30:38

If the nightmares are not getting any better I would at least get a second opinion - waking almost nightly is a real problem - if nothing else you might be able to get a referral to someone who may be able to help.

If he is waking completely from the episode, fully aware of his surroundings, it's a nightmare.

Andro Mon 30-Sep-13 23:31:06

^and aware of the fear that woke him

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