Toddler phase is called as the troublesome twos for a reason. The baby, now entering the toddler phase, is undergoing a lot of changes emotionally and mentally. They are developing independence but at the same time they cannot perform the task well and this leads to a lot of frustration. They probably comprehend everything by this time but the speech is not fully developed. Due to this, they are unable to fully express themselves and this also leads to frustration. Their language center is rapidly growing and their neurons are bombarded with stimuli the whole day. These pictures, sounds, words etc. run in their tiny brains during the night as well. These sometimes lead to vivid dreams and nightmares which wake them up frequently at night.
Night terrors are an extension of nightmares but they are much worse. Here the child is in a half-awake state during the episode and is screaming his lungs off. No amount of coddling or consoling seems to help him. This is a cause of major distress for the parents because they feel helpless and worry that something might be pathologically wrong with the child. Once physical causes are ruled out, night terrors can be diagnosed easily. It usually occurs at a fixed time, usually 2-3 hours after sleep.
A 20 month old girl was presented in the clinic with sleep issues. According to the parents, she was a bad sleeper since many months and woke up at least 1-2 times per night. Some nights she would feed and go back to sleep while the other nights she might cry/ play for sometime before sleeping. 3 weeks back she fell sick with a mild fever/cold and since then her sleep has become worse. Three hours after her sleep (whatever time that is) at night, she screams with her eyes closed and has been consistently doing so the last one week. Her screams are loud, shrill and no amount of consoling helps her quiet down. After 15-20 minutes she calms down a little and at least responds to the parents but continues crying. Last two nights the screaming episodes have lasted longer.
The parents also report that the toddler has been getting too much screen time in the last one month. She insists on watching videos on phone/ laptop and screams if not given. She refuses to play at home and prefers to watch videos instead. The parents also report that the child has become unusually stubborn since last few weeks. She was always an amicable child and this change in her behavior seemed odd to them. She cries till she gets what she asked for but refuses that thing when given to her. Her behavior and mood has become erratic. Also, she is constantly asking for someone to carry her. Above all she is irritable all the time.
After ruling out physical issues, it was clear that it was a case of night terror. One of the major factors contributing to it could be the excess screen time. The cartoons, animations etc. which they see play in their minds during the night. Since she was already a bad sleeper, the videos further stimulated her brain, making it harder for her to sleep. It was clear that her screen-time needs to be restricted (or made zero if possible).
On the basis of her symptoms and the full case history, she was prescribed a homeopathic remedy to be taken twice a day for 3 days.
First night after the remedy:
The parents reported that she slept late around 11 PM but she slept the whole night without waking up. She woke up around 5 AM, had her feed and slept off again. This was the first night in many weeks that she had actually slept and the parents could also get some rest.
Follow up after a week:
The parents had taken efforts to cut down screen time and prevented the use of mobile phones around her. After the wonderful first night, her general tantrums during the day also came down. She did ask for the phone/ laptop now and then but did not make a fuss about it when it wasn’t given to her. She was more playful that usual. The next few nights, she did wake up a few times but she always went back to sleep easily with/ without a feed. She never woke up crying even once since the remedy was prescribed.
Follow up after a month:
Her sleeping pattern has improved. The parents reported that it’s easier to put her to sleep. She has stopped asking for the phone if she doesn’t see it. Her tantrums are almost zero and she is now more interested in playing. The remedy was repeated only on SOS basis if her sleep got worse again but she didn’t need more than a few doses during this month.
Homeopathy is a gentle way to support the body into naturally attaining balance. A lot of the time (especially in babies) the actual cause for a disturbance is unknown and homeopathy is a quick and effective way to treat in such cases. It not only helps the child but also eases the burden on the parents.
Note: Pronouns he/she are used as per convenience in this article and can be interchanged to suit your baby.