'My son's night terrors are so extreme he has burst blood vessels from vomiting and screaming'

Picture: Supplied
Picture: Supplied 

Nicki knows just how distressing night terrors can be.

The mum-of-two from South Australia has spent countless nights standing by her now nine-year-old son Hudson's bed for hours as he was gripped by the condition. 

Many nights the terrors were so extreme he would vomit violently, often to the point he'd burst the blood vessels around his eyes.

Different from nightmares, where a child may remember and be able to be comforted on waking, night terrors cause intense fear and the sufferer to flail about and scream while asleep.

They will also have no memory of the episode. And while nightmares can be common, night terrors are believed to only affect up to six per cent of children, and are more common among kids aged four to 12.

While Hudson began having these when he was just three-months-old, it's become no less distressing for Nicki, who - under medical advice, can not wake him from the terror, and can only stay with him until it stops.

Nicki said Hudson's night terrors often last for hours

Picture: Nicki said Hudson's (left) night terrors often last for hours

"It's been a very, very long, eight plus years. He's beginning to grow out of it now, but he still has night terrors and now sleep walking and talking and screaming in his sleep too." 

It began when he started 'horrifically screaming' in his cot, leaving Nicki and her now ex-husband fearing something was 'very wrong'. 

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After having Hudson looked over, they were told it was night terrors and not to wake or touch him - agony for parents desperate to comfort their distressed son. Instead, they stood by his cot, holding a pillow between his head and the cot bars to keep him from injuring himself. 

"It was so hard as new parents, so hard to watch, But he'd slowly fall out of it and back to sleep. But some nights he'd have them for hours and three to four a night. It was absolutely awful," Nicki said.

Doctors could find no cause for why they were so extreme and Nicki said she's tried everything - both natural remedies and prescription medication, to ease them, but nothing has worked. All doctors have told her is that he'll likely grow out of it.

It's brought little comfort to the family, which also includes Hudson's younger brother Henley, seven.

Picture: Hudson would often be left drenched in sweat

Picture: Hudson would often be left drenched in sweat

"With the night terrors he'd vomit every night, horrifically all over the walls and his bed, himself. He'd get so worked up he'd burst the capillaries around his eyes the vomit was so forceful."

"They weren't 20 minute outbursts, they could start at 8.30pm and go until 4am."

While the night terrors have begun to ease to one or two a fortnight within the last 18 months, he's now started sleep walking. And although Nicki says this is much easier - and less distressing - to deal with, it brings its own dangers.

"He'll walk around the house and think he's talking to school friends, or come up to me and have a chat, but it's clear from what he's saying he's not awake," she said.

"If he doesn't get up he'll talk laying in bed and have full on conversations or scream out. With the sleep walking, twice i've found him out in the street, so we've put deadlocks on the door."

Picture: Nicki with sons Hudson (right) and Henley

Picture: Nicki with sons Hudson (right) and Henley, who hasn't experienced any night terrors

As stressful as it's been for Nicki, she says Hudson mercifully doesn't remember a thing and, when he was younger, would only be aware he'd had a bad night if he woke in different pyjamas or when she showed him videos of the terrors. 

He's also just had his first school camp - which Nicki said she felt far more anxious about than Hudson. Rooming with friends he's had sleepovers with before and who knew what to do if he had a night terror, she felt reassured.

"He almost makes a joke about it around his friends, 'If you come for a sleepover, don't expect any sleep!'. I'm really relieved he doesn't have that anxiety around it or let it stop him doing things."

​"That makes it a little easier. I couldn't imagine going through all this with a child who you had concerns about when they're awake. He can live a relatively normal life around his sleeping."

Nicki, who will appear on SBS Insight on April 13, said while she has been told Hudson will grow out of the condition, she has only truly believed this since filming the episode.

"One gentlemen at the recording, he gave us so much reassurance. He said looking at Hudson's pattern, that he's had severe night terrors right from birth and they've started to ease in the last 18 months, he guarantees me he'll grow out of it by adolescence. And I believe him," she said.

"There's only a few more years to go. I don't think i've ever felt as reassured as I do now that it will come to an end."

You can hear more from Nicki and others on 'While You Were Sleeping' on SBS Insight Tuesday at 8.30pm.