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my 20 month old daughter is a champion sleeper, normally. last night she woke up screaming in the middle of the night at 2AM. my husband went in to check on her, and said she was wide awake jumping up and down in her bed, and yelling. he tried a number of things to soothe her, but was just not succeeding. i gave it a shot. got her quiet, but as soon as i put her back in the bed, she would scream. i thought, oh well. she can cry it out. "paisley, go back to sleep. it's bedtime. night night." that didn't work, and i ended up sleeping on the sofa with her just to get a little sleep. could it possibly be nightmares that startled her in the night? i can't imagine what a 20 month old would have nightmares about, but maybe it's a possibility...?
My daughter went through the same thing, and it went on for weeks. When she would calm down she could tell me a little, but she didn't communcate well so I didn't understand all of it. We ended up changing her schedule around and that seamed to work it out. We use to have story time after dinner then watch a move and go to bed, but if we read a story right before bed then she seams to be ok. During that time she became very attached to a stuffed animal so I made sure she always had it with her, it seamed to help. When she started sleeping again she didn't want the animal any more. good luck to you and her!
My 3 yr old has had nightmares since she was maybe 6mo. Sometimes just me being there to let her know Im there to protect her can calm her down. Other times she needs to come cuddle with me in bed. That blood curdling scream is terrible and you wonder what could a young child possibly have to be so frightened of, but think about the crazy dreams you have had in your life. I know I have some pretty outlandish dreams that have me thinking all day what they mean. Kids dont have the ability to process and think like that. They just know that a tiger is chasing them or that one of the muppets is riding a big wheel right at them breathing really hard and scary. Yes both of those were reoccuring dreams I had atleast 25-28 years ago. And damn skippy I still remember them like it was yesterday. Dreams are just your minds way of working things out or going over the days events. Just be there to comfort or talk about it if she needs. And if you dont understand what she is saying just reiterate that you are there to protect her and that it was only a bad dream and not reality.