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I have always been sound asleep, and for as long as I can remember nothing could wake me up once I fell asleep. Fire alarms, vacuuming, loud music, knocking on the door – whatever, I would oversleep.
But earlier this year I got a lot of bad news from all directions in a fortnight, and when it quickly became the most stressful time of my life, I began to feel the physical symptoms – panic attacks, unexplained weight loss, and pulling my hair out.
Most confusing, however, was the accompanying sleep disorder, as I had night terrors at the age of 26 – something I’d previously only associated with children.
The first time it happened I couldn’t figure out what was going on, suddenly woke up in the middle of a scream and felt as scared as I ever was.
It kept happening and the panic was so real that I couldn’t imagine it was in my head. The confusion and disorientation only made the panic worse, but generally I was able to go back to sleep after lots of water, gasping, walking around, turning all the lights on and off, sticking my head out the window, etc.
As life got easier, my repetitive night terrors subsided, which confirmed my suspicions that it was fear-related. But to make sure it never happens again, I sat down with Stephanie Romiszewski, Bensons for Beds Sleep Expert, for more insight into the sleep disorder.
Why do we get night terrors?
“Night terrors are often characterized by frightening hallucinations that make the person scream and punch around,” said Stephanie. “Night terrors occur when some people lose their slow sleep – they are also called ‘parasomnias’ and are very different from nightmares that occur during another phase of sleep. The biggest difference between them is that night terrors are usually not associated with dreams and are usually not remembered. They are often more frightening to anyone else who might see the person have them. Night terrors can run in families and are made worse by sleep deprivation, irregular sleep patterns, and alcohol use. ‘
What are the symptoms of night terrors?
“Someone experiencing night terrors may scream, scream, and beat around in extreme panic, and may try to“ get away ”by jumping out of bed and running away. The eyes will be open and they can speak, but they are not fully awake. The episodes can last from a few seconds to several minutes, depending on their severity. They usually appear in the first half of the night when the slow wave sleep percentage is higher. It is possible to have several in one night. ‘
Is night fear common in adults?
“Night terrors are common in children who have a tendency to outgrow them without intervention. They are much less common in adults, but I see some students with night terrors and some patients with poor sleep behavior. ‘
How can you stop your night terrors?
“You can’t do that,” says Stephanie. “And by the end of it, you probably won’t know it happened – let it play and follow the preventative points above.”
What should you do when you see someone who is terrified at night?
“When you see someone go through nighttime horrors, you can be reassuring and caring, but don’t hold onto them, try not to touch them, or get angry. That will only make it worse. ‘
How can we prevent night terrors?
“Night terrors are made worse by irregular sleep patterns, stress, and alcohol or other stimulants,” Stephanie informed me. “It’s important to sleep regularly and wake up at the same time each day. When we deviate from our natural sleep cycle because we feel we need to compensate by adding more sleep times, like napping, going to bed early or worse, avoiding sleep to avoid the problem, or lying down … all of that aggravates night anxiety.
“Environmental factors can also trigger night terrors – noise, light, and discomfort in bed can disrupt your sleep cycles enough to trigger them,” Stephanie continued. “Also if your partner goes to bed later than you or snores, makes noises or fidgets, this can also trigger this.”
“After all, other illnesses and drugs can cause night terrors,” concluded Stephanie. “So it is always worth talking to your family doctor first.”
Are some people more prone to night terrors than others?
“Those who don’t have a regular sleep schedule can consume alcohol regularly, people with anxiety disorders.”
Are night terrors dangerous?
“Only in very serious cases can they sometimes lead to you accidentally injuring yourself or others while you are trying to flee and to flee,” says Stephanie reassuring me. “Most of the time, they’re just uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing. They don’t seem to be related to any specific mental health problem, but people with anxiety-based illnesses may be more likely because they are prone to irregular sleep patterns and disorders that could trigger them.
If you are concerned about your night terrors or any sleep disorder in general, see your family doctor or a sleep therapist.