So it’s to expertise night time terrors into maturity

It was hard enough being a young person without the label: “The Girl Who Screams” (Image: Amy Briscoe)

‘I’m dying!’ I screamed and sat upright in bed.

I could feel the air sucking out of my lungs, my hands over my chest. I had only just started college in 2006, and the boring dorm decor stared at me. In that moment I felt like I was at ’s door.

I came around slowly. I had screamed so loud my throat burned in pain and my heart pounded in my chest. I heard the muffled sound of doors slamming, voices, and footsteps running down the corridor. There was an urgent knock on my door.

“Are you all right? What’s happening?’ my new roommates called urgently through the door. The disorientation subsided and I began to grapple with my reality again. I couldn’t remember what had just happened. What I remembered was like shards of glass that you couldn’t put together and understand.

“I’m … I’m fine,” I called back, laughed embarrassed and opened the door.

‘Are you sure? It sounded like you were murdered or something! ‘ asked my worried neighbor.

‘It’s okay. I have night terrors that make me .

I had to explain to them that, essentially, it’s really really bad dreams that make me wake up screaming – but I can’t remember them and can’t control it.

I apologized before closing the door and sinking to my knees, shame crushing me. That was my icebreaker when I first moved into university halls.

I have had a sleep disorder called parasomnia or “night terrors” since I was four. It wakes me up with a bloodthirsty , the fight-or-flight response causes me to jump out of bed and zoom across the room like a lion is eating me up.

I woke up with black and blue bruises on my legs and the sides of my body from jumping out of bed in a frightened manner during a nightly horror.

When it started, my parents’ concerns were dismissed and they were advised that as I got older, I would outgrow. Over and over again, they were told that sleepwalking and crying were normal behavior for a child.

The unpredictability of this condition makes it likely the most terrifying – both for the sufferer and the person who may be sleeping next to him

Sleep problems seldom persist beyond the age of 12 and it is very common for children to suffer from insomnia. My GP advised me to use St. John’s wort, an over-the-counter herbal remedy that is believed to increase the activity of brain chemicals like serotonin and norepinephrine, which are believed to play an important role in regulating our . It did not work.

I even tried yoga, but it was a momentary sense of relaxation. It wasn’t long before the night horror reappeared.

It was hard enough to be a young person without the label: “The girl who screams”. Fortunately, my friends were always understanding and supportive, but that feeling of embarrassment and fear didn’t go away the next morning.

In addition, with nighttime fear, a sore throat and constant lethargy, you feel hopeless the next day.

Sleep deprivation also has long-term effects on your health and there is an increased risk of heart attack.

The unpredictability of this condition makes it likely the most terrifying – both for the sufferer and the person who may be sleeping next to him. My partner often wakes up and struggles to get back to sleep.

It is common for people to have no memory of their night terrors, as all of this happens while they are essentially still “dreaming” and unconscious. I wake up towards the end of mine and often feel confused and disoriented.

Sometimes I wake up and jump out of bed and I need encouragement to sit down and go back to sleep, but it can be impossible with your heart pounding in your chest.

Some cases can be worse than others, and occasionally I have no trouble sleeping for a few nights.

I tend to experience multiple night terrors. So if I see a lot of these in a week, I’ll make an effort to cut caffeine and relax through mindfulness or reading a few hours before bed. It doesn’t necessarily stop them, but I think it helps me get into the best possible sleep.

During my night terrors, I “see” a face that resembles a gargoyle and I wake up talking about someone or something lurking downstairs in my bed. This ghost has been a part of my dreams for years and it can appear larger or smaller and sometimes change shape which makes it even more terrifying to experience.

These are known as hypnagogic hallucinations. It’s like the worst horror movie goes on loop every time you go to sleep. Fortunately, I often don’t remember it.

Around 20% of the UK population has some form of sleep disorder

It is no wonder that the Roman poet Horace referred to the night terrors as “The Sick’s Dream,” and much art has been created on this subject too. The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli, for example, is one of the most popular depictions of night terrors in the art world.

Fortunately, I haven’t done anything dangerous, but I’ve read horror stories about people breaking limbs, jumping out of windows, and even accidentally killing themselves.

I am very aware of this, so I locked all windows and doors at night with all sharp objects locked away. For those affected, there are door alarms that emit a loud noise with a frequency that will wake you from your sleep.

When I was in my early 30s, I found a family doctor who finally took my condition seriously and referred me to a sleep clinic to prescribe cognitive behavioral therapy. I’ve found that my brain works differently when I sleep than other people.

After my referral, I learned so much about myself and my disorder. Nowadays, people are more open about the quality of their sleep and the impact it has on mental health and life.

The information enabled me to speak about it and I hope to help others learn that they can seek help and are not alone. You don’t have to hide it and be ashamed.

My story began in the 90s and it has been until today until I even know what my disorder is and how I can get on with my life. I see it as part of me.

Approximately 20% of the UK population has some form of sleep disorder, and it is time to get up and start a conversation so that those who are silently suffering can get the treatment and support they deserve.

There is no quick fix and even sleeping pills are temporary and pose a risk of addiction.

More: lifestyle

I know this is a lifelong condition; In fact, it has been recognized as a mental illness in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). I want an open conversation about it because a good night’s sleep is a critical aspect of your health and wellbeing.

My sleep is still unpredictable and it still feels like an emotional roller coaster ride not knowing if I woke up and screamed or not.

I would like to say it has improved, but not. I feel like treating my sleep disorder gives me a sense of control that I lacked before.

Fortunately, I am now more aware of my own stress triggers, and regular exercise such as exercising. B. Walking a few miles a week makes me feel better, so I know that if I have poor sleep at night, I will do whatever I can to cope with it.

I am kinder to myself now and am not ashamed of myself.

Instead, I am motivated to share my story, break the taboo that poor sleep quality is normal, and motivate others to seek help and talk about their sleep problems.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Contact us by email at jess.austin@

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