Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Terror of the Night

Have you ever waked to find yourself screaming? Standing? Walking? All while absolutely positive that something or someone was in the room with you?

I have.  I have night terrors.

Night terrors are not nightmares.  You might wake from a nightmare with a start, but you typically won't wake to find yourself standing on the other side of the bed or walking in your living room, all while completely freaked out and possibly screaming.  I thankfully do not have these often but they are memorable.  I typically only remember a face, or a shape standing over me, or possible a snake in my bed ... and I am positive at the moment of waking that whatever the terror is at that time, it is real and nearby.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (and, no, I don't take any), about 6.5% of all children may have been affected by night terrors; however, children generally grow out of it.  The number drops to 2.2% of adults.  Somehow, that doesn't make me feel special in a good way.  I look at the list of potential causes and continually shake my head: no substance abuse issues, no post-traumatic stress disorder (unless dating counts), none of the possible medication complications, etc.  I don't know what causes my occasional terror; I only know they occur approximately 4-6 times a year.

Most often, if I have a night terror, I'll wake screaming.  [I'd feel a bit sorrier for my neighbors if any of them had EVER come to check on me ... or called the police.]  I remember waking during a Disney family vacation and finding myself on my knees in bed, screaming, with my then husband trying to calm me.  On rarer occasions, I've found myself standing on the opposite side of the bed in a frantic state.  One time, I was circling a chair in my living room as I calmed down and reminded myself that no one was really there.

Why am I even thinking of this quirk of mine right now?

Because my night terror reached a new level last night that will likely cause me to add this to the "Hi, Doc" discussion at my annual physical this year.  As is often the case, I have no memory of a dream last night other than KNOWING someone was in my room.  I was sleeping on my side and had a pillow between my knees.  The difference this time is that my scream wasn't stopped by me waking up and coming to my senses, my scream stopped abruptly when my head hit the dresser ... three feet away from my bed. 

My pillow was still between my knees. 

Honestly, it was as if I was sucked from the bed Exorcist style, hitting the floor first with my soon-to-be purple booty then the dresser with my head.  I have no idea how I did this booty bed jump.

I only know that I have a sore bottom and knocked noggin.  And a new topic of discussion for my doctor.


  1. I hit the "next blog" button and found this post, which is strange, since I too have been having these experiences (I don't mean to be a creeper!!). I've been experiencing these things for about a year, and lately more frequently! Waking up screaming, waking up feeling paralysed, waking up sitting, staring at my boyfriend (I feel so bad for him). I've not yet gotten up out of bed but I'm afraid it will escalate. Did you find that there was an escalation in your night time "activity"? Did you start with just vivid dreams, that turned into these night terrors? Just curious! None of my friends seem to experience these things!

  2. I remember having bad dreams when I was younger, knowing they were dreams, and trying to wake myself up ... but I don't think those qualified since I remember so much of the dream. Typically with a night terror, you'll only remember a feeling or maybe a face or shape, not a long dream.

    The waking screaming started, I believe, during my marriage (go figure). ;) It wasn't until I lived alone that I remember actually getting up and around before calming down. So, yes, I would say mine have gotten worse over the years but they are not frequent events.

    If you google "night terrors" you'll find a lot of information, talk about symptoms, etc. Everything from stress (the biggie) to medications to depression, etc., can cause them but even then they are rare in adults. I suggest you talk to your doctor during your next check up. He/she might have you go to a sleep disorder clinic (I have not yet done that) if they are really concerned. Good luck!

    I'm glad you stumbled in here ... :)

  3. Oh good, so Bailey has apparently inherited something special from you :) She has them too, but I'm still hoping she grows out of them. It's the strangest thing to walk in and her screaming and flailing and completely inconsolable until she just snaps out of it. And then she is a little leach afterward. Very disconcerting.

  4. It's much more common in children - don't worry. Or, hey, maybe we're both "special" and are "seeing" spirits. Yeeeeah ... I think I banged my head a little hard this morning. ;)

  5. Sorry to hear about this. Sounds AWFUL!! Hope you find some relief.