Night Terrors...the name is quite descriptive of what it feels like
to have this experience, which is also called Sleep Terror, Pavor
Nocturnus, incubus, severe autonomic discharge, & night terrors.
These events are characterized by the sleeper suddenly becoming awake,
usually screaming or crying out, and the dreamer may even for a moment
try to escape the dream image that terrified them. At this point,
sleepwalking can occur. In my case, I would bolt out of bed and RUN to
get away from what was terrifying me. I was going to display a graphic
image from my own night terror, but I have not been able to find anyone
who can depict the scene accurately enough. Maybe one day. The night
terrors I had started out with amnesia, so I would wake up absolutely
terrified but have no recall of what I was so flippin' upset about! Over
the years (about 15) I was finally able to start remembering what the
dream image was that so terrified me. Once I learned how to use a
combination of lucid dreaming and dream interpretation methods, I was
able to overcome this terror in a series of dreams. These dreaming
events transformed my life. I call these dreams my "Angel Dreams."
Getting back to Night Terrors, here is what happens within the body during an episode: the autonomic nervous system is activated, which stimulates feelings of intense fear via the "fight or flight" response. Some people have anxiety attacks on top of this autonomic response mechanism, and/or have asthma attacks as well. If this is a frequent occurance, it might help to keep a good old-fashioned paper bag next to the bed, so you can breathe into it and prevent hyperventilating and resume normal breathing.
This episode of terror usually occurs within the first third part of the night, with partial or total amnesia of what dream images caused the night terror, if any. Polysomnographic monitoring demonstrates the onset of episodes during stage 3 or 4 in the sleep cycle. Tachycardia usually occurs in association with the episodes, which is part of the autonomic response "fight or flight." It is helpful to realize that this is a normal physical response, and to start breathing slowly and deeply, bringing your accelerated heartrate and breathing rate back to normal range. This autonomic response with it's sudden surge of adrenaline is used to prepare the body for either fighting or fleeing danger, a predator, or any life- threatening situation. The body is primed for speed and strength, giving one a better chance of "coming out alive." This is the response mechanism that enables a woman to lift a car off of her child, for example.
When this autonomic response accompanies a nightmare or night terror, it is important to reorient yourself (or the one affected) and start breathing slowly & deeply, calming down from this surge of adrenaline. Remind yourself you are NOT in danger, you are ok, and that the feelings you are having are caused by the adrenaline surge and not real danger. Also try to resist getting up and pacing around until you are more alert and less likely to injure yourself. Then read or watch something PLEASANT on t.v., call a tolerant friend, or do something to get your mind off that scary feeling until you feel better able to sleep. If you feel a type of "fogginess" or dulling of the mental senses, try to avoid going back to sleep or you may fall right back into the same sleep pattern and have another night terror. At least, this has been my own experience. Night Terrors are believed to occur during stage 4 of sleep. You can look at a sleep chart here at this link:
How often do these Night Terrors occur? It varies. Some people have episodes less than once per month, without harm to themselves or others. Some people experience episodes less than once per week, without harm to themselves or others. In its severest form they occur almost nightly, and/or occur with unintentional physical injury to the person affected, or to others nearby. It would be wise to contact a sleep disorder clinic if you fall into the second or third category, certainly. I have a link to sleep disorders clinics, below.
Here is a description of a sleep disorder usually found in babies or children, but which rarely does
afflict adults as well:
Rhythmic Movement Disorder:
Also known as jactatio capitis nocturna, headbanging,
headrolling, bodyrocking, bodyrolling, rythmie du sommeil.
The term rythmic movement disorder is preferred as different body areas may be
involved in the movement activity.
(snipped from below site:)
Sleep Well Homepage
These movements can also be accompanied by gutteral noises that sound pretty primeavel. Cool! Ok, so it's not so cool to their spouse in the middle of the night. But my main concern is this: I've had people contact me, worried that their relative or friend who displays the above symptoms are possessed by a demon(!) No, this is not demonic possession...it's a neurological sleep disorder that is not fully understood by science as of yet, unfortunately. However, the good news is that the WWW is bringing fellow-RMD'rs together so they can bond and share their angst. And I'm sure they have plenty of angst to share!
I am not a doctor and cannot diagnose anyone, so if you are concerned that you or someone you know
may have this disorder, you would need to contact a reputable sleep clinic in your area.
I have provided a link
This is a disorder that is said to be rare in adults, usually occuring in babies and children who
outgrow it by their teen years; but guess what-- adults are now finding each other on the net and
are suprised that there are others out there with the same disorder.
Many doctors are unfamiliar with RMD, so you should
be on guard not to be dismissed as if you are imagining things, or that it's no big deal. C'mon, you can
stand up for your patient rights better than that! If the doc is dropping the ball, call him/her on it and
demand a referral to someone who is trained in these sleep disorders, such as a sleep disorder
clinic. That's right, I said FIRE the doctor. They aren't gods, they are
paid by you, the consumer. They are hired help and should do their job. If they don't, find a better
one on the net or by calling around and asking questions. I don't mean to sound harsh, but I hear
from so many people who suffer because of inept doctors who should do better by their patients, or who
let the insurance companies lead them around by the nose. Ok,
so often it's the insurance companies fault...don't get me started! (stepping down from soapbox)
So remember: RMD has nothing to do with being possessed by a demon. I know it seems weird and even scary,
but it is a medical issue, not a demonic possession issue. A general rule of thumb to go by is this: if their
head doesn't spin completely around, you're probably safe any the pea soup episodes. Unless they want to
really jerk your chain! (grin)
Seriously, can you imagine how many people
who have had this disorder who have most likely been ostracised over the eons?
Thank goodness we live in a more knowlegeable age these days. We do. Don't we?
Here is a link so you can find a sleep disorder clinic near you:
NASA Sleep Links
Here is a message board thread that shows other adults who have this disorder:
Here is a link to a page about the disorder with another link to an
email support group list that you can join if you like. I imagine these are like
long-lost relative reunions, since they must feel so alone with this disorder.
Eric's Rhythmic Movement Disorder Website
The above page is under construction, but my buddy the webmaster Eric will have it up & going strong
in no time.
Let me know if there are any other questions, or you need help contacting someone knowlegeable about this disorder.
One word of advice: don't take "No," or "I don't know" as an answer, nor accept it if a doctor pooh-poohs this disorder.
When they do that, it's a clear sign that they are clueless and just too lazy to research it for their patient;
they don't deserve your money, fire them and find a better doc. I suggest joining Eric's email list (above)
and asking around for any specialists they may have found. I know they've had difficulty, so if there are any specialists reading
this who would like to help these people out, please contact us. Thanks!
Here's a link to a huge resource on sleep disorders put together by
SLEEP DISORDER RESOURCES
Here is an A-Z by State listing of Sleep Disorder Clinics:
Use this Link to email me:
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