Adult Night Terrors

Night Sweats, Night Terrors, Nightmares, Sleep Terrors.

Night Terrors are not Nightmares ~ typically a nightmare happens when you’re in deep dream sleep, whereas night terrors wake you up, so the experience of a night terror is one of wakefulness.  Night terrors are also different from Sleep Terrors, because a night terror will wake you up, whereas with a sleep terror you will have all the symptoms of extreme fear, but you will stay asleep.  If you are awake, or partially awake, and terrified in the night, then the chances are you are suffering from night terrors, (which are a recognised psychological disorder).

Nightmares usually occur in the early morning during REM sleep when our dreams are at their most vivid.  More often than not we can remember all the cinematographic details of a long, scary nightmarish dream when we first wake.  On the other hand, night terrors usually happen during the first part of the night, aren’t part of REM sleep, and we won’t remember anything much other than waking up / being awake in a terrified state.

Typically, night terrors are caused by a previous psychological trauma, (such as an abusive childhood), or by stress, or by substance abuse, (such as drinking too much just before bedtime).  However, as one of the causes of drinking too much before bedtime is a mental illness like Borderline Personality Disorder, which is itself probably caused by a previous psychological trauma, it’s fair to say that if you suffer from night terrors you’re probably drinking too much and suffered some severe disturbance / abuse / trauma in your past.  Chances are if you’re in that situation you’re also feeling very pressured right now, and suffering from the symptoms of undue stress.  It’s an illogical Catch-22 situation.

If you suffer from night terrors it’s likely that you wake very suddenly with an intense fear of something unknown / a nameless dread.  Your heart will be beating fast, you will be breathing hard and fast, your blood pressure will be elevated, your eyes will be wide and staring, and you will be sweating.  This is different from night sweats, which is severe and excessive sweating, without the associated terror.  The common causes of night sweats are medical, and some of them are very nasty, such as cancer.  However, one other cause of night sweats is drinking too much.

What night terrors will do to you is prevent you from getting the 7 to 9 hours of good quality sleep that most adults need every night.  As well as making you feel tired, lethargic, and irritable, not getting enough sleep can cause lots of nasty illnesses such as; high blood pressure, strokes, and heart disease.

The most likely advice if you have night terrors when you get beyond your teens is that you should see a doctor.  Good luck with that one, because the only real cure for night terrors is to treat the underlying problem(s).  That will mean doing something about the effects of any psychological trauma in your past, and cutting out whatever drug you’re taking too much of late at night ~ including coffee, booze, prescription drugs, street drugs…

There are some very common-sense things you can do if you suffer from night terrors, sleep terror, nightmares, and / or night sweats ~ without resorting to medication and a long period of talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy.  None of these are easy, or likely to give you a quick fix, but you should consider;

An episode of night terror can be brought on by worry, stress, emotional tension, fatigue, conflict, and especially too much alcohol late at night, (or more likely a combination of factors, including booze).  How much is too much alcohol?  Actually, too much booze is however many drinks puts your health and well-being at risk.  For me, one drink is one too many.

After suffering night terrors you are likely to be utterly inconsolable, grown women, (and men), may cry, and the event may be so disturbing that your mind will wipe most of it from your memory.  The next morning you won’t be able to remember what terrified you.

In adults, it is most likely that night terrors, sleep terrors, and nightmares have an underlying cause of previous severe stress, trauma, mental and / or physical abuse, and subsequent mental disorders and generalised anxiety.  In fact, the underlying causes of sleep problems can be very similar to the underlying causes of addiction.

Not getting enough good quality sleep is a serious matter.  The consequences are severe, up to and including death.  If you’re suffering from night terrors, sleep terrors, nightmares, night sweats, then you really do need to take action right away.  Start with the tips I’ve given above, but if you have to, go and see your doctor.

~

jack collier

jack collier7@talktalk.net

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2 responses

  1. Yes, I attribute my night terrors to my childhood…never knowing when my father would come home…and how angry or drunk he would be. Whether he would start yelling at my mom and/or breaking things and hitting her. Would he come in and decide to beat us too? Night terrors are a symptom of PTSD I think.

    My terrors are nameless…it’s a “something” that is unidentified…but “it” is trying to get into the house…into my room to “get me”. Every noise outside, every creak and groan of the house is an indescribable and horrifying “thing” that one does not ever want to meet.

    However, now that I am more aware, I catch the terrors when they start to happen. I then focus my mind on something else…deliberately…and that can usually stop it. But if I get sucked into it and don’t focus on something else, it may go on for minutes and minutes…carrying me away with it deeper and deeper.

    Thanks for this insightful post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your story is tragic, your words are poignant, your courage is obvious.
      I mourn your lost childhood, I empathise with your pain, and I admire your bravery.
      Thank you for being open and honest, it cannot have been easy to write your comment to my post. I hope my words have helped you in some small way.
      Talk to me at any time if you think talking with me would be good for you.
      You have my best wishes, always.
      Love from Jack Collier. ❤ ❤ ❤ 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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