Saturday, June 6, 2009

Night Terrors

Imagine for a moment that your significant other was prone to sleep-walking, sleep-crying, or even screaming in their sleep. I would expect you would grow wary of having to share a bed with someone prone to such nocturnal circus antics, but alas, my husband, a prince among men, is a very patient man.

Once a month or so, I will have a nightmare that causes me to jump out of bed in a panic while still asleep. Sometimes I just stand next to the bed crying in my sleep, other times I make it as far as the closet before Marc wakes up and tells me gently to go back to bed. Usually launching myself out of bed half-wakes me up, but not always. I rarely remember my dreams. Other nights I will sit bolt upright with a gasp, and when Marc tells me it's okay and to go back to sleep I always do-- but rarely do I remember what happened the next morning.

Twice the worst of the scenarios has occurred: one summer night in 2003 I screamed a deep death-scream for 10 minutes straight, never once waking. Poor Marc woke up on the alert thinking someone was killing his wife, and then had to try and get me to stop. (The really scary thing is I lived in an apartment at the time and not one person called the police-- what if someone really WAS trying to kill me?) The next morning I woke up with a very sore throat, but absolutely no memory of what happened.

In Fall of 2007, I was very stressed trying to study for mid-terms and it happened again. I screamed and screamed in my sleep, though eventually this time I woke up to Marc telling me it was okay, and as I went back to sleep I had a vague thought that I might have done it again. (Incidentally, I lived in an apartment at this time too, and no one called the police-- that scares me!) After both times I was afraid to go to sleep for weeks afterward, afraid it would happen again.

I asked a naturopath about these incidents and she said it was likely due to my suppressing emotions during the day that come out at night. Apparently I've been doing this most of my life-- I remember being a teenager and my Dad asking me the next day why I was up in the middle of the night. He said I went downstairs, turned on all of the lights, used the downstairs bathroom and then went back to bed. I had no memory of any of it.

Incidents like this make me really scared of sleeping in situations where there are people other than Marc there. This year I went to conferences two weekends in a row, both times sharing a room with other women, and lay awake for at least an hour worrying about if I was going to have an episode in the night (thankfully, the worst that happened was I was talking in my sleep.)

As I go off to live without my husband during the week next year I'm again reminded that my night safety is partly due to his kind reassurances, and I fear for myself and my potential roommates at what might come of these events without him there as a mediator.


Carol said...

I have a niece who has night terrors. It's a tragic thing to hear a 4-year-old screaming uncontrollably in her sleep, not to mention what her parents must go through.

Sabrina said...

Yes, they are much more common in children.

Misha Henshaw said...

I have been known to review budgets in my sleep - line by line until Ken wakes me. I also scream in my sleep but not to the extent it sounds like you do. I am so sorry that you struggle with this.