About 6% of children experience night terrors. Their symptoms are similar to those described below. Almost all children outgrow the propensity by adolescence. When adults have night terrors, it’s considered to be a sleep disorder and a very unpleasant one at that.
My husband has the worst nightmares of anyone I’ve ever heard of. He wakes up screaming! Once our neighbors even heard him it was so loud!
He doesn’t seem to have any trouble falling asleep, but several times a month he bolts upright in the bed, sweating and his heart is racing. Mostly he yells, “NO! No!” But other times I can’t understand what he’s saying. It’s scary to me!
Sometimes he thrashes around like he’s running in his sleep. I’ve had to duck to keep from getting hit more than once. One time he stood up on the edge of the bed and I thought he was going to run out of the room.
When this happens, it takes a while for him to even recognize me. He won’t talk to me or answer my questions. No matter how hard I try to tell him everything’s going to be OK, he’s inconsolable.
Then he kind of snaps out of it and says he doesn’t remember anything except trying to get away from something or someone who was going to kill him.
We’re both afraid to fall asleep! What should we do?
Afraid to Sleep with My Husband!
You have described the classic symptoms not of nightmares, but ‘night terrors.’
Many parents have rushed to their child’s bedside in the dark of night after hearing the screams of night terrors. Most children will fall back to sleep after being assured that mom or dad is close by to protect them. Next morning, most kids have no recall of the events of the night before. Thank goodness, young ones typically outgrow the night terrors.
Only 1 to 3% of adults experience night terrors. In adults they are considered a sleep disorder. They do not occur during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep associated with the dream state where a ‘normal’ nightmare might occur. Just as you’ve described, the details of what was terrorizing the sleeper are rarely recalled. In more extreme cases, sleep walking and more dangerous activities have been reported – using kitchen appliances, leaving the house and even driving a car!
Your husband might try a before-bed snack as some research indicates that those experiencing night terrors may be hypoglycemic. It’s uncertain how low blood sugar might be contributing to the terrors, but it’s worth trying as the correlation is documented.
Also, some have experienced success in breaking the cycle of night terrors by waking themselves up a few minutes before they typically fall victim to the distressful event. So, if he usually starts screaming at 2AM, set the alarm for 1:45, Dear Dreamer.
If the night terrors continue, it’s time to visit the doctor. Some medications have been effective in treating this disorder.
Sweet Dreams to You!