Night terrors (also known as sleep terrors) are a disturbing sleep disorder which most commonly affects young children but can also occur at times of stress in adults.
The condition can become chronic and is characterized by waking up in the night, screaming in terror and having hallucinations of fearful images like bugs in the bed.
This article explores the causes of this sleep disorder and how to stop night terrors without the need for prescription medication.
This bizarre sleep disorder goes by many names including: sleep terror disorder, pavor nocturnus, and DSM-IV AXIS I:307.46 (that would be the medical name). It shares similarities with Hallucinatory Sleep Disorder (HSD) yet many people go undiagnosed simply because they don't understand what's happening to them.
Not to be confused with bog standard nightmares or even sleep paralysis, night terrors involve waking up suddenly from deep slow wave sleep about 15-60 minutes after dozing off. Victims may jump out of bed, experiencing extreme terror and a temporary inability to regain full consciousness.
This is often accompanied by fearsome hallucinations which vary from person to person. In the past when I experienced night terrors it was always a giant spider that was either walking up the bed or hovering in the air before me.
This instigates the fight or flight response - an evolutionary instinct which helps us flee from emergency situations with a rush of adrenaline. The fear is intense, and the sufferer will often scream and shout and be highly motivated to get away. In this half-sleep state, they will not respond well to logical statements ("calm down, it's just a dream") and some people have no memory of the attack whatsoever.
Night terrors in children are the most common and yet we are not immune to this condition as adults. Research has identified some specific causes such as:
According to the Night Terrors Resource Center, the longer you are in non-REM sleep before the terror strikes, the greater the fear. It is possible to provoke an episode in a sufferer by merely touching them while in deep, non-REM sleep. In fact, a recent study found that in 81% of cases, physical contact and proximity of a sleeping partner or a pet on the bed was the trigger for the already predisposed sufferers.
There are different schools of thought on the best way to stop night terrors in children and adults. Some recommend that you hold and reassure the sufferer when they jump up screaming and shouting, which also prevents them from hurting themselves. However, they may be extremely paranoid and think you're trying to harm them, so if this is their reaction, let them move about freely.
It's also important to stay calm yourself. Don't yell at them because this will make them more anxious and confused. They will already be extremely confused from the sudden adrenaline rush and quite possibly be half-asleep, so be patient and try to bring them back to reality with reassuring words.
Often, my hallucinations lasted no more than five seconds, yet seeing them appear so vividly in my bedroom left an imprint on my mind. It took some convincing before I would finally "wake up" and accept that there was never anything there.
In severe cases, doctors prescribe anti-depressant drugs like Klonopin, Tofranil or Valium. However, there are natural remedies available withought prescription such as:
If you or your child suffers from sleep terrors, you can try the following relaxation methods to prevent the build up of anxiety which often leads to the attack.
Be especially prepared for night terrors to recur in unusual circumstances such as sleeping while jet lagged or severely sleep deprived, or sleeping in a new location (either the bed has moved, or you're in a different house altogether).
Another way to reduce the stress that causes sleep terrors is to seek out counseling to release any negative anxieties that may be to blame. The night terrors may be linked to phobias or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) so dealing with the root of the anxiety is a good way to treat this condition that goes bump in the night.
For a more in-depth look at treating the root cause, see my article on How I Dealt with Night Terrors.
Access Rebecca's popular e-course, 10 Steps to Lucid Dreams, plus personal insights and links to her best web content. 30,000 people are on board.
Humans are unique in our endless capacity for imagination. According to Steven Mithen, an anthropologist at the University of Reading in the UK, we needed to evolve seven critical mental skills before we could have imagination as we know it. Each of these abilities serve a distinct purpose in their own right, while imagination is the culmination of them all.
The coolest brain hack I've ever experienced is the Wake Induced Lucid Dream - or WILD. The name says it all: during a WILD, you literally hand-off your awareness from a physically waking state directly into a sleeping lucid dream state. Though not the easiest lucid dream technique, it does have two big advantages. Lucidity on demand - choose when you have a lucid dream. Peak lucidity - it's the most vivid type of lucid dream available. In this tutorial, I explain how to have a Wake Induced Lucid Dream via two routes: visualization (using your hypnagogia) and the out-of-body exit. Buckle up, Dorothy, 'cause Kansas is going bye bye.
So here's a quirky little nighttime oddity that can strike terror into your soul. Sleep paralysis. It's the mechanism that stops you from acting out your dreams. It happens to you every single time you go to sleep, and you've probably never even been aware of it. There's a lot to say about sleep paralysis. One the one hand, it's a very normal bodily process. One the other, it can be a terrifying sleep disorder. And on the third hand (yes, that's three hands now) it's the gateway to the lucid dream world. It covers quite the spectrum of emotions.
Want to get your hands on some futuristic technology? Then why not use your lucid dreams to explore new scientific concepts and developments? In fact, it's thought that numerous well-known scientists including Nikola Tesla exploited their dreams to simulate theories and prototypes in action. Here are five futuristic concepts to get your dream cogs in motion.
So you want a real challenge for your next lucid dream? Check out these thought experiments. They have no right or wrong answers, at least as far as we can prove in 2015. If you undertake any of these - please add a comment below. The beauty is that everyone's experience will be different and I'm eager to read your results.
Experts agree that everyone is capable of having lucid dreams. Dreaming itself is a normal function of the mind. We all dream every night, even if we don't remember. And we all achieve conscious awareness while awake every single day. So what does it mean to combine these states? Why, the amazing ability to have conscious - or lucid - dreams. Sounds simple, doesn't it? So why do I keep hearing from people who say they can't achieve their first lucid dream?