I thought long and hard about writing this post on night terrors in adults. I worried that I was divulging too much information about my personal life as I’ve spoken about before here. However, I’ve decided that the benefits of talking about it far outweigh the negatives, so here we go…
Amongst those who know me, it is common knowledge that I suffer from night terrors. Normally, I explain it as something that is hilarious. Like the time I tried to climb up the bed because I was convinced it was sinking. Or the many times I shout that I can’t see at the top of my voice or hang my head over the bed trying to remove the invisible object stuck in my throat. I laugh about it, call myself a weirdo and it’s no big deal…
Actually, there is nothing funny about it.
I have suffered from night terrors for many years and they tend to come and go. But for the last few weeks, they have come back with a vengeance. I have been waking up more regularly with terrors and finding that I am exhausted through the day. The final straw was waking today to find that I’d kept my husband up most of the night panicking about the baby. Normally I’d have a vague memory, today I have nothing. I don’t remember a thing.
What are night terrors?
For those who do not know, a night terror is a feeling of fear which usually occurs in the first few hours of falling to sleep. Night terrors are more common in children and only effect around 2.2% of adults.
The person suffering from a night terror might shout, thrash about or sometimes sleep walk. Night terrors in adults are said to be caused by a variety of things including stress, illness, new environments and sleep deprivation.
For me, my night terrors have got a lot worse in the last 5 years. I can contribute this to having a highly stressful job working long hours and often going to bed with things on my mind. More recently, the anxiety of being a first time Mum has also added to this.
My long suffering husband
Let me just say, my husband deserves a medal.
My husband has been woken up on numerous occasions. Sometimes it’s through me screaming that I can’t breathe or I’m dying (let’s hope I never need real help – Boy who cried wolf springs to mind!). Other times I have physically grabbed him. Then there’s the many times that I have searched around the bed for Little One or have tried to catch him as I imagine him crawling off the end of the bed.
What people fail to realise is that the person having the night terror isn’t the only one that night terrors are having an impact on. I cannot count the times that my husband has woken panic stricken because he thinks I’m hurt. Or the times that he has had to complete a 12 hour shift on less than 4 hours sleep.
Then there’s the physical strain it has on you.
There is something unnerving about having a night terror that a news channel reported an asteroid coming to earth. Or that a man stood over you, staring you in the face. The most frightening part is that in that moment, it feels real. You struggle to separate dream from reality and you feel real fear. If I have a particularly convincing one then I will spend the night trying to wind back down.
The hardest part for some is the control it can have over your life. You worry about staying in new places for fear of what you might do. I have been known to create a barricade when staying at a hotel with a balcony, just incase! I have forced myself to stay awake on flights as I know that my fear of flying might set me off. They’re small things but they’re controlling.
How to reduce night terrors in adults
All is not lost though. Rather than seeking professional help or taking medication, I have found that there are several things that reduce my night terrors. I also found that for a long period of time I managed to get them to stop altogether by trying the following:
- Turn all devices off early – Switch off the TV and put down your phone atleast 20 minutes before you aim to go to sleep.
- Avoid caffeine close to bedtime – My cut off is 5pm for caffeine and that seems to work well for me.
- Avoid going to bed on a full stomach – There are studies that say certain foods cause nightmares. For me, it stops me getting indigestion which can interrupt my sleep, making my terrors worse.
- Aim for 8 hours sleep – Practicing good sleep hygiene is important. This is especially important when lack of sleep is a contributor to night terrors.
- Regular exercise – This can reduce anxiety and stress as your body releases endorphins which sends positive feelings through the body.
- Clear your mind before bed – Deal with any ‘To Do’s’ early on. This way you will not spend your time stressing about what you need to do whilst trying to sleep.
A final thing that I try, which might seem a little weird, is I count slowly whilst inhaling and exhaling. So for example, I might count 1-5 whilst inhaling and 6-10 whilst exhaling, etc. I find that this really helps as my mind is not wandering and it helps me to relax.
I do hope that this has given you a little bit of insight of night terrors in adults and that I made the right choice by posting about it.
Despite how difficult it is, I am still able to find the funny side and because of this, people tend not to realise what a huge impact it can have. I hope by talking about the unfunny side that I have highlighted that it’s not as straight forward as how funny it is that she shouts out in her sleep or tries to squish bugs that aren’t there. Unfortunately, there is a lot more to it.
Do you suffer from night terrors? Do you have a sleeping tip to share? Comment below!
*This post is merely giving you my experience of night terrors in adults and how I have dealt with them. I am not a trained professional and this should not be used as medical advice. If you have concerns then contact your healthcare professional.
The Tale of Mummyhood