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.
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my 15 months baby has night terrors since he was around 4 months, he would cry while he’s sleeping. it was hard for everyone especially me & my husband. we were told that there is nothing that can be done especially for babies.
Sorry you’re going through this, sending you loads of love xx
Oh no, that must be awful especially when your little one is so young. I did read somewhere that children often grow out of them so fingers crossed that he does ????
I I am a 60 year old Mom of two grown adult children. They decided to take me away for my birthday and was woke up by my night terrors. They were so upset because they said I was using curse words and crying. The thing is when they woke me up to report to me I have no clue that I am doing this….. I have done it at home with my husband but he just lets me talk and then I go back to sleep. I don’t want to do it but I don’t know how to stop it. I get 8 hours of sleep a night, I am retired and the grandma of 2 but they live out of town. I am so ashamed that they had to witness it, I am going to try more exercise. Hope it helps!
So sorry you’re going through this too! I hope your children understood it was beyond your control, once you’d explained it to them. I find that mine increase when I’ve gone to bed restless so exercise is definitely something to try. I really do hope it works for you!
I’ve suffered night terrors before and also sleep paralysis – awful!
Thank you for sharing such a senstive issue, some people thnk it may be funny, but not for those who are experiencing said issues. I am glad that youhave found a away to help reduce the terrors and well done to you and the whole family for the support you give to one another.
How absolutely awful for you! My daughter had these but fortunately they didn’t last for very long, though they were so terrifying to experience. I think the worst thing was not being able to help her in any way x
It must be awful experiencing it with a child. Glad to hear that she doesn’t suffer from them anymore though!
Oh god Nadine these sound so awful! I have episodes of sleep paralysis (or at least I think it is, I was reading this post wondering could it be night terrors instead though I’m totally unaware I’m going to get a bad sleep and an episode of the terror/paralysis) I had one the night of new years day and have had them once or twice since baby was born and had them once or twice whilst pregnant and honestly, they’re so bloody frightening and exhausting and they definitely set my day off awfully. The day after my last one, I was super exhausted and shook up by it that I’d gotten up at 8.30 with baby as normal but I was back in my room at 10 telling my other half to get up as I just couldn’t cope I was feeling absolutely horrendous, my anxiety was through the roof and I didn’t have the motivation at all. I felt so bad for having to admit that as a parent, I couldn’t cope on my own that morning and looking after my monkey of a baby but I needed him to help so much! Luckily, I woke the next day feeling better but it was so scary! This post is great and the sleep tips are fab! I have to say, turning off devices etc at least 20/30 minutes before sleep has been helping me get a better rest, I’ve either been reading or jotting down some notes for blogging, life, sorting my diary etc and it feels so good. I always try and get at least 8 hours sleep too, I have to and I get so frustrated if something is preventing me from going to bed at a time I know I won’t get at least 8hrs sleep haha! Great post, thanks for sharing!
Sometimes I’m completely unaware I’m doing it but other times I do have a vague memory which is what makes it hard as you find it difficult to know what’s real or not. I’ve only had a few episodes of sleep paralysis so I don’t know if it’s linked to my night terrors. I’m often very active during mine. But I can totally relate to that morning after feeling as I often feel like that after a particularly bad night.
This sounds horrible. I watched a program a while ago on a woman who had sleep terrors, it was hard to watch, let alone experience as the person having them or their loved one watching on. I think it’s normal to try to find the lighter funny side to serious things in life, I know I do it! Really brave post #blogstravaganza
I’ve watched a similar programme and I have to admit that some people have it much worse than I do. It’s scary how your mental state can have such an impact.
Goodness! My son suffered terrors for a while but I didn’t realise that what I go through regularly is terrors too! I often leap out of bed terrified because I have forgotten to do something, fetch someone or go somewhere. Be night last week my daughter heard me tear downstairs and open the back door! It is scary thinking about what could happen. I know it is worse when I’m stressed but doesn’t seem to follow any pattern!
That’s the same with me. I often worry that I’ll do something stupid, although I very rarely get past the bedroom door, thankfully!
I have experienced this quite a lot. Poor Andrew can probably compare notes with D.
I think I’ve experienced most sleep issues, sleep paralysis (bloody awful when combined with a night terror) sleepwalking which has been both amusing and dangerous and lastly, sleep talking which is mainly just embarrassing and enlightening for Andrew!
I, like you, find mine to be worse if I’m over tired and worried. I’m not one to discuss if something is bothering me but Andrew can usually tell if something is playing on my mind because of my nocturnal behaviour.
What I have noticed is both children get them. Especially Elizabeth and at one point I could actually predict them down to the time.
Her worst period was when she was dropping naps and would go to bed completely exhausted. Precisely 45 minutes after she fell asleep she would enter a night terror and seemingly wake distressed. She would scream for mummy. She needed her mummy where was her mummy… all the while I’d be holding her.
Sometimes I used to turn all the lights on and shout until she woke just so she would wake up and realise she was OK. That was usually when I couldn’t bear to hear her screaming my name over and over absolutely terrified, yet blind to me there in front of her.
She seems to have grown out of them now but now J has started.
The only good thing is they don’t usually remember them. Most likely worse for us than them.
Have you tried meditation? That’s meant to be very good.
Hope they improve soon
Oh you’ve spoken about it before. I completely forgot! We’d be a nightmare sleeping in the same building. We’d have each other climbing the walls!
Lots of people keep saying about being able to work out exactly when a child will have a night terror. I’m wondering whether mine are predictable. I’ll have to ask D. It sounds awful for children though (or the parents!). T can become hysterical and we find that he is still asleep when he does it so maybe that’s the start of them for him? I hope not.
I’m not sure if its meditation exactly but I do the breathing and counting. I also do something that I didn’t mention above as it’s hard to explain but I’ll imagine that I’m sinking into the bed. There’s a bit more to it than that but that’s the jist. Although in hindsight, maybe it’s that technique that had me crawling up a “sinking” bed!
Night terrors are absolutely awful. Though I’ve never suffered, just reading this sounds terrifying!!
Oh my goodness I had no idea adults could even have night terrors – sounds awful poor thing!
They’re not very common in adults. I have heard stories of other people’s night terrors and some have it much worse!
Wow! What an interesting post! I never knew that adults continue to get night terrors.
Strangely, I’ve only suffered them as an adult. It’s not particularly common though.
I am sorry to hear about your night terrors – I remember my best mate’s son having them when he was a child but had no idea that he may not “outgrow” them. I had no idea and this is a very insightful post – as well as useful for helping others. Glad you have your husband he sounds a good man.
I never suffered them as a child (or atleast my parents have no recollection of any) but I know that most young people do grow out of them. So fingers crossed for him! And yes, my hubby is super! 🙂
I wouldn’t wish night terrors on my worst enemy because I know how frightening they can be. Sorry to hear you still suffer from them. I am fortunate they stopped a few years back using similar tips
That’s really good to hear! I’m hoping mine subside too.
I have never suffered with night terrors but it sounds awful. I hope things settle down for you soon x
Thank you, I hope so too!
That’s really interesting and sorry to hear that you have such a hard time with night terrors, you’re right I bet it’s hard for your other half so it’s amazing that he puts up with it and supports you. I agree that turning off devices helps and I very much think exercise is top of the list too. I hope you get better.
Thank you, I hope so too!
This is such a brave and honest post, also a really informative one. Well done for raising awareness around this issue, I’m sure this post will help others to feel less alone. Thanks so much for linking up to #Blogstravaganza, it’d be great to see you again next week xx
I hope it has given people some insight. I’m sure there are people who have it a lot worse but are misunderstood ????
This is ever so useful. I’m a classic example of a night terror case. It’s horrendous, I wake up crying and then have headache for next two days ugh. It’s really difficult to tell people as well because everyone’s like – it’s a DREAM. it’s not REAL. I’m like well it was real for me when I was there for gods sake. x
This is the exact reason I decided to write about it. A lot of people don’t understand that it’s not like a dream. No matter how much people try to convince you that it’s not real, I will be dead cert that it is until I come round myself.
Night terrors are awful and I remember many sleepless nights. Luckily they grow out of them (eventually)
Oh god that sounds awful! My youngest (2) and eldest (13) have horrific night terrors. My eldest has them so bad that he ended up on medication from the doctor as he was becoming a danger to himself during one of his terrors which became more and more frequent as he grew. It was awful to see him like that, I was freaked out the first time it happened!
That must have been so scary! That’s what I worry about, that I will hurt myself. I’ve heard all sorts of horror stories about what people have done through them.
These sound awful. I remember when my children being small I use to do so much in my sleep I woke up tired out. Now days I exercise a lot so I am usually drained by bed time. Great tips.
Thankfully I don’t suffer from night terrors. I do have some vivid dreams sometimes though.
My mummy used to suffer from night terrors when she was a teenager, its horrible and we really sympathise with you x Thanks for sharing your experience x
My 90 year old mom has them and as her caregiver, I can almost predict them and they ALWAYS accompany a UTI. Once it is cleated up, they stop. It hard to hear her screams and talking to the dead. Breaks my heart that I can’t help her.
Oh this is sad. It’s awful to feel helpless!
I can so relate to this, and also sleep paralysis and insomnia. Thank you for sharing.
My youngest suffers badly with nightmares and it’s gone for so long. When it first started I used to think he’ll grow out of them as my older child did bit no, he wakes up most night screaming or crying and some of the things he dreams about are so scary. I keep hoping he’ll grow out of it but after reading about what you go through I wonder if it’s something he’ll always have
I’m not sure how old your youngest is but they do say that most children grow out of them. I never suffered with them as a child (or at least my parents don’t recall any) so my experience is not the best comparison. Hopefully, your son will be one of the majority who grows out of them 🙂
I use to have terrors because we lived in a congested area and the lights coming in the window played with my vision(while my eyes were closed)
We recently moved into my in-law’s basement so it is pitch black. Last night I panicked so badly that I started to roll and when my husband grabbed for me, I freaked and rolled off of the bed. Thankfully I didn’t get hurt but it was scary. This article helps. Thank you.
I’m glad this helped! They really are awful. I’m similar with the pitch black. I’ve read that a low blue light is good for helping sleep. I haven’t bought one specifically for that but I have a blue light coming from my little one’s camera monitor and I’ve only had one night terror in the last few months. Possibly completely unrelated but worth a try if lack of lighting is setting them off 🙂
I am 29 and suffering from night terrors the last 7 years after someone broke in in my parents apartment and i met him face to face. My husband is suffering as well he gets really annoyed every time i wake him up but he is such an amazing guy that in the morning he rolls over and hugs me forgetting about it . The thing is…as we are now thinking of starting a family …how do you cope with being pregnant and having night terrors ? Is it dangerous harming yourself and losing the babe? And even worst : how do you deal with being a new mum and having night terrors ? Wont the screams wake the baby up when you tried putting it to sleep for the last hour or so ?
So sorry for the late reply. Your comment had gone into my spam folder.
I don’t remember really suffering too much with night terrors whilst being pregnant so for me, it was never really a danger. I did, however, see a massive increase in them once I’d had my little boy, probably because you become so anxious as a first time parent. I did sometimes wake my little one but he usually fell swiftly back to sleep. There has only been one incident were I went to take my little one out of the cot whilst having a night terror however parents seem to have a sixth sense and my husband woke pretty swiftly and stopped me. Other than that, it was mostly hallucinating that my little one was on the bed when he was actually sound asleep in his cot. I hope this helps 🙂