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Night Terrors


There are bad dreams and then there are bad dreams. Those who suffer from night terrors know what I mean by the distinction. People can have bad dreams that leave them feeling afraid, but night terrors are much worse. Those that suffer form this will often sit bolt upright, heart racing, sweating, shaking, eyes wide, seemingly awake but not actually aware of their surroundings. It takes them a little while to actually wake up and regain control of their fight-or-flight response that the dream triggered. Doctors think there’s a connection between night terrors and lack of good sleep, diet, and other things.

I have had night terrors since I was a kid. Most kids will grow out of it but I seem to have kept this interesting phenomena. It’s not like I have these terrifying dreams every night but they happen quite a few times a year. I will open my eyes and actually see what was in the dream in the shadows on the wall or the lumps in the blankets. There have been several times that I have jumped out of bed and ran out of the room. Hubby had to catch me on both of those occasions πŸ˜‰

As a biology professor, I am fascinated with pretty much all things science, but the brain is especially intriguing. We know an awful lot about how nerves transmit information to and from the brain and yet… we really know nothing about how this amazing organ works.

After watching the Star Trek episode Night Terrors, I was curious about sleep and decided to do some searching to see if there were any disorders that dealt with sleep. I came across one called fatal familial insomnia. In this disorder, people lose the ability to sleep. The begin to suffer from hallucinations, delirium, and finally a state of mind similar to dementia. The average lifespan of someone after diagnosis is about 18 months.

Yikes! Kind of makes you want to go hit the sack now, doesn’t it? Thank goodness this disease is exceedingly rare. The worst that will happen to most people is the occasional lack of sleep that will lead to some crankiness and perhaps some excessive caffeine intake! πŸ˜€

What is the worst dream you can remember having? Have you ever woken from a nightmare so vivid that you can’t shake it from your mind, even when your eyes are open?

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14 Comments on “Night Terrors”

  1. Ian April 5, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

    for me, its a matter of the manner of waking – if it is too abrupt, then the mundane crashes to illusion down in seconds. If, however the waking is gradual then conscious perception of the dream can carry on for some minutes. The degree to which you feel dreaming or awake controlled by hypothalamic GABA neurotransmitters, that supresss external sensory input, and paralyse the body from enacting what is happening in the dreaming condition. If you waken after a long lie-in, the phases of sleep you experience are shallow and more heavily laden with REM phases, and the difference between unconsciousness and arousal is small – this is a good time for “lucid dreaming”. Sometimes it can occur during rebound REM after a heavy night drinking alcohol, particulalry when fuelled by extra potent, stale and stinky, tyramine-laden hard cheese.

    • shayfabbro April 5, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

      Cool explanation!!!! πŸ˜€ Thanks Doc! πŸ˜€

  2. C.R. Rice April 5, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

    I too suffer night terrors, ever since I was about four or five, so I can completely empathize with you. The very worst dream I can ever recall was one involving my significant other and being unable to find her…it was horrible.
    There was a time, according to my mother when I experienced a somnambulistic episode (the first and only one so far) that after she woke me up I ripped a door off the hinges because I thought it was a bear attacking me (the dream I was having). I woke up so terrified I didn’t sleep for four days straight.

    • shayfabbro April 5, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

      Yikes!! I am so freaked out after an episode I don’t sleep for the rest of the night! I’m glad I don’t have them very often! And at least we can turn these into stories and books, eh??? πŸ˜€

      • C.R. Rice April 5, 2012 at 6:21 pm #

        That is *exactly* what I do, to ‘exercise’ my demons as it were. I usually have a episode once or maybe twice a month, usually less, and about 10 on average a year.

        • shayfabbro April 5, 2012 at 6:25 pm #

          That’s about right for me too. I’m sort of glad they don’t happen more often πŸ™‚

  3. Emmie Mears April 5, 2012 at 6:15 pm #

    Oooohhhh, yeah. I’ve had some hypnogogic and hypnopompic hallucinations before in that weird between state of sleep. Sometimes I see spiders crawling across my pillow or spindling down from the ceiling (I’m an arachnophobe), and I wake up with such a jerk that it wakes my husband as well. Scary, scary stuff. I don’t often get nightmares, but when I do, they’re vivid enough that when I wake I think they were real.

    • shayfabbro April 5, 2012 at 6:22 pm #

      Same here!!! Hubby has taken to just patting me on the arm and saying “It’s alright. Just a dream. Go back to sleep.” LOL

  4. kleeyaro April 5, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

    I’d rather remember my best dreams. And those are, ironically, Star Trek dreams. I had a dream where I did some “fun stuff” with Worf. :o)

    • shayfabbro April 5, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

      Bwahahaha! Guess you weren’t too fragile for him? πŸ˜‰ I have dreams about Star Trek and Dr. Who a lot actually. Wish I could remember them cuz they might be awesome episodes πŸ˜€

      • kleeyaro April 5, 2012 at 6:51 pm #

        I’ve also got some wonderful Leonard Nimoy dreams. Not Spock dreams, though. :o)

  5. Sherry Isaac April 9, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    The land of sleep and the land of dreams. Such interesting enigmas, truly, the undiscovered country and the next frontier.

    I’ve had scary dreams, but it’s the oddball ones that I remember. Phew. During the day, I dream about Shemar Moore. Nothing scary there!

    • shayfabbro April 9, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

      Shemar Moore! *swoon* He IS delightful isn’t he? Criminal Minds is one of my favorite shows!

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