Not the same as a nightmare, Night Terrors are the next step up. They are when you a struck by extreme terror and panic (I think of it as an anxiety attack) while sleeping. Most of the time they happen early on in your sleep and when you wake up from them you are confused and scared, the world seems foreign. They are related to sleepwalking (somnambulism) and take place during deep sleep. Children between the ages of 4 and 12 are the most likely to suffer from night terrors. Adults who suffer are most likely suffering from some sort of psychopathology caused by abusing drugs/alcohol or a plain old stress or mental disorder.

They are next level shit. I suffered from them for about a year and the expirence was unreal. Dreams of pure evil and fear materializing in different forms (a 3 year old girl in her pjs with the features of a withered old woman floating outside the window). Long dreams of paralysis while evil hovered above you and you're trying to scream or move or somehow get somebody to wake you up but it feels like your brain can't send the messages anymore (it really can't). Everything being covered in fear (sort of like Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre). Waking up in dreams over and over again until you think you’ve lost the ability to truly wake up.

I’ve met a bunch of people who suffered from the sleep paralysis. Also others who have the dream of all their teeth getting weak and loose and then falling out. It's weird. Definitely a message that you need to do some assesment of your mental health, stress levels or love of the drug you love.


info from The nightmare: the psychology and biology of terrifying dreams by E. Hartman and some double checking courtesy of www.aafp.org

I experienced similar happenings while growing up. On several occasions, always while lying supine, i.e. head aimed at the ceiling, and usually just before nodding off, I'd experience an elevation of awareness. My eyes would track over to some corner where the wall meets the ceiling. I would percieve a blackish cloud, and would follow it as it drifted to a position right over my head. Then it would descend and hover over me.

This was all very interesting, except that I would be almost totally paralyzed at this point: the brain, in order to prevent somnambulence, normally stops routing requests to voluntary muscles just before sleep; and so, there I was, not really knowing what the hell was going on, there in the dark, with some kind of dark entity hovering above my person.

The emotional state I experienced was a slowly rising wave of panic and then terror. At that point, the sheer will to move takes over: at some basic, instinctive level, you know that if you can just move, the whole situation will just dissolve. People in this state usually report trying to activate every muscle they can think of in series. I'd manage to move a little bit, maybe make a weak vocalization. This would go on for a few seconds, until the barrier would break down, and I'd be able to move again.

At that point, I'd sit bolt upright, and reality would come flooding in. There I'd be, in my room, everything normal again.

This became a great incentive to sleep on my stomach, as this only happened while sleeping on my back. :)

The phenomenon, or what few instances of it there were anyway, ended when I was in my late teens. The last time it hapened was actually because I wanted to: I deliberately recreated the conditions of a previous night-terror in my mind, and sure enough, relapse! This time, it was not terrifying, just intensely odd.

The only similar experiences I've had since then have been while using Unisom to try to get some extra sleep. Almost without variation, I'll wake up (only partially!) after a period of restless sleep. Instead of the black cloud forming in a corner and floating down over me, I'd get a sensation more like I was just surrounded by evil nastiness. The last time it happened, I happened to have a hand on my chest, and could feel my heart racing at what felt like about 210bpm. (I know this because it usually only gets to about 180 during normal exercise, and I know how that feels.) I would usually have a feeling of rapid pulse during these occurrences, and that explains it. The most prominent perception would be of the blood rushing rapidly in my ears - that was the scariest part. One reason not to use Unisom, I guess. Again, I would just try to thrash around a bit until I shook the paralysis off. Unlike the "normal" occurrences, Unisom-induced night terrors tend to leave me with a distinctly nasty aftertaste that doesn't go away until I drift back off to sleep.

If you're trying to get some sleep, try exercising instead. Depending on chemicals to make you go to sleep is bad.

I've been having a kinder, gentler version of night terrors; I see things, but they're (usually) not frightening. Often there's a missing wall or a hole in the ceiling; I've seen clouds and fireworks and the occasional bird or squirrel or something on the curtains. Once I saw hordes of butterflies covering the walls; another time there were about 50 sofa cushions stacked in the corner of the room. Last night it was blue helium balloons, like a birthday bouquet. I sit up and put on my glasses to try to see more clearly whatever IT is; usually it takes 30 seconds to a minute for the figure(s) to fade away.

I'm sure this phenomena is related to stress; my girlfriend's father was dying of cancer all fall and winter, and died two weeks ago. I was pretty proud of the fact that the "night sights" had stopped for a few weeks, but then they came back. I do sleep on my back, so that might be related somehow; all I know from the reading I've done is that it happens during non-REM sleep, and is often related to stress. I get them frequently when traveling; it makes sense that it would happen when I'm in unfamiliar surroundings.

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The more I think about it, the more amazed I am at how powerful our brains are, and how we are completely at the mercy of what our brains tell us is reality. Take schizophrenia, for instance—especially the visual hallucinations as presented in the movie A Beautiful Mind. For that first half minute or so, my “night sights” are completely real to me; I can only imagine how difficult my life would be if they didn’t fade away, and in fact stayed around, or (God forbid) spoke to me and interacted with me on a regular basis.

In A Beautiful Mind John Nash eventually realizes his doctors are right, and his hallucinations are just that—manifestations that are not real to anyone else—when he notices that one little girl that he sees never ages. I feel fortunate that my “night sights” have not been as terrifying as what Protector of Mankind and DoctorNo describe above; I have the odd experience of slowly realizing that they cannot exist. On one occasion, for instance, I knew the man standing over my bed couldn’t be real, because I could see furniture in the bedroom, and the man was not to scale with everything else.

Sleep terrors often runs in families. They occur during partial arousal from stage 4 sleep in which the sleeper does not come to full consciousness. There is usually no memory of the episode the following day.

Most cases begin in childhood and are attributed mainly to delayed development of the nervous system, and the child usually grows out of it by adolescence. They usually begins with a scream. The sleeper springs up in a state of panic—eyes open, perspiring, breathing rapidly, and their heart beating two to three times faster than usual. Episodes usually last between 5 and 15 minutes. After the episode the person falls back asleep.

If not awakened during a night terror, children usually have no memory of the episode. If awakened they possibly will remember a single frightening image.

Sleep terrors in young children should not cause too much concern on the part of the parents. Episodes that continue through adolescence and adulthood are more serious. In adults sleep terrors often indicate extreme anxiety or other psychological problems. Up to 5% of children experience sleep terrors. Only about 1% of adults experience sleep terrors

Protector is right in saying that Night Terrors are 'the next step up' from nightmares; in fact, they are, at least physiologically, completely different.

The sleep process can be seen as a progression of states of consciousness, known as Awake, 1, 2, 3, 4, and REM sleep. The different stages are generally determined by the different brain wave patterns (measured by an EEG, or 'electro-encephalograph'). Nightmares, like all 'normal' dreams, occur during REM sleep, when, although the body lacks muscle tone, the level of brain activity is close to that of a conscious person.

Night terrors, on the other hand, occur during stage 3 or 4 sleep, the deepest sleep pattern. Brain waves in stages 3 and 4 (also known as 'slow wave' sleep) have much longer wavelengths than other stages and are known as Delta waves.

I became interested in night terrors though a research project for a pathology class, and I am trying to find imformation on a possible connection between night terror occurences and body temperature: terrors tend to be more common when the patient has a fever. According to one mother, placing her son's feet in cold water while he was having a night terror 'cured' him. I'd be interested to know if anyone has any information about a possible connection.

In my early childhood I was subjected to intense night terrors. I remember these clearly, but the concepts can barely be rendered into words. They weren't movies of images like other dreams, they were more like pure emotions, combined with sense-free apprehension of states which didn't map onto ordinary experience as I had known it to that time. Compared to later drug experiences they seem less strange, but when you are a child you assume that anything dangerous will be explained to you. Anything which hasn't been explained and made known is dangerous.

The worst nightmare state was like a hyperawareness of the laws of physics or the basic state of the world, combined with absolute knowledge that it was all wrong. It was as though I were an alien creature from a reality with laws radically different from our own, who had been suffering from amnesia. The amnesia might have been an adaptation, a way of coping with these new nonsensical laws of cause and effect. The only way I could adapt was by forgetting the way things should have been, so I could deal with the way things now were. However, in the dead of night, in my sleep, the old laws flooded back into memory and I would awake screaming and terrified at the feeling of disorientation. It was as though I came from a world where gravity was a repellent force, and was frightened at being in an enclosed room this close to large mass of the earth, because I knew that I would be flung away at great speed. Or, a reality where the geometry didn't allow for objects to enclose other objects, and the fact that I was inside the house was an impossibility which was driving me mad. Or a reality where consciousness was entirely divorced from solid matter, and the body to which my mind was so firmly attached now was like waking up and realising that a decaying dead goat has been grafted onto your side while you slept. These states were exquisitely terrifying, beyond the fear which imminent death might inspire. They were terrors which transcend extinction, terrors based on concepts and scales which far outweigh mere existence.

In the fiction of Lovecraft he often mentions cities and buildings with non-Euclidian geometry and the effect that gazing upon same has upon the sanity of his human characters, but the denizens of those cities would feel the same horror when exposed to our own architecture. I felt like a lost Shoggoth imprisoned in a human body suddenly remembering the shapes and forms of my home, and apprehending the wrongness of my human home.

I remember some details. In one particularly horrifying dream I found myself in a comforting space of absolute blackness, but there was something else there with me. I could perceive it as a point, not so much an object, more a point of space with certain qualities. It moved in loops around me, not moving so much as altering the space before it and restoring the space behind it so that it's intrusion into this space appeared to be moving. It was important in the logic of this nightmare to make such distinctions. I struggled for some time to perceive what was happening, and why this impurity was infecting velvet blackness. The thing that set me screaming was when I hit upon a visual model in the form of a coloured trail which marked where the point had been. Suddenly I was surrounded by a tangled fence of neon coloured lines, and I could "hear" the point moving, buzzing like a motorcycle engine. When I woke up I explained the dream as being trapped by a motorcycle circling around me, which made sense and was the only way I could render it into words. It wasn't so much being trapped by the trail of vectors left by the intrusion point, as being appalled at the circularity of its movement, and powerless to banish it.

Another. Fine white particles drift across a grey background formed by an infinity of fine white particles, rendered stationary by distance. The particles move in the same direction, at the same speed. In fact, it would seem logical to declare that my point of view was moving and the particles were stationary, but I know that I am the stationary point. This seems infinitely comforting. Suddenly a troubling thought - which direction are the particles moving? My horror grows as I realise that to ask such a question equals a kind of metaphysical blasphemy. I feel a sinking feeling of loss, a fall from grace. The purity of the movement of the particle field decays. Now it's just drifting snow, or falling sleet, or rising ash. The concept of absolute direction decays this miracle vision like a blight. It fades and dies.

One effect which lasted into later life was a hypnotic dreamlike state where the rules of scale seemed to alter. The night room seemed to become gigantic, as though the ceiling was millions of light-years away, and my consciousness shrank down to a point peering up into a titanic space. This state would come upon me at different times, usually when I was tired or stressed. It wasn't frightening, at least not in adulthood, and it often helps to put things into perspective. It acts as a reminder of the truth of scale and the true insignificance of life.

"Night Terrors" is ninth episode of the sixth series of Doctor Who. It stars Matt Smith as The Eleventh Doctor, Karen Gillam as Amy Pond and Arthur Darvill as Rory Williams.

"Today we're answering a cry for help from the scariest place in the universe. A child's bedroom."
We take a brief break from the convoluted story arc of the season for what is (at first glance) a monster of the week episode. While traveling through deep space, The Doctor receives a message on his psychic paper, begging for help against monsters. The Doctor and his companions find that it originates in contemporary Britain, where a small child is having scarier and scarier nightmares. When The Doctor goes to investigate, he finds out that there is something more to this than just a frightened child: his sonic screwdriver has found power readings off the chart. Meanwhile, Amy and Rory have gotten separated from him, and find themselves in a strange building, being pursued by malevolent dolls. And, as is always the case, the mystery and its solution are a bit deeper than it would first seem.

While many Doctor Who episodes dabble in horror, this is one of the episodes that plays just like a horror movie, all the way through. And like much of the horror in Doctor Who, it is based on psychology and things left unseen, rather than on anything gory or explicit. Although some of the material has been done before (possessed dolls are somewhat of a cliché by now), it is all done very well, and the episode is frightening.

I also think this episode fits into the arc more than might be apparent at first. In "A Good Man Goes To War", River Song says that The Doctor will fall further than he has ever been before. In this episode, and in the next two, there are three mysteries presented, and each time, The Doctor fails to understand the mystery. And, although I might be shoehorning things too far, the mysteries involve, respectively, identity, time and space. The Doctor, as a Time Lord, should be above such things, but he is instead tricked and manipulated by the world of appearances, by the world of reflections. So this episode is a strong episode on its own that fits into a deeper meaning of the story and character arc.

Night terrors. (Med.)

A sudden awkening associated with a sensation of terror, occurring in children, esp. those of unstable nervous constitution.

 

© Webster 1913.

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