Night Terrors: The Bizarre Disorder That Makes You Scream In Your Sleep

January 11, 2018

|Sairy Romero

When you suffer from this disorder, you wake up screaming in terror, but you won't remember anything in the morning.

When we start dating someone, there are a million things that can cause us anxiety. We worry about making a good impression, about not showing our weird side too quickly, about finding what makes us compatible with the other person, or about not making the wrong kind of joke that makes us look too silly or pretentious or ignorant or insensitive or anything you can imagine. Anyway, those are some of the basic concerns of getting to know someone, but those things can turn into something positive. We can use them to bond, because we all go through them, and it’s a relief when someone recognizes the initial awkwardness and gives us space to be ourselves. But what do we do when we have to deal with something that is a bit more unusual?



Let’s say that you meet someone great. You start dating and everything goes wonderfully. You love spending time with them, you want things to get more intimate, but you hit a wall: they don’t want to sleep over at your house, and they don’t want you to sleep at theirs. You ask why, and after some hesitation, they finally answer that at night, they often wake up screaming and kicking and defending themselves from imaginary monsters only to fall asleep about 10 minutes later without a problem. Then they ask: would you be willing to deal with that? Maybe your first reaction would be to laugh because it sounds made up, like something that would only happen in a movie, but they’re totally serious. So you spend the night at their house and discover what it’s like to live with someone who suffers from night terrors, a very real sleep disorder that mostly affects children but also 2.2 percent of adults according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.



When someone suffers from night terrors, they can scream and kick as I described above. They can shout alarming phrases, or they can sweat and hyperventilate. The American Psychiatric Association considers it a psychological disorder and the people who suffer from it, in chronic cases, can have up to 16 episodes per night. If you even encounter someone with this condition, you shouldn’t even try to comfort them or talk to them because it could make things worse, and if you try to talk about it the next morning, they won’t be able to remember anything.


Night terrors are still a bit of a mystery. In children, this disorder usually stops happening after they hit puberty, and in adults it can be triggered by emotional stress and psychological strain. The condition can be also related to PTSD and generalized anxiety disorder. According to sleep expert C. Carolyn Thiedke, an entirely effective solution doesn’t exist, and medication is only used in rare cases. So how does it really affect a person’s life? What can they do to deal with it?




Now, you might wonder how much do night terrors affect a person's life and if there's a way to deal with it. In an article for Medical Daily, Lizette Borreli, who has suffered from night terrors, explains that she has learned to manage her strange condition by improving her diet, workout routine, and practicing yoga. In other words, one of the best solutions to control the episodes is by living a healthy lifestyle. Now you know, if you wake up at night screaming without a clear reason, you have to do what others who live with this disorder do: try to relax. Perhaps the same goes for those who spend the night with someone who lives with night terrors.




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Images by Christopher McKenney.

Sairy Romero

Sairy Romero


Creative writer
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