Last night I woke up, screaming. This isn’t the first time that it’s happened, and usually, my husband, who hears me screaming, is the one who actually wakes me up. I’ve had episodes where I’ve sat up, bolting upright, but if he wakes me, I don’t get that far.
Last night I dreamed that I was with him in a North Carolina hotel and the lights started changing colors in the room. I was the only one who noticed. Eventually, I began to see the ghost/spirit of a dead woman who was getting closer and closer. She was obviously dead, and she had blood oozing from wounds on her head. It wasn’t the fact that I was confronting a ghost that terrified me; it was the malevolent look in her eyes, like she was going to make me next to die, by her hand somehow.
I remember screaming, “NO! NOOOOO!” in my dream and I was screaming NO! as my husband “smacked” me in the arm to wake me up. My body was rigid, and my head was raised slightly off the pillow, but I don’t know if that was a reaction to him hitting me awake or if it was because of the dream. I remember that for the first minute or so, all I could do was blink furiously, making sure I was, in fact, awake.
It must have been quite the ordeal because I had a dog and two cats come running. They jumped on my bed to see if I was ok, and one of the cats continued to circle me, purring, as if to cheer me up. Luckily, it worked. However, it was nearly impossible to go back to sleep immediately, for fear of entering back into the dream I was just having. I stayed up for at least an hour, going downstairs to let my dogs out, and playing on Facebook and Pinterest on my phone to pass the time and get my mind off of what had just happened. There was even a kind friend who, seeing that I was posting to Facebook at 5 AM, messaged me to see if everything was ok. I’m really lucky to have friends like that.
Are they Sleep (Night) Terrors?
My husband, Mark, asked me if I thought that I suffered from “night terrors.” I had heard this term before, but today I did a little more research. According to the Mayo Clinic, “sleep terrors” are “episodes of screaming, intense fear and flailing while still asleep.” These occur more often in children, usually ranging in age from 4-12, but can occur with adults as well. They aren’t supposed to be dangerous, unless they cause a person to lose sleep often. Differing from nightmares, sleep terrors don’t wake up a person. I wonder if I would have awakened if my husband hadn’t woken me both of the past two times this has happened. Also signs include (mine have been noted):
- Sit up in bed
- Scream or shout
- Kick and thrash
- Sweat, breathe heavily and have a racing pulse
- Be hard to awaken, but if awakened be confused
- Be inconsolable
- Stare wide-eyed
- Get out of bed and run around the house
- Engage in aggressive behavior (more common in adults)
As previously stated, they aren’t dangerous, but one should see a doctor if they:
- Become more frequent
- Routinely disrupt sleep or the sleep of other family members
- Cause you or your child to fear going to sleep
- Lead to dangerous behavior or injury
- Appear to follow the same pattern each time
- Persist beyond the teen years or begin in adulthood
Maybe I ought to seek professional help?
What are the underlying causes?
According to the Mayo Clinic, the following could be causes of this phenomenon:
- Sleep deprivation and extreme tiredness
- Fever (in children)
- Sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings
- Lights or noise
- An overfull bladder
But other causes, like underlying problems that cause sleep disorders include:
- Sleep-disordered breathing — a group of disorders characterized by abnormal breathing patterns during sleep, the most common of which is obstructive sleep apnea
- Restless legs syndrome
- Head injuries
- Some medications
I face some of these problems already as part of my past or fibromyalgia, which independently of anything, can cause sleep disorders.
According to information on Fibro and sleep disorders, 80% of people who suffer from Fibro have a sleep deprivation disorder of the Delta sleep, or “deep sleep” phase in particular. Wikipedia’s entry on Night Terrors states that they typically occur during the first hours of stage 3-4 non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and tend to happen to people during periods of arousal from delta sleep. A study done about night terrors in adults showed that other psychiatric symptoms were prevalent in most patients experiencing night terrors. There is some evidence of a link between adult night terrors and hypoglycemia, from which I do not suffer. Also mentioned was that in adults, night terrors can be symptomatic of neurological disease and can be further investigated through an MRI procedure.
Fibro IS a neuro-muscular disorder, so I already knew not everything in my brain is AOK. I’ll save myself from the MRI and the cost. But in the meantime, I guess this means that until someone finds a cure for Fibromyalgia, I might have to deal with this for awhile.