The following is a visitor-submitted question or story. For more, you can submit your own sleep story here, or browse the collection of experiences and questions other visitors have shared here.

Adult Night Terrors: Experiencing Phobic Episodes

by Jenn

I'm a 27-year-old woman. I share a bed with my boyfriend. Every so often I am jolted awake and I see an imagined spider in the room. I am terribly phobic of them. I freak out and scream and demand my boyfriend turn on the light. I have even hopped out of bed.

But I'm not really awake. I'm in that place between dreaming and awake and once the light is on and I can see there are no spiders, I go back to sleep immediately. It never lasts longer than a minute or two. The next day, usually in the evening, I sometimes recall the episode briefly and ask my boyfriend if it happened and he will confirm it did.

I think it's odd because I feel like I'm awake at the time, and I interact with my boyfriend and react to things like the light being turned on and off. But it's a narrow tunnel focus and nothing else matters but seeing that the room is spider-free. When I recall what I can of those episodes, I feel like I was on some sort of automated fear response and maybe 1/4 asleep still.

Additional information: I have trouble falling asleep usually, and can lie awake for hours. Sometimes I have talked in my sleep. Other times I have sat up and said things to my boyfriend I have no recollection of. This happens every few months.

Am I experiencing night terrors?

Kevin: Hey Jenn, thanks for the great description. What you describe sounds like it could be sleep terrors, but you do seem to be a bit more cognizant than what traditionally happens in most cases. This leads me to believe that there is possibly a link between what you are experiencing and hypnagogic hallucinations.

Hypnagogic hallucinations can consist of similar imagery as sleep terrors, but the imagery is more associated with REM sleep, the period in which we dream, rather than the deep slow wave sleep (SWS) that sleep terrors are associated with. Because of this, and the fact that this imagery takes place while awakening rather than from being stirred in SWS, it's easier to remember events and imagery from hypnagogic hallucinations.

It's hard to say for sure either way just from exchanging a few sentences, but I thought I'd throw that term your way in case it shines any more light on your experiences.

Feel free to follow up with any additional comments or questions using the "Post Comments" link below!


Comments for Adult Night Terrors: Experiencing Phobic Episodes

Click here to add your own comments

Sep 27, 2010
Thank you
by: Jenn

Kevin, I think you've hit the nail on the head. I've dug into this a bit more and am reading things that account for many bad sleep experiences I've had throughout my life:

Sounds, such as voices in that semi-sleeping and semi-awake state, hearing the doorbell ring, all happen relatively often.

I've seen faces and shadow people in the room for many years and have been terrified.

The spider visions were the most disruptive, and I hadn't considered it was all the same sort of issue.

All of these seem to be explained by Hypnagogia. And that is a major relief. Thanks for your help!

Sep 27, 2010
Thrilled To Hear!
by: Kevin Morton

Hey Jenn. I'm thrilled to hear this may have been a step in the right direction for some explanation and solace! I've been starting to write more and more extensively on hypnagogic hallucinations on this site in the past two months because experiences relating to it have been brought up pretty frequently by visitors (searching for it in the search bar on the top right of each page will evidence that). Adding a section to the site specifically dedicated to hypnagogic/-pompic imagery is definitely high on my to-do list. Let me know if you've found any good resources I can point our visitors to :)

Jan 18, 2011
My experience
by: Floyd

My wife of 4 years has been suffering from something we're not sure of, she wakes up screaming in the middle of the night and she has been seeing what she calls faces or eyes. Most of the time these "eyes" are blood red and are right on top of her when she wakes up. After reading this article about night terrors we feel that this is what she is suffering from, can someone please give us some help??

Jun 25, 2012
Similar Experience - hypnagogic hallucinations NEW
by: Anonymous

Thank you for your post! I've experienced the same thing. When I was little, it was cockroaches in my bed. As a young adult, I’ve seen spiders and other indistinguishable bugs. I try in my awakened/sleep state to brush them off and feeling completely panicked and scared. It’s like there is this thin veil of sleep but you are aware of what is going on. Once the veil is lifted and you are fully awake, you realize the bugs are not real. It’s gotten worse with me, as I've had a couple of violent episodes hurting my husband.

Feb 11, 2015
nightmares,my fianc'e has them and wakes up vomiting for hours NEW
by: Anonymous

Hi first of all thankyou for this site.its give me the knowledge to begin to help the man i love.PTSD,NER and hes fear wel phobia of death and cremation.He wakes up nearly every night and vomits 4 over two hours hes sweatin and he tries that he wants to sob hes heart out.its extreme.he dreams he gets cremated alive while hes brother who died around 4yr ago laughs he feels aurning,smells hes flesh it horrific. Hes parents and hes bro and him always planned to be buried at there own plot,bt hes bros wife got him cremated she is evil they now plan to get cremated my fiance is terrofied of it he feels he let hes brother down by not gettin him buried,but they had no say.he is akind and stjch a good person it breaks my heart to know hes feeling everything iv mentioned even when awake he thinks hes brother wants him to suffer

Oct 05, 2015
Spider night terrors NEW
by: Audrin

For several months now I've been having night terrors about spiders, I have found myself out of my bed in the middle of my room, sometimes I'm even standing on the stairs. My husband usually is trying to calm me down when I "wake up." I don't have any problem with spiders, they don't really scare me. But my 2 brothers have had night terrors when they were younger. I really need some help as to why I might have them and how I can get them to subside. Any suggestions?

Mar 03, 2016
frequent night terrors NEW
by: amanda-jane

i have been having night terrors for along time my partner is always trying to wake me up as im screaming and crying also sweating shouting out help me help me and throwing my arms about but i dont remember apart from the tear down my face. i find it very hard to go to sleep in the first place my eeyes are closed but flikery and it like thee open as i feel like i can still see. only two nights ago my niece stayed over in my bed with me and in the morning she told me she was trying to wake me up as was having the terrors screaming out for help.. she said she was tapping me saying auntie its ok calm do nwn come on auntie your ok. i,ve been having them for the last 3 nights and sometimes i smell a smell and think someone is trying to kill me. its very scarey epecially when i dont remember alot of the times and sometimes my partner will wake me two or three times in one night. can i get help for this as im worn out and just dont no what to do anymore its exsting. many thanks

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Stories of Sleep Terrors.

Enjoy this page? Please help us pay it forward to others who would find it valuable by Liking, Sharing, Tweeting, Stumbling, and/or Voting below.

About This Site

Welcome! This site is continuously being created by students of Dr. William C. Dement's Sleep And Dreams course at Stanford University.

We made this site as a call to action for people all over the world to live healthier, happier, safer, and more productive lives by learning about their own sleep. We have faith that reading the information provided on this site will motivate you to be smart about your sleep deprivation and strategic about your alertness in order to live life to your fullest, most energetic potential.

In fact, we challenge you to do so! What do you say, are you up for the challenge?

A Note On Visitor-Submitted Questions:

Publishing sleep stories and questions from our visitors is meant to create a forum for open and proactive dialogue about an extremely important portion of our lives (one that occupies 1/3 of it and affects the other 2/3) that isn't talked about enough. It is not meant to substitute a trip to the doctor or the advice of a specialist. It's good to talk; it is not good to avoid consulting someone who's profession it is to help you with this kind of stuff.

If you are in any way concerned about your sleep health, don't wait for an answer on here, and don't necessarily rely on them. See a sleep specialist in your area as soon as possible.

More Questions:

Ask | Answer

The Stanford Sleep Book

Stanford Sleep Book Picture

Dr. Dement's pioneering textbook has been the core text for Sleep and Dreams since 1980, but it has just recently been made available to the wider public for the first time.

In it you'll find a more detailed account of the most important things you need to know about sleep, alertness, dreams, and sleep disorders. Studies, statistics, plus plenty of Dr. Dement's classic anecdotes painting the history of sleep medicine.

Preface | Intro | Contents | Get A Copy

More Sleep Resources

The Zeo

A revolution in personal sleep tracking, the Zeo is a wireless headband that transmits your brainwaves in realtime to a dock (pictured here) or your smartphone. The result? You can wake up and see exactly what stages of sleep you were in during the night! Unprecedented personalized sleep knowledge.

Sleep Paralysis: A Dreamer's Guide

Sleep Paralysis Treatment Book

Ever woken up paralyzed? A surprising number of us have, believe it or not. But few know the actual causes of this phenomenon, and fewer still how to exert control over it. Dream researcher and sleep paralysis expert Ryan Hurd shares breakthrough insights into how to do just that.

Important Disclaimer

Please Note:

The information found on this page and throughout this site is intended for general information purposes only. While it may prove useful and empowering, it is NOT intended as a substitute for the expertise and judgments of healthcare practitioners.

For more info, see our
Terms of Use.