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Occasional Sleep Terrors (Adult)

by Jennifer F.
(Fort Worth, Texas, USA)

I will be thirty in two months and have suffered from sleep terrors for as long as I can remember, though the occurrences have grown less frequent through the years. The most common manifestation is that the sound of my owns screams wakes me. While I do not sit up, I frequently find myself tightly clutching a pillow, curled in the fetal position, or attempting to hit something--all unusual incidents as I am normally a very still sleeper. I do not typically remember my dreams but occasionally recall isolated images such as being cornered by a threatening figure and/or screaming for help.

The funniest (if you can call it that) incident took place my first semester in college. I hadn't thought to warn my new roommate that I suffered from occasional sleep terrors, so the first time I woke her up with my screaming I thought she was going to call the police, she was so frightened! She was able to laugh about it the next morning, but at the time it happened it scared her pretty badly.

The most frightening/notable sleep terror occurrence took place shortly before I turned 21yrs old, while visiting friends overseas. (I've read that jet lag can trigger sleep terrors, due to the disruption in sleep patterns. I was also taking OTC cold/congestion medicine at the time.)

My roommate reported that I was sobbing uncontrollably in my sleep and was unresponsive to attempts to wake me for several minutes. He stated at the time that he was afraid I was having some sort of "fit" or seizure; I was sobbing and crying quite loudly, and he was surprised the sound of my own voice had not woken me. When I did wake, I was overwhelmed with a sense of intense fear and sadness and continued to cry for several minutes even after regaining awareness that I was awake, though I was unable to articulate what had disturbed me.

I generally only have 2-3 sleep terror incidents per year now, and as I live alone and have never gotten out of my bed during a terror I do not pose a danger to myself or others. I did have one night (age 27) in which I had two incidents in one night, but that has not happened before or since.

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