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Sleep Terrors Every Month or Two

by Mark
(Baton Rouge, LA, USA)

I am 26 years old and I have experienced a few episodes of sudden arousal from sleep. Typically, I have responded violently, but in one case I simply screamed for a period of time. I've taken note of my activities and sleep settings and I've determined that I react to sudden, unexpected physical contact. Sometimes, this would be something I left at the foot of my bed, like a belt, or a heavy weight in a single area, such as my body weight on my arm.

I vaguely remember these episodes, but they all have a common trait. I have a feeling of terror. It's not an uneasy feeling like a fear of heights, rather it's a completely gripping terror. When these episodes would occur, I would generate this image in my mind of a terrifying situation.

For example, if my foot touched a metal belt buckle, then I might imagine that something was in my bed trying to attack me. It's completely unrealistic and not something that, while awake, I would even be remotely afraid of. But in that moment, it drowns me in terror and I am not able to think about the situation. Instead, I react, typically violently.

In the case above, an actual occurence, I remember sitting straight up, desperately and quickly gathering my sheets and bedcover into a big ball containing the belt buckle my foot touched. I then proceeded to repeatedly violently beat this ball with my fist.

I have experienced similar nights where I was aroused from sleep and terrified, then proceeded to defend myself violently from whatever it was that I reacted to. In a few instances, I have absolutely no memory of it happening. The only way I know they happened at all would be physical evidence the next morning such as a pillow being on the ground near my bookcase with books knocked off the shelf and lying on the ground. This particular episode happened just a few nights ago.

There was only one episode, that I can remember, where I simply screamed at the top of my lungs for a period of time with little physical movement. I felt the weight of my head on my right arm and, for whatever reason, felt a sudden and completely encompassing feeling of terror. So, I screamed and that screaming woke up my mother, who I was living with at the time. She told me that she ran up the stairs and knocked on my door to ask me if I was alright. I vaguely remember hearing her and jumping out of bed to open the door. I almost collapsed as I opened the door, then she sat me on the foot of my bed where I remember being partially aware, but not able to understand what happened. I was sweating and breathing heavily, and all I could think about was why I did what I just did. Why was I screaming? Why am I sweating and breathing heavily? My mother was talking to me during this, but I was not able to focus on her questions.

It was quite a terrifying experience to not be in control of your mind or body. I feel like, after reading about night terrors, that I actually don't have it all that bad, so I seriously feel for anyone who has to experience this more often. The only thing I feel like I can do for myself is hope it goes away with age.

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