Have you been told by your partner or exes that you have terrifying nightmares, the ones that you just can’t recollect by dawn, or anytime thereon? Alternatively, does your spouse scream, scratch and shout in the middle of the night, without even waking up, in ways that scares the living light out of you?
For those of you who are wondering if it is the Exorcism of Emily Rose coming alive, it is Night Terrors in Adults; for others who are shrugging the episode off, titling it as a nightmare, you might want to think twice.
Popularly known as sleep terrors, pavor nocturnes or even AXIS I: 307.46 (The DSM’s code), night terrors are unmistakable and unconnected to nightmares.
What are Night Terrors?
Existing since the ancient most times, night terrors became easily distinguishable after Rapid Eye Movement was defined. Night terrors start out in people early in their childhood at around 3.5 to 12 years of age.
If the same is not treated in the childhood, even if the horrifying bouts cease to happen when the child grows into puberty, in his or her youth, the terrifying parasomnia will return.Night terrors are recorded during the sleep stages in a victim. During the transition from Stage III to Stage IV of Sleep (Last stage), that is, the Non-REM Sleep to REM Sleep transformation, night terrors occur. Scientifically night terrors occur in adults with higher rates of delta sleep activity.
During the sleep stage of III Non-REM Sleep, generated delta waves move slower from the brain and the victim begins to have heart palpitations while the arousal declines.
Difference between nightmare and night terrors
Often used interchangeably, nightmares and night terrors are distinct and unique. In fact, night terrors occur in the last stage of sleep while nightmares occur en route to the deep sleep. The lone similarity between the two parasomnias is that the sex ratio between males and females suffering from night terrors are equal.
- Nightmares Night Terrors
- During Sleep Partial Waking
- During Non-REM Sleep During REM Sleep
- Like Dream Anxiety Attacks Like Sleep Paralysis
- Recollection of the Nightmare is plausible No recollection whatsoever
- Common Rare- Occurs in less than 1% of the adults
What causes Night Terrors?
While some studies denote that night terror is hereditary, others root it to stress and even substance abuse. An arousal parasomnia, Night Terrors is not the cause and effect of one emotional tragedy or traumatic surgery.
In fact, it can even be linked to other diseases like fever, Post traumatic Stress Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and a handful of parasomnias.
One of the many parasomnias still under studies, the cause of night terrors are majorly congenital. If you have a first-degree biological relative, who is suffering from night terrors, chances are, night terrors are already en route to your bed!Nevertheless, being a neglected parasomnia, there is no ironclad evidence of this inheritance theory and you can rest assured if you’re worried about inheriting night terrors.
Familial aggregation (cluster of the traits of the blood family) advocates that night terrors are a disorder irrespective of the gender of the victim, or in brief, it is autosomal rather than allosomal.
Exemplifying, in a study conducted on fraternal twins who are identical, the presence of sleep terrors was recorded at 37% in their 18 months. While at 30 months the same decreased to 20%.
Another distinguishing cause of night terrors is stress. If you have had stressful events in the immediate past, stress can be the major reason that your emotional balance is swayed. If you have had suffered from any kind of sexual abuse in the past, you are vulnerable to stress related night terrors in adults.
Enduring stressful events without venting your worries completely can result in extreme night terrors and it is important to de-stress before sleep.
- Diet Imbalance
One of the main causes of most parasomnia and any disorder is the imbalance in your diet. If you have no nutrients or mandatory vitamins in your diet, chances are your circadian rhythm is jammed. In fact, sleep is the stage that our body restores and repairs itself in. If you supply no fuel to repair the body, there are thin chances to halt night terrors happening to you.If you thing malnutrition or sleep deprivation is a major additive to your night terrors, you must begin consuming sleep-giving natural herbs like chamomile to repair your diet-related night terrors.
- Sleep Cycle Problems
Akin to the resultant action due to lack of nutrients, having an uneven sleep schedule can lead to many somnipathies as terrifying as night terrors. If your quality of sleep is poor, countering night terrors can be tough.
Furthermore, night terrors can also be the somnipathy that at times occurs parallel to sleep apnea. The faster you resolve your sleep cycle problems, the faster your emotional instability and repressed trauma adding to night terrors will diminish!
- Alcohol and Medications that affect the CNS
Any medication or substance that impacts the Central Nervous System can corrode the immunity you possess innately, against night terrors. In fact, alcohol, nicotine and caffeine add to drastic disruption of sleep.
Apart from the above, if you were subjected to anesthesia in the past week or month on account of surgery, you are highly prone to night terrors. It is better to let night terrors take its course and die on its own in the due course of time.
Comes with other ailments like
- PTSD- post-traumatic stress disorder
- Gastroesophageal reflux- Food disorder where eaten food is ejected or refluxed post eating.
- Sleep Disorders- Sleep apnea, Insomnia, sleepwalking
- Fever- Mild to malignant;
- GAD: generalized anxiety disorder.
- Neurological Disorder- FLE or Frontal lobe epilepsy and Narcolepsy
Symptoms of Night Terrors
Unique to its causes, night terrors in adults is a parasomnia, as most victims indulge in physical and verbally bold or violent behaviors. The episode of night terrors in adults lasts for 10- 20 minutes, after which the sufferer returns to his or her sleep. For chronic victims, it can happen 3-16 times per week and the symptoms can vary depending on the person.
- Arousal: Bolting Upright during sleep without waking up;
- Panic: As the night terror starts, the sufferer begins to experience and display expressions and emotions of extreme panic.
- Physical Violence: Often sufferers thrash and scratch or hit the objects around violently; all attempts of intervention are heavily downvoted.
- Verbal: Most victims of night terrors tend to emanate loud screams as well as violent jerks in the body.
- Eyes: Another trademark symptom of night terrors is the widened or dilated pupils in the victim.
- Sweating: Victims often experience crazy bouts of terror that 99% of the sufferers’ also sweat profusely.
- Tachycardia: As the REM sleep tries to incorporate the external stimuli into your night terror, the heart begins to pound madly, resulting in hyperventilation. This also results in Tachypnea or high rate of respiration.
- Strange Gesture: Most victims of night terror in the event of the terror try to protect themselves from an invisible opponent. They can also seem like trying to get the invisible bugs or the worms off the skin!
It is important to remember that the victims usually have a null recollection of the incidents and there is little to no use delving into the same with the sufferer. The best solution is to record your observation and let nature takes its course of healing.
If the violence is turning life-threatening, it is best to seek a sleep specialist ASAP.
How to Diagnose Night Terrors in Adults
Unlike most parasomnias, when a person is suffering from night terrors, the companion must avoid intervening. As the sufferer is unconscious of the state of actions during this sleep disorder, the best you can do is watching them over.
In short, night terrors are inconsolable and hence the cause of the same takes awhile to be inferred. In children, boys have a higher susceptibility to night terrors than girls of the same ages.
The DSM-IV-TR diagnostic measures for sleep terrors, mandatorily requires a physical exam.
Diagnosis of Night Terrors
- Polysomnography: The victim is studied in a sleep chamber by a panel of sleep specialists with cutting-edge equipment to test and record the distortions in the sleep cycle.
- EEG or electroencephalogram: It gauges the brain signals in the victim and is the first mode of diagnosis for people who suffer from narcolepsy, additional to the night terrors.
- In addition, CT scans or MRI scans are not a recommended diagnostic option for victims of night terror. The diagnostic tests are easy and mandatory as victims have no recollection of the somnipathy to comprehend it after. If the victim is unwilling to accept or believe the truth, companions must strive for other coping measures. Spouses can also record the sleep terrors with a high definition camera with audio and individually seek medical assistance, if the diagnosis option is unacceptable to the partner.
How to Treat Night Terrors in Adults
Being a harmless somnipathy, night terrors in adults is not as serious as it looks while the victim is in action. Usually, adults are reported the least with night terrors owing to the fact that, the primary childhood occurrence of night terrors, heals with time.
For adults with chronic night terrors, treatment options are
- Psychotherapy: The healing factor of psychotherapy is that it can uproot the primary cause of night terrors through psychological bonding with the victim. This relies on treating the background mental disorders in the victim prior to resolving night terror disorder.
- Counseling: There are many support groups to help victims of night terrors cope with the parasomnia through responsible counseling. This resolves the emotional clutches by eliminating the causes of sleep disturbance due to the sleeping environment, like in the bedroom.
- Sleep Posture correction: Resolving the issues of circadian rhythm is not effortless. Albeit, if you start with proper sleep posture and repair your sleep schedules and timings, soon sleep terrors will vanish.
- Drugs and Medications: For victims with a terrifying episode of night terrors, administering benzodiazepines like diazepam, or even tricyclic antidepressants can prevent the horror with a soothing feel.
Make sure to continue the therapeutic routine daily, in order to avoid future occurrences of night terrors.
Tips to Cope with Night Terrors in Adults
Apart from the fact that night terrors are an inconvenience for most bedmates, parents, friends or people living in the same house or even the neighbors, coping with night terrors is straightforward and a plain sail. In fact, for the majority of people, Night Terrors simply disappear in the due course of time!
- Using powerful medications like valium and other substances for undisturbed sleep can help you halt night terrors completely.
- Yet another ingenious way to cope with night terrors is scheduled awakenings. In this case, the victim is awakened immediately before the night terrors begin, roughly within 60-90 minutes of falling asleep.
- Ranging from keeping your bedroom solely for sleep, there are scores of ways to make your sleeping space safe and lulling. This further helps to prevent any violent or injurious aftermaths of the night terror as well. The priority is to remove all the sources that disturb your sleep.
Most importantly, you must maintain a consistent routine to sleep, eat and wake up, as well to live. If you’re fatigued, depressed or malnourished, sleep terrors and re-occur, provided you’re an earlier victim to this somnipathy.
The best solution to cope with night terrors in adults is to live a healthy and happy life!
Most psychologists advise that when the victim is caught in the tangle of a night terror episode, it is better to keep calm and maintain the distance to avoid intervening and worsening the episode.
The underlying truth to remember is that night terrors are only terrifying in the moment and the elixir to heal it are time, care and sleep!
The best solution to cope with night terrors in adults is to live a healthy and happy life!