night terror

what are they? a night terror (pavor nocturnus) is a parasomnia sleep disorder characterized by extreme terror and a temporary inability to regain full consciousness. the subject wakes abruptly from deep slow-wave sleep, gasping, moaning or screaming. after the episode, the subject normally settles back to sleep without waking. a night terror can rarely be recalled.

they’re not nightmares. they’re not recalled dreams. they’re a controlling combo of anxiety, tension & fear, (usually of insects or other attacking things) lasting as short as 1 minute… up to 20. the lack of a dream itself leaves those awakened in a state of disorientation much more severe than that caused by a normal nightmare. amnesia can follow, leaving one unable to recall their name or location for a short time.

what happens? my husband (who gives permission to write this) has suffered from this sleep disorder for years. his terrors are based around snakes or suffocation. i’ve learned to not try & awaken him when he sits up in bed @ 3:13am panting and screaming. when he’s jolted himself out of bed & paced the floor w/all the covers in his arms, our hearts pounding out of our chests, the best thing i can do is gently lead him back to bed as i say a soft prayer aloud, or sing the song i wrote for him, for these nights. i try & reassure. he searches for the door to escape unfamiliar rooms, and i try and reorient him w/our surroundings. he screams bloody murder and i try & explain we’re safe. he stands in the living room confused & paranoid and i try to convince myself that my prayers are never in vain…that my efforts do help.

when he used to work graveyard, not eat much & take diet fuel to stay up sometimes over 48 hrs at a time, he’d often awake in a panic, swearing there was a snake in our bed (one time he thought he caught it & it was his arm that had fallen asleep!). a large inanimate object (light bulb, drinking glass…) would often be “stuck in his throat”. it can’t be pulled out, & it can’t be swallowed. he’s so persuaded, it’s so real to him, he speaks w/his mouth open. but in 5 minutes… he’s drooling peacefully on his pillow again.

what can cause them? according to wikipedia, night terrors in adults can occur each night if the sufferer does not eat a proper diet, get the appropriate amount of sleep, is enduring stressful events or remains untreated. there is some evidence of a link between adult night terrors and hypoglycemia. some sufferers have characteristics of abuse, depression, inhibition of aggression, self-directed anger, passivity or anxiety.

in the morning, i laugh when i tell him what he did. but in the moment, there’s nothing funny. he’s being terrorized. i believe it can be a way for satan to overtake a mind with fear. ricky also believes that anyone, saved or not, who’s opened a door to a wrong lifestyle (ie: drugs, witchcraft, unforgiveness, sexual sin, etc.) has also opened it to demonic influence/attack. one night in ’99 he described his terror in detail. this episode was not one forgotten:

the room seemed to be growing quickly & steadily darker from the perimeter inward toward his face. as it did, the air thinned, making it increasingly harder for him to breathe until all of the air in the room, down to the last bit in his lungs, was sucked out with the light. he kept gasping & thrashing in hopelessness. sounds like a movie. literally, my husband believed he was suffocating to death. i believe to this day, that was a spiritual attack. 8 or 9 minutes seemed like hours of praying the name of Jesus, & semi-courageously claiming his promises, “God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power & love & of a sound mind!!”. …and peace returned.

and now? nights here in austin are different. normal, actually. his work & sleep schedule became regular. his load was lightened, his walk with God became more intimate & he was eating well again.

them terrors don’t come around these parts much anymore.


8 thoughts on “night terror

  1. andiramusic July 31, 2008 / 4:04 pm

    Wow, thanks so much for Praising God with me, Chelan. I read this, and really find it intriguing. I have had bouts of “night terrors” and usually can pinpoint their cause, but this last bout was a bit more difficult. I had been praying about them, and one morning it became strongly evident that I had some stress that i had not been consciously dealing with.

    I talked it out with God, and the next night had the best sleep I’ve had in a while.

    Ironically, I have hypoglycemia. I didn’t know there was a connection there…my eating habits over the last couple weeks have been irregular, so that makes even more sense why the stress combined with my lack of regular diet could have affected my sleep.

    Thanks for writing this!

  2. chelan July 31, 2008 / 9:41 pm

    you’re very welcome! so glad this post shed a little light for you!!

  3. Richhill Presbyterian Church August 1, 2008 / 2:22 am

    Hi there, thanks for the comment on the Third Day song, this is an amazing group and I have seen them 3 times. If you have not done this i recommend you go, it is well worth it. The words in all there songe are very powerful and my personal favourate is ‘When the rain comes’ it speaks of trouble in the form of rain, whatever you do you can’t stop the rain in the same we we are powerless to stop trouble coming in our lives. The song contines to explain that God will protect us from the rain in the same we he protects us from the troubles of life. I think this is one of their best songs for lyrics – give it a listen and let me know what you think. Mark(Richhill Presbyterian Church)
    We are in Northern Ireland and it amazes me how good the internet is at putting information out there to let people know about God.

    Great site.

  4. chelan August 2, 2008 / 6:31 pm

    wow, thanks for the comment…and all the way from northern ireland?!!
    i’ll definitely look up that song. i dont have a few of their albums, so i’m not familiar with it. i have seen them live, once. it blew my socks off.

  5. brian August 17, 2008 / 3:28 pm

    thank you for putting this in perspective. I have struggled on and off with this since I was 4. now I am 28 and married and my wife is helping me deal the best way she can. you have helped us both.

  6. chelan August 17, 2008 / 4:18 pm

    brian, so good to know. thanks for commenting.

  7. Sharon October 28, 2008 / 9:48 am

    Thank you so much for allowing me to see that I am not the only person who thinks that these are spiritual attacks. My 3 year old gets them. His last lasted 35 minutes. 35 minutes of me and his father feeling helpless and praying over him…whihc by the way intensified it, letting me know that it is simply demonic. Anyway, thank you

  8. chelan October 28, 2008 / 2:35 pm

    absolutely. keep on praying.
    there’s a little song i wrote for my husband and son for this reason. so much we don’t know about going on in the spiritual. but it can get so thick you can almost feel it tangibly. u can make up the tune yourself, but the lyrics are:

    Lord, tonight I pray for my _______& his sleep.
    May it be peaceful…May it be deep.

    In your Name, In your Power,
    every fear tonight, I BIND!

    (Just) wrap your mighty arms around
    his spirit & his mind.


    May our Prince of Peace bless your nights as a family together, Sharon

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s