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.