General Advice on night terrors

Neo93

New Here
Hi everyone I am new to this forum and looking for some advice I have been with my partner who suffers from ptsd for 6 years and he suffered a night tremor last night this is the first one for a long time he has had I had no idea what to do I am looking for advice so I know what to do the next time this happens all advice would be greatly appreciated thanks in advance
 

Friday

Moderator
The thing about night terrors is that they’re on the sleepwalking side of the spectrum, rather than on the nightmare side of things.

They actually get their name for what the parents/partners/people around them feel experiencing their child/spouse suddenly sit up and scream bloody murder, or launch themselves from bed and start flinging themselves at the walls, or in any other way start acting out violent dreams. But? Because it’s on the sleepwalking side of things the people actually having night terrors usually remember zip zero nada zilch, and even wake feeling marvelous after a lovely night’s sleep… except for this sore throat, or being all bruised & cut up. Some people do remember their night terrors, although it’s super duper rare; meanwhile what’s less rare is to remember the nightmare itself & have no recollection of acting it out in the world. But the most common thing is no recollection whatsoever. Just like waking up to find you’ve sleepwalked to a different room in the house, or outside, or even hiked for miles (those last usually result in police intervention, as sleepwalkers don’t follow rules like; be dressed in public, and don’t walk down the middle of the street).

Night terrors are faaaaaar more common in children, so sadly most of the info about coping with them? Is directed at parents. But they’re also common in the elderly, and not uncommon when dealing with trauma or TBI.

What “causes” them is that the mechanism that keeps us paralyzed during sleep so we do NOT act out our dreams? Shuts off, while we’re still asleep. So we start acting out our dreams. What makes that mechanism shut off? No idea. Correction… Sometimes there are obvious causes, like seizure activity, brain injury, infections (fever dreams often get violent, but it’s rare these days for fevers to get that high since we have meds to lower them). But a lot of the time it’s never known why, it’s just accepted that it’s a thing that happens, sometimes. Whether rarely, intermittently, or often enough to be classed as a parasomnia/sleep disorder. There ARE treatments for sleepwalking/night terrors… but they vary a great deal depending on what’s going on with the person themselves… and reeeeeeally need a sleep specialist to prescribe.

***

For my own self, I have nightmare cycles throughout the year, but night terrors are relatively rare… so during those cycles, whether I’m starting to act out my dreams or just doing the nightmare thrashing about thing… I just take myself to the couch / remove myself from being in bed with anyone I don’t want to kill on accident if I’m sleeping with someone; remove anything that could be used as a weapon a full body distance away (including lamps, sheets, etc.) whether I’m with someone else, or alone; or go strap myself into a car seat (5 point racing harness). As I have nightmare cycles off and on all year long, but go years and years without night terrors? It’s simply not practical/necessary to treat them beyond the simple safety measures I use to deal with nightmares.

ETA
Because I can (more than tend to) react violently… if anyone is attempting to wake me up DURING either a night terror or nightmare… to Kick. My. Feet. And then JUMP BACK. The US Military (UCMJ) doesn’t hold service members to account for their actions the first 30 seconds upon waking up. If you kill or injure someone in those first 30 seconds? Shrug. Their fault. Not yours. Self inflicted injury. Because people whose fight/flight mechanism can kick on whilst asleep? Take a minute to come back to themselves. Seriously. If you’re going to try and wake them up, do it from a distance.
 
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barefoot

Sponsor
To be honest, I don’t know there’s much/anything you can do. Or even that you need to do.

I have night terrors. They’re not great for me as they mean not very restorative sleep, I’ve sometimes injured myself (black eyes, pulled ligaments), I sometimes feel low the next day (even though I often don’t remember what the night terror was about or perhaps even that I had one at all)

So, yeah, they’re not great. But, in the moment, when it’s happening, I think my wife has a much worse time than I do! It’s scary and distressing for her and, while I just lay down and go unconscious again, she generally lays awake for ages afterwards, completely stressed out, not able to get back to sleep again!

So, I guess I’m curious about whether your partner needs you to do anything? (If so, have you asked what they think might help?)

And/or, do you need to do something to help support you, because it can be unpleasant and unsettling to witness someone in the midst of a night terror.

For me, I prefer being left to it. If my wife wakes me up in the middle of it, I tend to feel confused, disorientated, fearful, embarrassed…and the adrenaline often then keeps me awake for a long time. Also, as @Friday mentions, if my wife gets too close to me/touches me to wake me up, that can often trigger more screaming or perhaps I will accidentally grab or lash out at her.

General things that help me are general sleep hygiene stuff - most important aspects are keeping the room call and ensuring it’s really dark so no weird shadows dancing around.

Otherwise, my wife just speaks reassuringly to me, gently telling me everything’s ok and to go back to sleep. It generally settles me down without waking me up and I won’t remember the next day hearing her say those things.

If she feels like she needs to wake me up, she does it from afar. Calling out firmly but calmly. I often find switching a lamp on helps - it tends to wake me up but, for some reason, it tends to be a gentler waking that doesn’t feel too rough.

If your partner goes through stages where it happens more, it may be worth you sleeping in different beds/rooms if that’s an option while it’s happening. I know my wife resisted doing that for ages - she felt bad leaving me on my own and worried that I would somehow hurt myself. But the truth is, she can get better sleep at those times on her own, not being disrupted by me!

I’ve had night terrors since I was a teen (perhaps younger) I’ve never grown out of them, unfortunately! So, I finally saw a consultant at a sleep disorders clinic a few years ago and now take melatonin every night. It’s been very helpful - it consolidates sleep so I don’t end up in fragmented sleep stages, which can give rise to these non-REM parasomnias (personally, I have night terrors and night time hallucinations) So, while it hasn’t stopped them completely, I do have far fewer now.

If your partner starts having more (more frequently/more severely) it might be worth him seeing a sleep specialist to see how they can help. Depends on whether it’s causing enough problems that they want to look into it and see what the options may be?

I feel for you both. These parasomnias can be really disruptive and distressing and exhausting for both of you.

Also just to add - you might think he is awake sometimes in the middle of a night terror…but he may not be…it’s a weird thing of kind of getting stuck in limbo between different sleep stages. We’ve apparently had plenty of conversations when my wife has thought I’ve been awake…and I’ve had no recollection of it the next day. So, just to be aware…these things can be a bit sneaky! :)
 

Sweetpea76

Moderator
Yeah… I second @Friday. Don’t try to shake him awake or anything, especially if he’s a combat vet.

My vet can hear a mouse fart in the walls, even when he’s sleeping. I don’t know how with the hearing damage he has, but I chalk it up to the hypervig. Usually I’ll just sigh or move “in my sleep” and he’ll hear or feel it and wake on his own.

He gets more nightmares when he’s stressed or symptomatic. They come and go. I don’t think there’s much to be done about them. I usually just cuddle afterwards if he needs it, but otherwise I don’t bring them up. He typically doesn’t want to discuss it.
 

lostforgottensoul

MyPTSD Pro
I have night terrors and sleep walk and have since as far back as I can remember. It is pretty scary, actually, to wake up on the kitchen floor or something. I sleep in a recliner and I will get up and run full tilt while sleep. Almost going through my bedroom window. I had to move the recliner so that it faced in an angle so I would run into my dresser that's beside the window and not through the window.

You can't wake me up from these. I don't even know I've had them. I'll wake up with my service dog on me (as he's trained to wake me up from nightmares and lay on me until I fall back to sleep) or with random and crazy injuries which is the only way I know I've had them. When my parents lived with me, my step mom had a 30 min convo with me where she thought I was fully awake but wasn't. Don't remember a thing. She said my answers and what I was saying didn't make sense and she said that she thought I was high (since I was doing drugs during this time).

If they are true night terrors and not actually bad nightmares, my only suggestion is to make sure she is safe (like won't go through a window or hurt herself too bad) and then maybe get some sleep on the couch. Cause if they are anything like mine, you can't wake me from them. You can't comfort me out of them. You can't do anything for me other then to ensure I'm safe from myself.

Sorry I don't have better news but, no doctor has ever had any suggestions for me on this front.
 
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