Reasons behind night terrors
Decoding the implications of a nighttime horror
Nighttime terrors are usually the stuff of childhood— as are improbable horror stories told around the campfire and babies suddenly waking in a fright. Sleep problems can extend to adult life, however, triggered by factors possibly just as chilling—think loss or trauma, increased stress levels, or prescribed drugs. While some medications that trigger nightmares are also notorious for altering mental states (malaria medicines increasing anxiety or antidepressants inducing lucid dreaming), sleep problems may also indicate a need to examine habits in our waking life.
Hallucinations and sleep paralysis
Often linked with narcolepsy, sleep paralysis involves waking up entirely immobile, or for chronic sufferers thrown into the limbo between sleeping and waking, it conjures ominous visual and auditory hallucinations.
While ancient lore would relate it to the nightly visits of the incubus, Sydney-based sleep physician Dr. Dev Banerjee states, “The main [solution is simply] to avoid sleep deprivation, or an erratic sleep schedule.”
The problem occurs when the normal muscular paralysis of the REM state extends beyond sleep. Plaguing those with irregular sleeping patterns, sleep paralysis is symptomatic of younger adults’ erratic lifestyles: workaholics up until 4 a.m., yuppies shifting careers and taking on night shifts, and highrolling travelers consistently undergoing jet lag.
Sunday night insomnia
According to a study commissioned by Travelodge, 60 percent of the people surveyed have their worst night’s sleep on Sunday, and 3,500 call in sick on Monday because of a bad night’s sleep. Sunday night insomnia was coined as a sleep problem caused by a lifestyle plagued with work-related stress and anxiety, worrying over work not done over the weekend or, as another study suggests, 10 percent of Sunday night insomnia cases also arise from worrying about the next day’s commute.
Like psychophysiological insomnia, it may also occur when, ironically, fretting over not being able to sleep is in itself preventing you from sleeping. Physicians recommend following a fitness routine or engaging in aerobic exercise to make the body feel re-energized and to allow the mind to make way for pleasant dreams.
Studies have long hinted at coffee being the main culprit, being a psychoactive drug conjuring dreams à la David Lynch. Studies show, however, that staying up late consuming carbo-loaded snacks also plays a part in how we remember nightmares.
Night lurkers eating away their after-hour revelries can experience gastrointestinal problems, causing them to wake up in the middle of the night, and remember lucid dreams right after they occur. According to Medical Daily, consuming meals or snacks that are high in carbohydrates can increase brain activity and body metabolism, leading the body to sweat as heat is generated, which in turn causes the sleep to become fragmented.
While science can explain away the correlation between bad lifestyle habits and unpleasant dreams, we can also consider nightmares as cautionary tales from an imagined sandman.