Nightmares & Night Terrors

A: Hey! I’m Amelia!

C: And I’m Cecilia! This is 1800Dreamzz!

A: And that’s Dreamzz with two zz.

C: It’s the end of the October! We’ve made it to Halloween!

A: Yes we have! If you’ve been in a bunker waiting out the election but love Halowen, be sure to head to our Facebook page to check out our free, virtual, and spooky videos we have put out, and listen to our other spooky themed dream episodes on the podcasts!

C: And don’t forget to join us on Halloween night, also on our Facebook page, for a virtual Halloween party!

A: It will be so fun! All right, I am an eager beaver and I want to jump into today’s episode. Do you remember your worst dream?

C: *riff riff* How about yourself?

A: guess who game of monsters, and every time I lifted a face on the game, a new monster came through the door. I was in kindergarten and I still vividly remember this dream and the terror.

C: *riff riff* So what is a nightmare? And why do we have them?

A: Well I’d thought we start off with a bang. According to the Original Etymology Dictionary, the 14th century meaning c. 1300, "an evil female spirit afflicting men (or horses) in their sleep with a feeling of suffocation,"

C: I’m sorry, why do these 14th century bastards have to bring women into this? And why horses?!

A: It’s a compound word bringing together night and mare. The meaning evolves over time, and by 1829 it’s just a bad dream. So it makes its way there, but still.

C: We’re all just a bunch of evil witches.

A: Yes we are! Now according to an article from the Harvard Medical School called Nightmares and the Brain, “Dreams are understood to be recent autobiographical episodes that become woven with past memories to create a new memory that can be referenced later, but nightmares are simply dreams that cause a strong but unpleasant emotional response. Dreams are part of the brain’s default network—a system of interconnected regions, which includes the thalamus, medial prefrontal cortex, and posterior cingulate cortex—that remains active during comparatively quiet periods.” We talked about the body’s fight, flight, or freeze response in our episode about being chased in dreams. I highly recommend you check that out!

Now, not necessarily nightmare related, but it could be: What are some of the weird sleep things you’ve experienced over your life?

C: *riff riff* how about you?

A: As a child I slept walked and talked in my sleep. I still sleep talk for sure. Once in a job where I shared a dorm suite, my coworker asked i was mad at her. I said no and asked why she thought that. She said that I had been rude to her last night and that I walked away mid-conversation. I promptly told her that I had in fact been asleep. To this day though, Richard’s always telling me that I say weird things in my sleep. For a while after the baby moved to a different room, I would wake up in a panic that she was stuck at the foot of my bed.

C: Weird sleep stuff, man! I wonder what the percentage is of people who do those things.

A: What a coincidence that you ask! Here are some numbers from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine: sleep walking occurs in 17% of children and 4% of adults. Sleep talking is more common and occurs in 50% of children and 5% of adults. Now have you ever had night terrors?

C: *riff riff*

A: Now, night terrors: had a lot of good information. According to them, night terrors are a type of parasomnia, classified as an arousal disorder, that occurs during non-REM (NREM) sleep. They usually occur during the first 3 to 4 hours of the night.. This person will show signs of panic and terror while sleeping such as screaming, flailing, or kicking. This is usually accompanied by other symptoms like rapid heart rate and breathing, flushing of the skin, sweating, dilation of the pupils, and tensing of the muscles.

Although the child may open their eyes and appear to be intensely afraid of someone or something in the room, they are typically not responsive to those who try to wake them or provide comfort. They may even attempt to fight or escape, causing accidental injury to themselves or family members.

C: Yikes! How long do they last?

A: The article says typically 10 minutes, but sometimes as long as 30-40 minutes. And then after all is said and done, the night terrorized person falls back to sleep and usually don’t remember having the incident when they wake up.

C: *riff riff* What’s the difference between a nightmare and a night terror?

A: This same article from says that nightmares are unpleasant or frightening dreams that cause emotional distress. Unlike night terrors, nightmares usually occur during REM sleep and don’t involve physical or vocal behaviors. It is common to remember the details or feelings of the nightmare and some may even become recurring dreams.

Night terrors are less prevalent but scary as hell!

C: What causes someone to have night terrors?

A: Genetics are a big one. So if you have family, particularly a parent or a sibling who suffers or has suffered, you would be more likely.

Otherwise, here are some other causes:

  • Fever

  • Sleep deprivation

  • Separation anxiety in children

  • Periods of emotional distress or conflict

  • Disruption of sleep schedule

  • Certain medications

  • Alcohol use and abuse (in children, just kidding)

  • Migraine headaches

  • Head injury

Did you ever read the book Heidi? She’s a five year old girl who lives in the Alps with her grandpa and when she has to separate from him and the mountains for period of time, she has night terrors.

C: *riff riff* So I feel like I’ve heard you should not wake up a child who is experiencing a night terror.

A: Correct! It just makes the experience last longer. If you just let them ride the wave in a safe environment, they will go back to sleep that much quicker.

C: Can you tell me about sleep paralysis?

A: I thought you’d never ask! According to WebMD, the best of sources, “Sleep paralysis is a feeling of being conscious but unable to move. It occurs when a person passes between stages of wakefulness and sleep. During these transitions, you may be unable to move or speak for a few seconds up to a few minutes. Some people may also feel pressure or a sense of choking. Sleep paralysis may accompany other sleep disorders.”

C: So that’s why people think there’s a demon sitting on their chest while they’re sleeping! What should someone do if they would like to not have it anymore?

A: According to the same article, they say, “Start by making sure you get enough sleep. Do what you can to relieve stress in your life -- especially just before bedtime. Try new sleeping positions if you sleep on your back. And be sure to see your doctor if sleep paralysis routinely prevents you from getting a good night's sleep.”

This leads me to Part 2 of our showI Had a Dream Once!

Part 2: I had a dream once!

A: I am very excited. This is a surprise for you, I reached out to a friend who has experienced sleep paralysis for a long time!

C: A kindred spirit! This is from Steven B., he/him pronouns! Thank you for normalizing pronouns, Steven! He says:

“So I have been getting sleep paralysis for… almost as long as I can remember. Not saying that it happens all the time, but I have had regular occurrences since as long as I can remember. I remember as a child thinking it was a nightmare or something else, probably because that’s what my mother told me and what the hell did I know at the time?

It has never really presented itself in different ways, and you can probably imagine what it is like but I will explain it a little bit for those that can’t picture it. Imagine your brain waking up, but forgetting to tell your body. Can you see the world around you? It sure feels like that but I don’t know if that’s because you are actually seeing with your eyes, or you are just hyperaware of all of your surroundings. You know you are in the bed. If you’re sleeping in the same bad as someone, you know they are right there next to you. You can sense the time of day based on whether or not there is a little bit of light coming in from the window. You notice everything. But you can’t move, you can’t talk, you can’t scream, you can’t cry. And struggling only makes it worse. That’s the hardest thing about sleep paralysis is that the more that you try to roll yourself off the bed onto the floor (Which was always what I always tried to do, something to snap you back into consciousness) the more your mind starts to freak out. A thing that we take for granted every single day, being able to move, is taken away from you for a period of time, and frankly it’s terrifying.

Throughout my life I’ve researched why it happens and the explanations are… unsatisfying? But I suppose they make a little sense. Sometimes they say it’s just a neurotransmitter reaching your brain first and the whole experience is probably a matter of seconds. Other theories talk about it being caused by irregular and unhealthy sleep schedules and most experiences last a matter of a few minutes. I don’t know the true cause, but every 6 months or so I will have an episode, sometimes I can stay calm, sometimes I freak out a bit, but no matter how I feel during it happening – I will snap awake, covered in sweat, slightly unable to talk and gasping for air because no matter how many times it happens, it’s still terrifying.”

A & C: *riff riff*

A: Well, that’s all we have for today!

C: We hope you enjoyed learning about all of our Halloween episodes!

A: Don’t forget to join us on Halloween proper for a virtual Halloween party! Head over to our Facebook page for more info!

C: And next week, well we will keep it a surprise, depending on how the election goes!

A: All of that is scarier than our six Halloween episodes combined.

C: Please vote! And don’t forget to send your dreams to us at (with two zz’s!) And check us out on instagram and facebook. Sleep tight!

A: And remember, don’t let the demon sitting on your chest dreams bite! Night night!,signs%20of%20fear%20and%20agitation.,involve%20physical%20or%20vocal%20behaviors.,tends%20to%20run%20in%20families.

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