Night Terrors

Night terrors may occur due, not to frightening dreams such as a nightmare, but to sudden and powerful body changes such as difficulty in breathing, or a sudden drop in your pulse.

Night Terrors often Linked with Difficulty in Breathing

Night terrors occur most often in children and usually decrease as the children mature. A cause noticed as long ago as the nineteenth century was that many cases of night terrors happened to children who showed early signs of heart disease. In other children, after removal of the adenoids the terrors disappeared. Like tonsils, adenoids are a glandular tissue that lies at the back or the mouth behind the soft palate. If enlarged they can interfere with breathing.

Night terrors are characterized by abrupt awakening, sometimes with a scream; a sleeping child may sit up in bed, apparently terror-stricken, with wide-open eyes, and often with frozen posturing that may last several minutes. Afterward there typically is no recollection of dreamlike experience.

According to Professor Colin Sullivan, head of the clinic, people gripped in a night terror are in a “state of absolute panic .

“I have seen patients injure themselves by pushing their hand through a plate glass window and run out onto a balcony and fall off,” he said.

Night Terrors are Differnt to Nighmares

Sleepers sufferind night terrors who are shocked awake will likely be disoriented and confused. Try very gently to help them find their own way to a couch, the floor, or back to their beds. Sometimes a softly repeated suggestion will do the trick. When waking them is necessary, try repeating their names, very quietly, over and over again.

Scientists distinguish between nightmares and night terrors, the term for terrifying nocturnal experiences that mainly affect young children in deep sleep. The principal difference is that the sleeper seldom remembers a night terror. Sleepers in the throes of a night terror often awaken to the feeling of being suffocated or choked.

Although this doesn’t apply to children, learning a different relationship with emotions and dream images can cure night terrors. Most people take their emotions as some sort of reality. I mean by this that a dreamed of car cannot hurt you in any way. A car in the physical world can crush your body. If you begin to realise that the only thing that can raise terror is our own reaction to your emotions.

Emotions Can Kill

In 1898 Crile was on an army transporter off Cuba and examined a young officer who was delirious with fear due to facing his first battle. He was as deep in shock as if his legs had been crushed by a wagon as William Lyndman’s had. This led Crile to become interested in exophthalmic goitre, an illness which produces a similar type of anxiety condition. Despite the use of anaesthetics, no one had successfully operated on such a goitre condition. Every patient died. Crile discovered why when he attempted such an operation in 1905.

While under anaesthesia the patients heart rate rose to 218 and the body temperature rose to a dangerous level. Despite no physical injury or infection, the patient died that night with a temperature of 109.6 F. Crile realised from his previous observations that it was fear which had killed the patient. Therefore he told his next patient, a young woman who needed the goitre operation, that he was going to give her a simple inhalation treatment. When she breathed in the anaesthetic, she therefore thought she was having a ‘treatment’ not an operation. She was the first person to survive the operation for exopthalmic goitre. Crile called it “stealing the goitre”, and was so impressed by the influence of emotion on the body he constantly stressed the importance of self control, and taught that calmness is strength.


-Sarah Glaspole 2012-01-14 23:31:33

Looks like you have put a lot of effort in your blog, thank you for taking the time to write such useful information.

    -Tony Crisp 2012-01-15 11:44:28

    Sarah – Thank you. It is always helpful to get feedback, like shot of energy.

    I clicked on the address for a website – yours? – but nothing came up for it.


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