Although often confused with a nightmare, night terrors are a phenomenon which can happen to adults and children and often consist of thrashing, kicking and screaming out in the night, in response to a dream.
Night terrors can come in a variety of different forms and affect people in different ways, they can also be coupled with increased heart rate, night sweats and heavy breathing, meaning it’s tricky to get back to sleep after experiencing one.
Whilst it can be strange to witness someone having a night terror, it doesn’t leave any lasting damage and is rather common.
Check out the causes of night terrors below and what you can do to prevent them.
–Caffeine. Caffeine tends to heighten your senses, especially if you consume it before bed time. The stimulant can also increase feelings of anxiety and stress, meaning that even if you do fall asleep after caffeine, there is an increased risk of having a night terror during the hours before waking.
–Sleep deprivation. When you’re sleep deprived, you tend to fall into a deep sleep when you finally come to rest, increasing the vividity of your dreams and possibly leading to a higher chance of experiencing night terrors.
-Fever. It’s super common to experience night terrors if you’re running a high temperature and are in the midst of the flu or a common cold. The increase in body temperature can affect brain function and often cause vivid imagery for the person with the fever, leading to night terrors.
-Unfamiliar environment. If you’ve worked out that you’re prone to night terrors, then you’ll probably be aware that an unknown environment tends to heighten the chances of them significantly. The body’s responses to being in an unknown area can heighten the senses and create anxiety in the moments before we fall to sleep, meaning we are much more likely to have a night terror.
How to help prevent night terrors.
Although there seem to be plenty of reasons behind the causes of night terrors, there are also plenty of things that can be trialled in order to stop them from happening, or at least – lessen their severity.
-Reduce or completely remove caffeine. Just give it a go for a week or so to see if your night terrors lesson, and if they do, it’s probably best to carry on with the no caffeine rule for a much more restful sleep.
-Give meditation a go! Try out some meditation before bedtime. There are plenty of apps out there to clear your mind, simply give them a listen before bed to alleviate anxious thoughts and hence, reduce the chances of night terrors.
-Reduce stress. One of the main causes of night terrors can definitely be put down to stress, as heading to bed with a mind full of worries tends to mean that your brain is far too alert to fall into a restful sleep – meaning you’re likely to experience night terrors. Stress also causes a lack of REM or Rapid Eye Movement, which in turn can lead to countless night terrors.
-Avoid exercise before sleep. Although many people exercise and head to the gym in the evening after work, due to their busy schedule, it’s important to not do rigorous exercise too close to heading off to bed. The raise in heart beat and body temperature can mean that you’re much more likely to struggle with night terrors, as your body is alert and running on all senses, literally.
-Inform others. If you tend to suffer from and experience night terrors whilst in a new setting, then it’s best to tell people before heading off to sleep. This way, they won’t panic too much if they are awoken in the night, they might even be able to help if they’re pre-warned to your night terror tendencies.
One final point, if you experience a night terror, although it might seem tricky to get back to sleep, try to stop yourself from doing so for at least a few minutes. Maybe head to the toilet or go and grab a drink from the kitchen to wake yourself up. Drop back into sleep too quickly after a night terror and you tend to experience another one pretty quickly.