Being Awake While Your Body Is Asleep

While reading the class blog, I stumbled upon a post that was about all the different types of dreams someone can have. It inspired me to explore what exactly a sleep/night terror actually was.

For most of my life I have had very detailed dreams that seem almost too realistic. Within the past few years my dreams have transitioned from pleasant dreams and nightmares to sleep/night terrors. Just to give you an idea of how extremely scary sleep terrors can be I’ll try to explain how I experience them. The best way I can describe the sensation to you is that you feel like your body (eyes,arms,hands, feet, and legs) are not functioning but your brain is. My sleep terrors usually start off with me being surrounded by ghosts or other demonic things that want to harm/possess me. Because I am half asleep-half awake my mind assumes that everything happening to me is in real life. I try to scream for help from my parents but because my body is not awake my mouth does not open, and my words make no sound. I try to run away from the things trying to harm me but my body cannot move, it is frozen in time. I try to lift my arms to wake myself up, but yet again my body is frozen. I am forced to go through the night terror without any way of stopping it or waking myself up.

Picture from here.

From reading multiple articles, a common fact of knowledge is that sleep terrors occur when a child is of the elementary school age but can outgrow the sleep phenomenon when they get older. In fact it is so uncommon in adults that almost all of the websites and articles I found were geared towards children and babies. I find this pattern strange because when I was little I never had a sleep terror but within the past few years I have started to get them. I wanted to know why exactly sleep terrors occur. To learn more about sleep terrors I visited the American Sleep Association website. From reading the section about sleep terrors on their website I learned that sleep terrors take place pre-REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement- causes vivid dreaming), or deep sleep.

I also found out that only 2% of adults have had sleep terrors, which makes me apart of a very small statistic (American Sleep Association 2007). Adults who do have sleep terrors are usually triggered by an emotional or traumatic event in their life. It can also be linked to those with depression, anxiety or mood disorders. So far in my life I have not had anything traumatic happen to me or have any psychological problems, so I seem to be the exception to the trend.

Due to the fact that the occurrence of sleep terrors in adults is so unlikely, the American Sleep Association recommends that those who do have them go to an overnight sleep study. The study called polysomnogram monitors what factors could be to leading to your sleep interruption or sleep terror. The test works by watching activity of your brain waves, noting where the brain region activity is being used prior to the phenomenon in an attempt to tell you how you might reverse the problem. 

Personally I feel like my sleep terrors happen too few a times to actually have a sleep study done on me. I wonder if there are other contributing factors as to why I get them. I think a few possibilities as to why I may get sleep terrors is based off of my diet, the amount of sleep I normally get, and maybe seeing something scary on Netflix or Tv.

I stumbled upon a video on YouTube called Is Sleep Paralysis Giving You Night Terrors? . Within his opening anecdote of  the video, Kyle Hill describes a sleep terror almost exactly like mine. It put me at ease to know I was not the only person who experienced this (also to reassure me that I am not a crazy person). If you are still curious or interested about sleep terrors, I would give the video a watch!



4 thoughts on “Being Awake While Your Body Is Asleep

  1. Taylor M Lender

    I relate to the content in your post because I often have nightmares and sleepwalk. I understand the feeling of seemingly not having control over your body. At the end of last semester, I actually gave myself a serious concussion while sleepwalking. I was fighting someone in my dream (similar to how you want to fight or get away from monsters or demons), and I ended up head-butting my wall…very hard. I actually am still experiences residual effects from my concussion, so I am increasing curious about sleep issues. I did not want to go through a sleep study either. I also do not know why I have not grown out of this phase of sleepwalking and nightmares at the age of 20. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Celine Degachi

    This is really interesting. I for one have never experienced lucid dreaming but, I have experienced sleep paralysis, which was very terrifying. It has similar effects to lucid dreaming except your eyes are open and your mind is completely aware of what’s happening. When I experienced it, the weirdest things were happening to me but I was unable to stop them or do anything about it, I just had to watch and endure. It is very weird. Upon researching I found that a lot of people actually try to transform their sleep paralysis into lucid dreams and here’s an article that explains it.

  3. Melanie Dawn Weltner

    This post really caught my eye because I used to lucid dream as a child as well. I thankfully did not have that horrible of night terrors but I definitely had outer body experiences. I was so freaked out when I was a kid because I did not understand what was happening to me and attributed it to some kind of spirit holding me down or something because I would be awake but felt like my body was glued to my bed. I would try to move my arm or hand and they felt like they were 100 pounds each. A lot of friends of mine who had sleeping problems actually would try to force their bodies to lucid dream in order to help them fall into a deep sleep which I do not quite understand because in my mind lucid dreaming would result in a poor nights sleep rather than a deep sleep much like this article depicts
    It is an interesting question to ask yourself though, can lucid dreaming actually help you get a better nights sleep?

  4. Hannah Katherine Morrissey

    Ever since I was little I have had night terrors, I know exactly how scary they can be! My parents always called it “The Irish Hag”. I usually had lucid dreaming where I would be locked in my room and not able to get out and true to form my brain would think it was all real. It was horrifying! My dad experienced night terrors as a child as well, so I looked up if the condition was genetic and it turns out that in many cases it can be! I found information in the link attached below explaining this phenomena. This was a very interesting post, great work!

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