Night terrors, also referred to as incubus, sleep terror or pavor nocturnes, is a sleeping disorder that commonly occurs during the first few hours of sleep.
These terrors can affect anyone, ranging from infants to adults, but is most common during childhood. There are however, adults who some from chronic night terrors, at least once weekly. The condition should not be confused with nightmares, which often result in deep slow wave sleep, whereas night terrors occur soon following sleep. The affected person will usually sit up straight in bed screaming in terror and panting heavily, with profuse sweating. Upon waking, the person may not exhibit full consciousness, and may also have vivid hallucinations. This condition evokes the autonomic nervous system sharply, so adrenaline is primed to act (fight or flight mode). The person will not normally react to statements or may not even have memory of the occurrence. Persons experiencing chronic night terrors also have a higher risk of associated post-traumatic stress disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. There also appears to be a genetic link and the risk for episodes of night terrors. A first degree relative who has the disorder may include your risk as much as ten times. There is also a possible association of night terrors with persons suffering from insomnia, those who lack an adequate diet, or persons undergoing very stressful life situations.
Causes of Night Terrors
The exact causes of night terrors are hard to establish, however, there are conditions under which you are more likely to have an attack. Since night terrors occur mainly during non REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the longer the person remains in that state the more likely it is for them to have an attack. By simply having contact with the person during that phase of sleep it is possible to induce an attack. Other commonly associated triggers of night terrors include;
- Stress of various types, including mental, physical and emotional fatigue.
- Use of certain medications such as sedatives and anxiolytics
- Lack of sleep
- Use of stimulants before bed
- Use of illicit drugs
Treatment of Night Terrors
The episodes of night terrors generally do not warrant treatment with medications, since they may occur very occasionally, or may not be very extreme. As such, methods to treat night terrors are for the most part natural modifications that you make to your lifestyle. The following are proven, natural changes that can help you prevent attacks of incubus:
- Use of essential oils- essential oils elicit a relaxing feel by their smell. They may be used as incense sticks, or scented candles, although sticks are the safer option. Lavender scented varieties seem to work very effectively.
- Play soft music before bed- these types of music help to transition you through each phase of sleep.
- Sleep in a cool room- rooms that are higher in temperature are more likely to precipitate an attack. Leave windows open if possible or install an air conditioning system.
- Allow yourself to relax before bed- a warm bath, and half an hour to relax before going to bed helps you to accomplish more peaceful sleep. Especially important following hectic days
- Herbal remedies- the use of supplements such as St. John’s Wort or Chamomile may help to reduce the frequency of night terror attacks.
In severe cases, your doctor may recommend prescription strength anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications to help you prevent these episodes. Always consult your doctor if these episodes become chronic.
Category: Sleep Disorders