- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Night Terrors, Disturbing Nightly Episodes of a New Parent.
Night Terrors; Panic in the Night
As a new parent I always expected there would be many things on my mind, new situations, experiences, responsibilities, however I did not expect to have the added stress of disruptive nightly panic attacks coupled with very real hallucinations. I have now come to know these episodes to be called Night Terrors.
If you have never had a Night Terror they are very disturbing moments in the night that appear to be reality, followed by a sudden realization that every awful thing that was just experienced was not really there. Night Terrors are not to be confused with Nightmares, most Nightmares happen in your head during dream state and you wake up to know it was not real, Night Terrors happen here and now, in what seems to be this reality, mixed with very unusual and often terrifying things or situations. I have had Night Terrors here and there throughout my life, usually of the sort of thinking I had awoke in the night to find myself covered in bugs, or the seeing the giant spider on the ceiling above my bed that would turn out to be the ceiling fan, but the Night Terrors that ensued after the birth of my 1st child were chronic, at least one a night for about 3 months. These were also more real and terrifying than any others I had ever previously experienced. I have often wondered if other new parents have similar experiences, considering what I learned about the causes of these disruptions after the fact. I would venture to guess that this may be a common disturbance for new parents that is not often shared.
Allow me to give you a summarized glimpse of my nightly bouts with Night Terrors as a new parent, perhaps this may be helpful to anyone who has had or may currently be suffering from the same affliction.
Detailed Night Terror Experience
Each night I would would make sure that my newborn was well fed before putting him to bed in his own crib around 11:30pm. I am a stickler for children and babies, even newborns sleeping in their own crib due to reports of babies being accidentally smothered while co-sleeping with their parents. I would fall asleep, only to wake up (so I thought) about an hour and a half later to find that my newborn was inexplicably in my bed next to me, and unresponsive. My husband also sleeping soundly next to me was unaware of this, and since I knew that I had put the child to sleep in his own crib, my assumption was that my husband had retrieved the child and brought him in with us at some point in the night, perhaps because the child had awoken crying. My reaction to all of this was usually yelling and hitting my husband in the night to wake him and make him aware of the emergency at hand. My husband would wake up stunned and begin questioning what my panic was about. I would frightfully explain to him that the baby was in the bed and ask him why he had brought him in, while moving blankets and pillows about to get a good look at what was going on in hopes that the child was OK, at the same time preparing for whatever needed to be done to revive the infant. My husband would tell me that the baby was not in the bed, and ask me repeatedly what I was talking about. Until I would suddenly realize that the baby truly was not in the bed and whatever I had thought was my newborn was usually a pillow, wadded up blankets, and on a few occasions my husbands arm. I would still be shaken up even after the realization, it became very difficult to rationalize what had just happened. This went on regularly for a couple of months, every night, at least once a night. My husband became accustomed to what had to be my very annoying panic fits in the night after the first week or so, and there after for him it became a regular nightly drill to just tell me the baby is not here go back to sleep.
While I was relieved to find out that no harm had come to my child, I was disturbed that my mind was deceiving me in such an incredibly awful way. Why in the world was this happening to me?
About Night Terrors
What Causes Night Terrors
Being an avid student of all things paranormal, I have certainly heard about, and entertained many ideas presented on the causes of Night Terrors. There are some that believe these to be caused by entities that have followed you back from Astral travels through the lower Astral Plains, there are those that believe that some may be caused by alien visitations, shadow people, demons, ghosts, and the list goes on. I thought, maybe, I was developing a psychological problem of some sort. Then there are other more scientific views that say these are sleep disorders, in which the brain chemicals used for sleep go out of whack and cause huge miscommunication between the conscious and subconscious mind.
In my case, I was not experiencing strange visitations, or unfamiliar creatures, it was all terror based on real people and potentially real events. I have since learned a little bit about brain chemistry during the sleep cycle, dreams, and the roles of the subconscious and conscious during sleep. I discovered a scenario repeated in much of the information I came across. Many studies of sleep disorders found Night Terrors to be common in people that were sleep deprived, and or suffering from extreme anxiety or stress in their daily lives. Well, if that statement in itself does not almost entirely define the physical and psychological state of most new parents I don't know what does.
On top of having a new child, that brings with it countless new anxieties, and a plethora of night waking, I had also suffered an injury during labor which caused me to wake with pain upon almost every movement in the night, needless to say I was most certainly a prime candidate for Night Terrors.
The disturbing subject of my Night Terrors became much more clear after watching a Nova documentary called What Are Dreams? This program further reinforced the chemical malfunctions of my brain allowing both my conscious and subconscious minds to be functioning at the same time. My preoccupation with the baby and my own anxieties, translated into my brain creating a scenario of dealing with present events, and trying to foresee future problems possibilities in a highly stressed and improper dream state. My circumstances had created the perfect storm for chronic Night Terrors.
These terrors predictably faded away as my injury healed, the child sleep longer through the night, and I became more at ease about my new stage in life. I did not experience this again after it faded away until my 2nd child was born, but with the 2nd one I had only a handful of instances. I attribute this to being more at ease since I knew better what to expect with the 2nd child, I did not have a compounding injury, and my 2nd child was a shockingly good night sleeper.
Hopefully if anyone reading this has had or is having trouble with night terrors, it may ease your mind a bit, although in the throws of those awful moments in the night its all too real no matter what logical scientific explanation may be attached to the haunting Night Terror.