wake up running

Hi Sarah—

I’m glad you wrote in for help, before your G.P. sends you off to have your head examined! The good news is that you’re not really having nightmares at all (you don’t have any deep, repressed traumas lurking inside you)- and a solution for your problem is as easy as flicking a switch!

The information you provide lets us know that you are suffering from “confusional arousals” —also popularly known as night terrors. If we are awakened during deep sleep (by a noise outside our home or flat, or by our bedpartner turning over, for example) occasionally our brains get stuck between sleeping and waking. During this half-awake, half-asleep state, we can walk and talk in our sleep, and we can imagine intruders in our room or home, whom we fear are about to attack. The disorientation of the state causes us to panic, and then we can begin yelling for help, struggling to defend ourselves, or even running from our beds to escape the imaginary attacker. Despite our outward appearances, we still are soundly asleep!

As you have learned from your own experience, light is an effective aid for bringing us to full awakening during a partial arousal. Accordingly, the easiest solution for night terrors is to sleep with a night light on in your bedroom. Next time you experience an arousal from deep sleep, the soft light will allow you to see the room and to orient yourself. Instead of becoming confused, you will simply roll over and return to sleep.

If a night light doesn’t work immediately, try increasing the amount of light in your bedroom by using a full light placed in a corner. The trick is to prevent yourself from becoming disoriented during partial arousals from sleep. It’s as easy as flicking a switch! A simple
solution for a very confusing—and frightening—sleep problem.

(No head doctor required!)

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