Saturday, July 24

Return of the Narcoleptic Nightmare

Image courtesy of chrisroll/
Last night was not a good one for my husband. He tossed and turned so much that I wondered if he was getting any actual sleep. Finally, he cried out several times - no actual words, but he sounded terrified. I called to him to tell him he was dreaming and to "Wake up! WAKE UP!" It took a little while, but he finally gave me a groggy acknowledgment and promptly fell back to sleep.

Later, when I asked him what had terrified him so, he couldn't even remember. Maybe that was a good thing, because he sure sounded scared out of his wits that night. My husband hasn't had night terrors in awhile, but they do still crop up every now and then.

Night terrors and horrific nightmares are another scary, debilitating symptom of Narcolepsy that my husband has long suffered through. His nightmares and hallucinations are fascinating, frightening, and sometimes (but rarely) funny. He often reacts to whatever is happening to him in his nightmare - talking, yelling, thrashing...

There have been times when my husband's actions while he slept were intimidating. In fact, I was fascinated by the story of a British man, Brian Thomas, who murdered his wife in his sleep. It's a bizarre experience, but I totally understood it. You can read the full story here: CNN Story. The article doesn't say that the man suffered from Narcolepsy, but he suffered from "night terrors" and other "sleep disturbances" for many years without being treated. His experience did make me think - have I ever been afraid my husband would actually harm me in his sleep?

The truth is yes, but I've never actually feared for my life. Things have happened before, but never to such an extreme that I was afraid. Mostly, it's just been annoying. Rarely I'll be awakened by a jab or hit as a result of him flailing or hitting out in his sleep. That's not a fun way to be awakened, but it definitely isn't life-threatening.

For that reason, although we go to bed together, we usually end up sleeping separately about half the time. We both seem to get more rest that way. Plus, I admit, I relax a bit more when I'm sleeping alone.


  1. I'm someone with Narcolepsy. And while I've had the vivid dreams and the nightmares for awhile, I recently had my first night terror. I felt like I was a child again. I literally woke myself up because I was screaming out loud. It kinda speaks to that blurred line between being asleep and being awake. The really odd thing was that my dream wasn't that scary. Basically some unknown male was walking up the path to my house, opened the door and came in. And in the dream, I was in a state of shock, because people don't just randomly walk into your house. And the man didn't seem threatening, but he wasn't reacting when I told him he can't do that! And when I woke I realized the dream wasn't that scary, that it was kinda bizarre. Regardless, I was in such a state of terror!

    At least this is one side of N that I can occasionally laugh at, especially since the other symptoms tend to depress me!

    Thanks for the blog. I'll have to recommend it to the few friends I haven't lost due to the illness.


  2. Danielle,
    Thank you so much for sharing that! Isn't it funny how our brains work're right - that doesn't seem like it would be scary, but all that matters is that terror you felt when you woke.

    I'm grateful any time we can laugh at narcolepsy!!

    I'm srry for those you've lost - some just don't (or choose not to) understand.

    Hang in there!

  3. Thanks! One day at a time, right?


  4. From personal experience losing friends can be sad, but sometimes even feeling sad over something can use up a lot of the mental energy that I already don't have.

  5. That's right Danielle - one day at a time!

    Sadness does take up a lot of mental energy - I agree.

  6. At one point my husband's night terrors were so frequent and real. They always involved someone dying on our family, and he felt helpless. The breaking point was when Hubby and son were having their traditional morning naps, and he had a night terror. Someone was beating his family to death! Then, he woke up. hand doubled up into a fist, just an inch from our boys face....

    The end of the nap times.

  7. I've had narcolepsy since the age of 17. Well, at least that's when I started to notice the symptoms. Now I have got the diagnosis, and my life is pretty good =)

    I've acctually been sent out of the bedroom to sleep on the couch, because I hit/slapped my girlfriend in my sleep (when I was having nightmares). I didn't believe it until she showed me the bruises.

    Now I am 27 years old, and the nightmares/terrors that I used to have now and then ( a couple of times during the week) has increased the last 1-2 years. I don't know how to decribe how terrifying these dreams are. Sometimes when I wake up, I feel like throwing up.

    I always dream og death, beeing followed, chased, haunted, I even dreamt that i got eaten by cannibals, and seeing people getting cut of by crazy killers with chainsaws. I havens seen a scarymovie for 10 years or so, since I don't want to feed my brain with garbage entertainment that I will dream about later.

    Anyway, I hope this is something that science will find out how to treat.

  8. I'm 22. I was just diagnosed with Narcolepsy, but I've been living with it since I was 14. I had night terrors as a kid, before the other issues started cropping up. I have an occasional one now, but I'm very very good at going lucid so I usually wake up before they get really bad. While the terror and inconsolability is a huge part of it, be thankful that's all that happening.

    When I had night terrors as a child I was awake, without being awake. My eyes were wide open and my brain was functioning enough to recognize what was happening, but I couldnt control anything. Its like being possessed. I also remember every single night terror to the T. That my friend is no blessing.

    My first one, I remember I had walked down my stairs screaming bloody murder about a shadow that was coming to kill everyone. My mother chased me down the stairs, trying to wake me up. I could hear every word, but I couldn't do anything about it. I got downstairs and stood in front of our fireplace like I might be trying to light it, then I turned to look at my mother who was crying out to me and I looked her dead in the eye and recognized her and then yelled that she was a liar and that she was not my mother at all. Then I fell to the ground and came out of it. God. I cannot imagine how my poor mother must have felt. My parents handled that year or so that I had such bad night terrors so well. Anyway, I'm not trying to one-up you at all, just giving you something to be thankful for. Terror is one thing, but watching yourself create the terror around you and not be able to do anything about it...that is something else entirely. God I hope my children don't have to deal with it.