Saturday, February 24, 2007


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BEAUTY SLEEP-Beauty made herself a little nest on the floor and fell asleep.
Well last night was an experience that I hope not to repeat too quickly!
Night terrors!
Beauty woke up about an hour after going to sleep and she was absolutely hysterical with fear, nothing I could do would comfort her or make it better. She went back to sleep after about 30 minutes but her sleep for the rest of the night was very troubled. AND how do I know about night terrors? Well we've been there before but that was about 20 years ago with Belle who also had night terrors which lasted for about 2 years.
And what are night terrors?
Well according to Wikipedia
A night terror, also known as pavor nocturnus, is a parasomnia sleep disorder characterized by extreme terror and a temporary inability to regain full consciousness. The subject wakes abruptly from the fourth stage of sleep, with waking usually accompanied by gasping, moaning, or screaming. It is often impossible to fully awaken the person, and after the episode the subject normally settles back to sleep without waking.
Nightmares and night terrors by Trisha Macnair on the BBC Health Website

Night terrors are more common in children than adults, tend to run in families and usually start before the age of 10 (most common age two to six).

the Wikepedia article also goes on to say

While each night terror is usually different, all episodes of the same person will generally have similar traits. One of the most common qualities of night terrors is a strong sense of danger. For these people there is always a being, tangible or otherwise, who wishes to hurt the sleeping person, or the sleeping person's loved ones. Many sufferers of night terrors are reluctant to speak of them because of their violent and often disturbing nature.

Well that explains a lot(and no I am not being sarcastic).
As I have said before, pre-internet was almost like a dark ages time and getting information on anything was a major undertaking. When Belle was experiencing her night terrors I could find nothing on night terrors in the library and so I asked a psychologist we knew if she had any idea what it was and she merely said that it could be caused by stress in the day time. Looking back that wasn't a lot of help and not completely accurate. I remember as a child waking up from a dream and not knowing what the dream was about, I always felt that remembering the dream was just like a word on the tip of your tongue that you cannot remember. I have memories that the dream was something terrible and awful and it was about something I had done which was really bad(like a pre-schooler could have done something that bad!). And if I had these night terrors as a child why didn't I mention them? Because I was afraid that what I had dreamed, the really bad thing, was real and that I had done something really bad. There were 3 things I remember about the 'dream'(if there ever had been a dream), a huge endless dark cavernous space, a tiny black boat with sails on the sea with an ink black sky and the awful terrible feeling that I couldn't change something(what I don't know). I have had flash backs of the 'I couldn't change something' part of the dream and I still occasionally get it as an adult and each time I get it I feel sick with anxiety/ fear whatever...............not pleasant. The thought of a a child like Beauty going through something like this is not pleasant.
I remembering waking from these 'dreams' and being hysterical and crying and crying and crying and nobody coming to me. I am wondering now if the reason nobody came was because it wasn't the middle of the night as I had previously thought but

Night terrors, on the other hand, occur during a phase of deep non-REM sleep usually within an hour after the subject goes to bed.

If everybody was still downstairs they may not have heard me crying which is comforting to know now but wasn't much help then. And because of the terrible fear I never discussed it with any one........silly moo!
And as an adult I still occasionally get these night terrors, I awake with a terrible jump, I am absolutely terrified for no reason that I know of and my heart is racing and will not calm down. I then cannot sleep because I am worrying about what happened to wake me up and what terrible things might happen(oh Anastasia I am so glad you are no longer living in Russia- I had a lot of sleepless nights then).
SnoWhite had 1 night terror Christmas eve 1995 when she had the flu and it was a scary experience for her and me. Fiona also had night terrors when we lived in Victoria park in 1994, she would have been 3 years old. Who needs the Genome project when there is my family?
What with vitiligo, autism, night terrors, arthritis etc we could keep researchers going for years!
And it is nice to know we are in good(!) company
according to Wikepedia
H.R. Giger
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who created the designs for the alien in The Alien films also suffered from night terrors and he was an architect by trade and his first paintings were a form of art therapy with regards to his night terrors.
H.P Lovecraft was also widely believed to have suffered from night terrors. Lovecraft was an American writer of fantasy, horror and science fiction. Lovecraft influenced many of the US fantasy, horror and science fiction writers including Stephen King.
I can see how these individuals have been inspired by fear.
Minds are scary things.
The Wikipedia article suggests the following way to deal with night terrors
The consensus for treating night terror episodes is three-pronged: gentleness, disposal of anything nearby that might hurt the subject, and avoiding loud voices or movements that might frighten the subject further. It is also critical to remember that the person experiencing the terror is unaware that they are experiencing one. As a result, they may become even more agitated if told that "it was just a dream," as they are quite convinced that the experience is real. The quickest remedy is simply to calm the person by telling the person that you are there for them or simply say, "I'm here" or "I love you". Telling the victim "It's OK" or "nothing's there" may agitate the sleeper further because feelings they are feeling are very real to them and obviously not "OK". However, simply knowing the person's source of "calm" helps immensely. If he/she has a favorite companion dog or cat, telling them that the cat or dog is warm in bed, safe and asleep, and that they need to sleep as well could also be a good trigger. Calm the person and convince them to "go back to sleep" In some cases, they may be calmed by the mere presence of familiar person.

As far as Belle, SnoWhite and Fiona were concerned , the above suggestions would have been a perfect way to deal with the situation but with Beauty I am never sure that she understands what I am saying and touching and holding are not always a good idea even when she is well or not experiencing a night terror, such is the contrariness of the autistic mind. I should imagine that the percentage of children with autism who suffer from night terrors is probably the same as the percentage of normally developing children who suffer from night terrors. Next on my to-do the net to see how other parents of children with autism deal with night terrors. Just in case it happens again.


Club 166 said...

...but with Beauty I am never sure that she understands what I am saying and touching and holding are not always a good idea even when she is well or not experiencing a night terror, such is the contrariness of the autistic mind. ...

Keep on talking!

There are so many accounts of people discovering that their autistic children understand so much more than they thought. There are also a lot of non-verbal autistics who understand and communicate just fine (with assisted communication devices.

Even if she doesn't understand all of the words (yet), she will pick up on your emotions.


Yes I agree.
Beauty is like a little sponge.At times we have the most amazing moments of clarity where she seems to 'wake-up' and respond appropriately and it is like 'wow, where did that come from' and then it is gone!
From what I have seen , Beauty can tell the time and read(how much I don't know)without being taught.
The sweetest things she does is to come and smother you with kisses to get you to do something for her. She knows we all love hugs and kisses so when we are suddenly overwhelmed by them we know that she wants something she can't do herself.




An Irish Blessing

(A Blessing from St. Patrick)
May the road rise to meet you,

May the wind be always at your back,

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

May the rains fall soft upon your fields,

And, until we meet again,

May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.