Night terrors: what you need to know
Mad dreams like you’re in a horror movie. Thrashing around in bed. Shouting out in your sleep. You or your mates may have experienced some or all these after a weekend of partying. But why do people get these night terrors and should you worry about them? Read on to find out…
First a primer on sleep. There are two types of sleep you’ll cycle through on any given night. Non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep happens around an hour after falling asleep and is when you have the most vivid dreams.
There’s an amount of REM your body needs. If you’ve been smashing it for days without sleep, your brain knows how much REM you need to catch up on and will make you stay in that stage of sleep for longer. More REM = more vivid dreams.
Chemicals you put in your body also mess with your sleep. When your body breaks down booze it turns into something called acetaldehyde. It’s the thing that causes you to wake up hot and sweaty in the middle of the night. Waking up during REM = remembering more of your dreams.
If your serotonin levels are out of whack then this will also disrupt your sleep during REM. Serotonin is also the hormone that stabilises your mood and feelings of happiness. Research is scarce but it's a reasonable theory that your dreams may take on a more negative vibe if you’ve overstimulated your way through all your serotonin reserves.
So is this all something to worry about? A bit of disrupted sleep on its own isn’t something to be bothering your doc with. But if you have long-standing trouble getting a full night of sleep then it’s probably worth having a chat with someone.
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