Screaming nightmares?
March 20, 2006 5:57 PM   Subscribe

So I've been waking up from nightmares a few times a month by screaming out loud...

It doesn't actually bother me much -- as soon as I'm awake, I'm no longer scared and can usually go right back to sleep. However, my girlfriend would appreciate very much not to be regularly woken by someone screaming. :-)

In the dreams, I'm usually about to be killed by someone (methods vary) and I can't get away. So I scream.

It's only been going on for a few months and I can't think of anything new in my life which could be causing it. Also, I'm not the type of person to worry about getting killed in my waking life. In fact, I haven't been significantly worried about anything lately.
posted by callmejay to Health & Fitness (15 answers total)
My mum used to always tell me, just before I was about to be killed to look down to my hand and see that I was holding a gun/ bucket of sand/ pale of water - which I could then use to instantly kill/ melt whoever was trying to kill me.

It really worked!
posted by takeyourmedicine at 6:12 PM on March 20, 2006

Damn, my first question was going to be about what you were stressed about during the daytime.

Have you ever been able to turn a dream while dreaming? It involves becoming conscious that you are dreaming, and then deciding where things go next. I don't have a ton of experience doing that, so I couldn't tell you how it's done, but there's a lot of info on the internet about it. Just google "lucid dreaming."
posted by moira at 6:12 PM on March 20, 2006

I had an acquaintance who had similar symptoms that progressed to sleepwalking and eventually sleep-trying-to-break-a-third-story-window-and-jump-out. He went to some sort of sleep therapy where they hooked him up to machines for a couple of nights in a row to see what was going on; I'm pretty sure they resolved the issue.
posted by clarahamster at 6:23 PM on March 20, 2006

I used to have a lot of screaming nightmares where my wellbeing was in jeopardy. Now, all my nightmares (non-screaming) are about killing others.

Perhaps muse on creative ways of killing someone as you drift off to sleep?
posted by PurplePorpoise at 6:26 PM on March 20, 2006

Night terrors.

My sister has this. And GOD-DAMNIT does it freak me the hell out. It started out when she was a kid as dreams of being attacked and she wakes up yelling. As an adult they became semi-lucid dreams where she is kind of half awake and screams bloody murder for minute or more. Seeing people in the room, etc.

My brother-in-law, after years of no sleep, became completely immune to it.

She went to a sleep clinic. And it throttled back some. Had her cover her eyes when he slept, stop caffeine, take yoga.

But it didn't stop completely until - get this - she went back to school to get her nursing degree at 50.

Basically she switched careers to something really fulfilling to her and it all went away.
posted by tkchrist at 6:31 PM on March 20, 2006

Response by poster: Not to answer my own question, but the only hypothesis I've come up with is that I'm experiencing night-time hypoglycemia. I've been dieting and eating less at night and I do tend to suffer from (non-diabetic) hypoglycemia. So maybe that's it.
posted by callmejay at 6:41 PM on March 20, 2006

I was going to ask you just that, callmejay. In the height of my untreated Type II diabetes, before my diagnosis, my dreams and incidents of sleep issues were out of control - constant talking, sleepless nights, and really crazy ass dreams. Since I got the diabetes under control, my sleep has been 100% better (and for my now-husband, then-fiancé too).

If you haven't gone to a doctor recently, it might be a good time to get checked out.
posted by cajo at 6:52 PM on March 20, 2006

I agree on checking out the hypoglycemia angle. That sounds very possible.

If that doesn't work out, you might want to start considering the content of these dreams in a lot closer detail. It may be that because your life is in a calm spot, your brain has decided that it is time to deal with something that's been bugging it a while.
posted by tkolar at 7:00 PM on March 20, 2006

Temperature? I get very bad nightmares if it gets above about 80F/27C in my room at night.
posted by dmd at 7:17 PM on March 20, 2006

I know of at least one person (writer Tara Harper) who claims to have resolved her night terrors by means of lucid dreaming.

(But I'm not suggesting that to the exclusion of visiting a sleep clinic or seeing a doctor, which seem rather more sensible.)
posted by Jeanne at 8:13 PM on March 20, 2006

Has your physical sleeping position changed any? I suffer from several sleep disorders and nearly every one is triggered in part by me sleeping on my back.

Look into sleep clinics, though - many allow self-referrals, which makes setting up an appointment easier.
posted by Sangre Azul at 8:44 PM on March 20, 2006

I find nightmares to be more severe when sleeping on my back. My SO has noticed the same thing with his own (much less frequent) nightmares.

Also check this thread, and this and this one in the blue on sleep paralysis, of which you may be experiencing to some extent.
posted by desuetude at 8:55 PM on March 20, 2006

I agree with other posters. Sounds like you are having night terrors.

I've experienced these kind of sleep interruptions. One thing that worked well for me was putting 3 or 4 fairly bright (7 watt) night lights in my bedroom. I very rarely have night mares and never have night terrors when sleeping in a softly lit room, but occasionally have them when sleeping in the dark.

Biggest problem with this is getting accustomed to sleeping with light in the room. Some people can't.

Also, make sure the room is quiet (no TV or radio left on routinely -- use a sleep timer function to make sure they go off if you like falling asleep to the late show). And use blankets/bed clothes that are light but warm. A good down comforter is less restrictive than several blankets, and is a big help in sleeping soundly.
posted by paulsc at 8:57 PM on March 20, 2006

A bit of a derail, but I found this post interesting because when I have nightmares I am in the same situation - except that I am rendered incapable of screaming. More of a roommate-friendly situation, no doubt, but I am afraid that if I am ever really in danger in waking life, I will be too scared to scream.

I'd advise seeing a doctor if it's a substantial problem for you.
posted by anjamu at 11:09 PM on March 20, 2006

This is pretty interesting stuff. I have never woken up screaming, but I have woken up yelling when someone really pissed me off in my dream.
posted by evariste at 12:40 AM on March 21, 2006

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