Question: I am a 40 year old woman who has had sleep terrors as long as I can remember, or rather as long as I can remember people telling me what I did. I had 2 seizures as a child (6 months and 5 years six months) for which I was put on phenobarbitol (which made me unbearably hyper) and then dilantin. No cause was ever found for the seizures. I have often wondered if there is any connection.
The things I know trigger a night terror are being overly tired (there may be a certain amount of tiredness, as I never had them when my children were newborns) and someone turning off my night light while I am sleeping.I try to get enough sleep, always read before bed and leave a night light on so I can re-orient myself more quickly.I have found the episodes very disturbing because, even when people know you have this problem, they can still feel hurt that you have “accused” them of putting spiders on you or stealing from you. They are unpredictable and not completely preventable so, I always do things like pay extra for a single room at a scientific conference, because I do not want to take a chance of having a night terror. Also, I think I have more frequent episodes where I do not vocalize but wake more fully, disoriented with my heart racing. I have minor mitral valve prolapse and the symptom of my heart racing during these episodes has made me wonder if they might be a physical process that gets misinterpreted by the brain. Maybe my heart starts racing because of the MVP and then, depending on the stage of sleep, this leads to either a nightmare, disoriented waking or a night terror.