Can You Die From A Nightmare?
Doree Shafrir

Thank you for writing this article, it’s very brave of you to share your experience. My teenage son started getting night terrors aged 3, when we moved to a new home. When he suffered from these episodes his eyes were generally always open but, when I looked into them I could see that he was not awake. Trying to wake him always induced blind terror and screaming, so I learned to speak in a very calm, soothing voice to coax him back to bed, reassuring him that I was there for him and that he was in his own house with me and his family. As he got older they got progressively worse, especially during times of stress, culminating in him head butting a 3rd storey window trying to escape whatever it was that was chasing him in one of these nightmares when he was 12. Luckily he had woken me as he’d run past my room screaming and I had managed to catch up and grab hold of him as he tried to jump. He never has any recollection when he wakes up. He is now 16. I have tried all sorts of things but I now have a coping strategy;

  1. No staying up later than 11.30,
  2. A healthy diet balanced with as many vegetables as I can pack in and no skipping meals. Try to steer clear of junk food/sweets/fizzy drinks.
  3. No electronic gadgets/computers/TV in his bedroom
  4. No mirrors in his bedroom
  5. Set bedtime rituals that don’t change.
  6. Bach rescue remedies for times of stress including exams/ relationship/friendship issues/emotional turmoil/any kind of change.
  7. Calming decor, no bright colours, no man made fibres and a dim light.

He didn’t want to try a therapist because of the stigma attached. We have started that process twice but it takes such a long time to get appointments and he wants to keep that as a last resort. His episodes always begin by him talking in his sleep before it takes hold. I have found that if I start the process of getting involved in his conversation (not always possible as often I don’t understand what he is saying), reassuring him and talking in the very calm, soothing voice that it subsides and if not that it doesn’t scare him if I steer him back to bed or hug him. When he is awake he is very confident, has a wicked sense of humour and is a brilliant kid. He is well liked by his peers as well as his friends and is a good student. I encourage him to talk to me everyday about everything in complete confidence and safe in the knowledge that I am not being judgemental. This sometimes conflicts with my instincts as a mum but it’s more important for him to be able to beat this. I wish you the very best of luck and hope you find your coping strategy.

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