I used to have a boyfriend who suffered from night terrors – if you’re unsure of what they are, here’s the basic jist: you wake up, you’re unable to move, and you’re powerless to stop your imagination going bonkers. You see things and hear things you might dream of, but you know you’re awake, and it’s a frightening, disorientating experience. It’s a conscious nightmare – your brain is firing on all cylinders, but your body isn’t. He described instances where he’d see people in his room, or gathering at the end of the bed, watching him.
At around the same time, I started experiencing the same sort of thing, but I never found it upsetting or traumatising. I just found it…annoying. I’d wake up, deeply wrapped in foggy, REM, exhaustion-fuelled sleep, and I’d be unable to move. If I was fully awake I’m sure I would have gone crazy, but as it was, 90% asleep, I just found the whole thing vaguely baffling. Mildly tiresome. I lazily imagined the following conversation taking place:
Brain: Arm, can you move, please?
Arm: I’m not really in the mood right now, TBH
Brain: Please, arm. I know we’ve had our differences but this is fairly important.
Arm: I’ll think about it
I also remember people being there, and more often than not (bear with me), these waking dreams would be sexual. Sort of sexual. I’d be unwilling, they’d be very willing, I’d languorously want to stop them but the issue wouldn’t be that pressing, and I’d leisurely try to bat them away until I woke up. My guests were normally women, and I realise what I have just written looks extremely odd, so I’ll say this only once – I am not claiming I enjoyed being nocturnally raped by women in my dreams. I just wasn’t that bothered about the whole affair and I found it more interesting than frightening. Sometimes I didn’t even remember my 3am tussles with these lust-driven hussies until something triggered my memory the next day, and I would remember with a slight smile.
I don’t believe there’s anything sinister about night terrors – I take a pre-Ghost of Christmas Past Scrooge view of the matter, and while I appreciate some people might find them bed-wettingly horrible, my own experience was very different. Are they a nuisance? Yes. A genuine threat? No.
Several years ago I was on a train to Waterloo when my housemate texted me. “Did you bring a friend home last night?” he asked. I told him I hadn’t – I’d been in bed at 10pm, sober, and alone. “That’s really weird,” he continued. “I heard you chatting in your room with a girl at 2am, giggling and laughing. I assumed you’d been out and she’d missed her train home.” It was at that point I remembered I’d been sleepily trying to fight someone off the night before, and had fallen asleep after finally banishing my guest by gaining control of my fingers and toes, sighing, and rolling over. Make of that what you will.