Our daughter Rachel told me about the night terrors they have been experiencing lately with both Arianna and Eli (four-year-old twins). From 30-60 minutes in the middle of the night they cry hysterically while still being sound asleep. Eventually, they do calm down and return to sleep, but only after exhausting their parents — Rachel is due to add a third child to the family soon, so this has been extra exhausting for her.
After hearing of the kid's night terrors, I started remembering other family members who have had issues during the night. It occurred to me that this problem could be inherited.
I don't know if my sister had night terrors or nightmares, but she sure had something going on. Karen and I shared a bed when we were kids. Any time she had an extra busy day, my sister continued with her activities into the night. Once she hopped around our bed catching frogs, and then she started reaching for the ceiling and nearly climbing the walls. Karen had gone from looking for frogs to catching butterflies.
Of course, I couldn't sleep when my sister was active, but these were her calmer nights. I could laugh at her when she was hopping around. The worse times came when she saw something behind me in the wardrobe. Karen would point into the darkness where I couldn't see. All that was in my view was the fear in her eyes. I was too scared to look around. Eventually, she went back to sleep and forgot everything while I laid there wide awake wondering what was in the wardrobe.
This family tradition of night hallucinations continued with our son, Rob.
As a kid, he was a sleepwalker. When Rob had nightmares, he got mobile. Humongous spiders he thought he saw on his bedroom wall would have him on the move. Once, Rob fell down the stairs after walking in his sleep. I found him in a pile of blankets, unhurt. I walked him back up to bed, still asleep.
He had no memory of anything in the morning — when my parents babysat our kids back then, I warned them not to trust Rob. He may seem awake — you could even talk to him and get a response — but usually his night walks were in his sleep.
Once, Rob headed for the cement stairway to our basement. We caught him in time, but it still gives me chills just thinking of him falling down those stairs — once he ended up in the garage.
Problems with nightmares haven't stopped at our house. Recently, Bob has been having night mares.
For years, Bob said he never dreamed, or if he did he never remembered his dreams. Well, my husband does dream now and he's not quiet about it.
Bob says he's usually falling in his dreams, down a deep hole or off a cliff. He grunts his distress during these stressful times. These can happen even when he was sleeping in his recliner in the living room. He has disturbed cats sleeping peacefully on his lap when his legs kick out. The cat scurried quickly away, giving Bob dirty looks for disturbing its sleep.
Since I sleep next to Bob, his nightmares can be a problem for me. One night, I had my back to him, suddenly I felt punches around my shoulders and neck. At first, I called his name quietly, but when that didn't wake him, I yelled, "Bob!"
He sputtered awake and sounded grouchy when he finally mumbled, "What?"
"Stop dreaming. You're punching me."
He chuckled. "I was fighting with this big black bear."
I saw nothing to laugh about. "Well, turn over and fight the bear in the other direction." I was just happy I hadn't been facing him when that bear attacked. We both would have had some explaining to do if I ended up with a black eye.
We are all anxiously awaiting the debut of our next grandchild. Rachel is more than ready to have this baby. Besides dealing with night terrors, she and Dave have had two kids with fevers — first Arianna and now Eli (Rachel and Dave have been sick also.) Let's all hope everything settles down before the baby arrives.
I'm going to be heading to Sun Prairie to help with the twins when Rachel's in the hospital. So we are all waiting on pins and needles for that time. Hopefully, I'll be able to announce the baby's birth in this column very soon. And hopefully no one will have issues at night when this grandma is in charge.
Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; Sunnybook@aol.com; www.susanmanzke.net; http://www.facebook.com/susan.manzke.