Research team dreams of getting to root of night terrors

DID you sleep last night after stuffing yourself with turkey and Christmas pudding? Did you wake up worrying you wouldn't be in time to get the bargains in the Boxing Day sales?

Then you may be of value to science. Researchers hunting for the secrets of a perfect night's kip want hundreds of sleep-deprived Scots to come forward to take part in a ground-breaking study.

The University of Glasgow Sleep Centre is particularly searching for sufferers from sleep-walking and night terrors to help devise new strategies to prevent and treat sleep disturbance.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Approximately 10 million Britons have sleep problems and while the number afflicted by parasomnia - a range of sleep disorders involving abnormal movements and behaviours accounts for a small proportion - there can be tragic outcomes.

Recruits will be quizzed on what factors they think contribute to episodes of sleepwalking and night terrors so common patterns can be discovered. Professor Colin Espie, who is conducting the project as part of the UK's first national sleep survey, said he wanted to study the psychology of parasomnia as well as examining strategies and treatments.

"Among other things we'll be looking at risk management, such as avoiding getting sleep deprived and drinking too much," he said. "We'll also be looking at more psychological intervention which could involve expressive writing tasks such as writing a narrative account of day-to-day experiences. This helps them see what's happening, what they feel and how they process their own emotions."

Espie, who wants to recruit hundreds of candidates for the project starting early in the new year, said that sufferers often do not follow the stereotypical profile of appearing "troubled" in their daily lives.

"A substantial amount of patients are the kind of people who appear to be good at coping in their daily lives. The root could in part be they don't talk about problems or how they feel. But strange behaviour can come out at night and is more likely to occur at times of change."

Sleepwalking occurs when someone is aroused from the deepest part of their sleep but the arousal is not completed. The brain appears to wake up the sufferer's behavioural patterns but the thinking process remains sleeping. A night terror is when a sleeper suddenly wakes abruptly, with waking usually accompanied by gasping, moaning, or screaming.

Heather Farrell, 45, from Gartcosh, North Lanarkshire, has suffered from night terrors and sleepwalking from childhood.

"My husband told me I was up sleepwalking when the heavy snow started two weeks ago. I think it was because I was worried about the central heating," said Farrell who attends the Glasgow Sleep Centre clinic.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"I now take medication to keep it quite well-controlled. Attending the Glasgow Sleep Centre has been good for me and makes me feel that I'm not now the only one.I've found that keeping a sleep journal and writing down anything which is worrying me is a good help and I'm getting far better sleeps."

People interested in taking part should contact 07788 943028 or