A personal account of what it's like to live with a scary sleep disorder where you see spiders hovering over you, people grabbing you, and dementor like creatures closing in.In an effort to convey the emotion of fear to you, I’ve decided to talk about one of the scariest things in my life, my sleep disorder. 

Now I want to warn you, I will be describing some details that may be frightening to sensitive types, so if that’s you, I promise not to be mad if you stop reading right now and come back another day. In fact, here’s a nice happy post to read instead.

It started when I was seven years old.

I’d lost a tooth during the day and had faithfully placed it under my pillow for the Tooth Fairy. I fell asleep quickly, as most kids do, and peacefully drifted into dream land. 

But deep into the dark hours something made me wake, and I opened my eyes to find a shadowy figure hovering in front of me. It was not like a person, solid and made of flesh, but rather a dark figure that was more dense than the air around it. If I could describe its shape, I’d say a Dementor would be the closest description.

Terrified, I hid my head under the covers and quivered uncontrollably until I fell back asleep. I felt safe there, and I didn’t dare look out again.  

In the morning there was money under my pillow, and I was convinced the dark figure had been the Tooth Fairy, so I never put a tooth under my pillow again. My mom would put them in a cup by the kitchen window, never understanding my fear. 

I didn’t have any more of these experiences as a child, but about ten years ago I started having “visitations”. 

I’d wake up to dark figures, detailed and deformed faces right in front of mine, whispers of my name in my ear, and large spiders hovering over my bed. As soon as I’d see them, I’d let out a blood curdling scream or loud gasp (much to the terror of Dan), and then jump back into Dan’s arms, where he held me and assured me there was nothing there, and I quivering from head to toe with fear. 

When I was pregnant the spiders were there every night, and I would wake Dan up and whisper, “Don’t. Move.” as a spider dangled over his face. He couldn’t see them of course, but I was convinced they were there.

Screaming or turning on a light made the images disappear, as my mind would awake fully, and my dream world would disappeared.

I’ve saw a little boy standing by my bed in a hotel room, and I’ve woken up to a man standing over my bed with a gun, and another one who was grabbing my arm and trying to pull me with him.

It was getting worse and worse, the figures becoming more aggressive, and I began to get nervous when going to bed.

And then one day out of desperation, I Googled it. And guess what? There is a whole group of people who have the exact same issue. They see people in corners, hovering over their bed with weapons, grabbing them, and spiders. 

Not only that, but my sister and (I believe) two sons experience it. When my 11 year old son was little he used to cry about the big spider coming down from the ceiling in his fan. And now my 3-year-old blames everything on “The Spiders”. Why is a piece of his game missing? “The spiders took it, ” he mumbles to himself.

The spiders took it, he mumbles to himself... Click To Tweet

What is it? No one knows.

My sister went to a sleep clinic and they told her that the best explanation they can come up with is that when she’s having one of these dreams and wakes up, part of her brain is still dreaming so her dream world is projected into the real world. This is why when a light comes on and wakes us up fully, the visions go away. Yet, I have been dreaming about something completely different and woken up to the terrors in my bedroom. 

I don’t know. Why is there a large group of people who have almost identical visions? Why spiders and people? It seems like there’s a universal connection where stress increases the dreams, and people often react and jump out of bed. (I’ve done this and hurt myself before.)

Another weird twist: When I gave up dairy, the dreams went away, even under extreme stress. If I do have what I now refer to as “breakthrough dreams”, they’re less vivid. And I was eating a lot of greek yogurt when my dreams were the worst. How they are related I have no clue, but there’s definitely something there. 

It became a joke in our house when it was really bad, because I would do all sorts of weird things. Like the time I jumped out of bed and yelled, “No fucking way!” because I thought someone was stealing my pots and pans. Or the time I went over to the light and yelled, “Aha!” as I dramatically switched it on, because I was finally going to prove that the spiders were real… (They weren’t there when the light came on.)

I am less afraid now, because I have convinced myself they’re not real, but there’s a small part of me that wonders if it has less to do with what’s real or not, and more to do with being in the state between awake and asleep, and being able to see things our conscious mind would never allow us to acknowledge. For now it remains an unsolved mystery. And I stay away from dairy.


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One thought on “A Scary Sleep Disorder”

  1. Okay, so my sister and I have been doing research into this phenomenon and we found an article hat explains it scientifically found here: http://patient.info/doctor/hypnagogic-hallucinations

    It looks like we have what is known as Hypnopompic Hallucinations, which are common in people with narcolepsy, although neither of us have narcolepsy.

    I agree that it is worst when under sever emotional stress…. although not everything adds up. I still think science is missing a dimension here, but maybe that’s because emotional reaction and pictures are not describable in analytics. Maybe poetry would be a better tool.

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