In a nutshell, I have, drum roll please… um, night terrors. OK, OK, technically, he diagnosed me with “Arousal Disorder.” But if you look at this description of arousal disorders from the Stanford site, night terrors are simply a sub-set of arousal disorders….
What are Arousal Disorders?
Arousal disorders are parasomnia disorders presumed to be due to an abnormal arousal mechanism. Forced arousal from sleep can induce episodes. The “classical” arousal disorders are sleepwalking (somnambulism), sleep terrors and confusional arousals. Experts believe the various types of arousal disorders are related and share some characteristics. These arousals occur when a person is in a mixed state of being both asleep and awake, generally coming from the deepest stage of nondreaming sleep. This means a person is awake enough to act out complex behaviors but still asleep and not aware or able to remember these actions.
It does feel good to have a person with a PhD finally agree with me… rather than just sit there and look stumped over the fact that I didn’t leave night terrors behind in adolescence.
Here is the good news. He was able to rule out a bunch of stuff that he considered more serious. I have no sleep apnea, no seizures, no restless leg syndrome, no REM Behavior Disorder (which can be a precursor for Parkinson’s)… NONE of that.
Just plain old night terrors.
The doc had me bring Bryan so he could interogate him thoroughly, since I don’t remember much about my episodes. It was interesting to watch the two of them get into deep discussion about me, as if I weren’t sitting right there. But, in truth, Bryan is the one most affected by all this and is the real reason I have been trying so hard to fix it.
Which brings me to the doc’s solution. Clonazepam. Of the Benzodiazepine family. For those of you without a pharmacist as your best friend: that’s a controlled substance with addictive properties. However, the doc (and Danielle) both swear to me it is the most effective treatment for night terrors out there. Why none of my other doctors gave it to me previously, I’ll never know – but I am going to try it. He said one of its benefitial side effects is reducing anxiety, which is always a plus. Another plus? Clonazepam has a generic version and will cost me $4.98 per month – as opposed to Lunesta, which costs a whopping $103.26 per month.
We discussed the possibilty of SSRI’s (i.e. Prozac) and he said they help some people with this disorder, and not others. But he wasn’t thrilled with them (for this purpose). So, we shelved that for a while… and I am happy about it since I was kinda nervous about the prospect of changing my brain chemistry.
He did say that if the Clonazepam works, I will probably be on it for the duration. Or at least until I am in a less stressful place in in my life (ha!) – because stress is a huge contributing factor to this disorder. But at least the chances of me becoming addicted to this drug in a way where I need more and more for it work were very, very, very low. Also, he told me to definitely take the lowest dose possible, but at the same time, I could ramp it up a bit during stressful times and/or times of year (such as January) where the night terrors seem to be higher. A flexible drug. How nice.
So, I guess we’ll see. I will fill the prescription tomorrow and we’ll go from there. I feel relieved that he didn’t just shake his head at me and tell me he found nothing. I’ll feel even more relieved if we can get the night terrors to stop.