With Halloween this month, it is the time of year when people look forward to being scared and actually seek ways to experience fear. Some may go to a haunted house, “Fright Night” at an amusement park or watch a scary movie. These are a just a few ways people look to the lighter side of fear.
I am one that does not enjoy being scared….
I don’t watch scary movies because I truly do get scared.
Yes, I am 47 and I spook easily.
It always seems to be when I am home alone…
Inevitably, I hear noises.
And then, just my heart beat, very loudly.
And why is it that the cat is always present and seems to look scared too. I know she is messing with me.
Well, if I don’t even watch scary movies AND I’m scared anyway…
It would seem wise for me to refrain from viewing this genre.
My daughter gives me a hard time and says things like, “Mom, you do know it’s not real” or “Mom, you do know it’s just a movie.” (Said to me in a mom like judgmental voice which is much scarier than a scary movie. lol)
I do have to say I have a unique gift. It is a piercing horror film-sounding scream that comes quite naturally. It has scared many without warning. Including myself.
It is so loud and piercing and shoots out of my voice box in a decibel that could cause dogs to howl.
My husband has been the victim of my unexpected horror film scream on many occasions just randomly in our home. In fact, my husband is not a fan and he has let me know it’s not cool and I need to control this. I try to explain that it just happens and I am certainly not doing this on purpose.
The aftermath conversation usually goes something like this:
Me: “What are you doing there?”
Husband: “Good grief, I live here.”
Me: “Why are you creeping around like that?”
Husband: In a very matter of fact, calm voice, “This is a real problem.”
People like to be scared for biological reasons. Fear is the body’s emotional response to a perceived threat or dangerous situation. When we are afraid, our body releases adrenaline and other hormones so that we are able to cope by fighting or fleeing the situation. By watching horror movies, or going to a mortuary or “Fright Night” at an amusement park, we can experience this fight or flight response while appreciating that we are not in actual danger. This can also cause us to experience the excitement and rush of those hormones from the comfort of our own homes or in safe social environments.
Research has shown that approximately 60% of children who watched scary movies before the age of 14 had negative reactions which included trouble sleeping and increased anxiety during activities that are not typically considered unsafe. In fact, for some, to memories of a horror movie trigger reactions similar to experiencing a trauma.
Wow! “A trauma!”
So basically, we as parents may be self-inflicting trauma on our kids.
When we are scared of something, the brain tries to maintain a degree of awareness or alertness while the body maintains muscle tone and energy levels. If we do need to escape quickly from a threat, these changes ensure we have both the muscle strength and energy to do so as well as being alert enough to do detect the threat quickly. These are all things that are not part of normal sleep.
Good sleep is usually characterized by unawareness, muscle relaxation and low circulating energy levels.
When the sympathetic nervous system is highly active during sleep, a condition called hyperarousal can happen. This is why the brain monitors the environment more carefully.
This can result in people sensing that sleep is lighter with a greater awareness of things going on around them and they are more easily awoken from sleep. When this happens, some people can also experience nightmares and acting out behaviors.
So, if fear is impacting your sleep, there are things that you can do to try to help yourself.
- Think through how much money the movie industry invested and the tons of effort in making their movies seem super “real.” Remember these are actors and actresses and the director could scream, “cut” at any moment. (This personally doesn’t work for me but I was trying to include what my daughter always tells me to do.)
- Think through the good things that happened during the day and be grateful.
- Think through what you need to accomplish tomorrow to take your mind off the scariness.
- Refrain from doing and watching the things that scare you sleepless.
It is also worth talking to a Board Certified Sleep Physician either through our Telemedicine phone call with the specialist or by coming to one of our Southern California Locations to help get your sleep back on track.
Does fear have an impact on your sleep?
Are you “Scared Sleepless?”
What have you done to help?
Contact American Sleep Centers by clicking on the box below or by calling 866-987-3100 or emailing us at email@example.com