Cynthia was a perfectly normal, happy child at least during the day. Like most seven years old, she was cheerful and bubbly with a natural inquisitiveness, and she greeted each day with enthusiasm and energy. Her parents were both grateful and amazed that Cynthia had brought such joy into their lives. But there was no joy in their home when Cynthia went to bed.
Every night after they had tucked in their precious daughter, her anxious parents waited to see if she would have another one of her attacks. They listlessly watched television, or talked quietly, waiting for the awful sound, the scream that heralded another episode. The pattern was always the same.
An hour or so after she went to sleep, Cynthia would suddenly sit bolt upright in bed and cry out. Her terrified parents would rush up into the bedroom to find their daughter sitting up in bed, her face flushed bright red, contorted with fear and covered with sweat. As she screamed she would sometimes throw the covers off her bed and wave her arms wildly in the air or pick repetitively at an imaginary object.
Occasionally, and this was the most distressing to her parents, she would suddenly fly out of the bed and rush around the bedroom, trying to avoid some unseen danger, all the while crying out in horror. Her parents tried to talk to her and lead her back to bed, but Cynthia couldn’t hear them, and resisted their attempts to resettle her. She acted as if she were possessed.
In spite of their intensity, the episodes were usually over in just a few minutes. Cynthia would become less agitated, often very quickly, and would return to her bed. She would lie down, yawn, and then fall fast asleep again. Her parents, drained by the experience, were astounded at how rapidly she could return to a deep and peaceful sleep.
In the morning, Cynthia was herself again. She never recalled the episode of the night before, and wondered why her parents seemed so concerned about what went on when she was asleep.