Demonology of nightmares and night terrors comes from medieval legends detailing that demons preyed on humans, generally at night. While secular and medical researchers continue to explore the meanings and causes of nightmares and night terrors, early Christian and medieval society attributed such dark dreams to demon possession, demon attacks, and other forms of demonic influence. Among the demons commonly associated with nightly slumbering attacks were incubi and succubi.
A conference abstract for the International Association for the Study of Dreams offered the theory that nightmares and night terrors are self-shattering experiences in which the dreamer feels under threat.
The incubus was a male demon who would seek to have relations with women in their sleep in order to father children. The female version of the incubus, the succubus, is concerned with seducing men in their sleep.

The belief that nightmares and night terrors are demonic events is not a valid theory in light of 20th and 21st century sleep disorder research. Some legends describe the incubus visit as a torturous experience, filling the mind with indescribable terror similar to the modern day condition of night terrors. The Epiales may have been a part of the Oneiroi (dream spirits) that were the children of Nyx, the night.
Still, the specific causes night terrors and nightmares remain unrealized as research continues. The proof of such activity began with nightmares experienced and the presence of nocturnal emissions for men and unexplained pregnancy for women. The mara, an evil female spirit afflicting sleepers with suffocation was associated with a goblin or incubus who caused nightmares.

The Epiales means to lay upon, whether that means the nightmare was to be laid upon the dreamer or references incubi and succubi is unknown. During a night terror, the dreamer may cry out, stare with open eyes, and may even seem to be awake. Researchers and scholars alike explore cultural beliefs such as the demonology of nightmares and night terrors in order to better understand the causes and effects of these sleep conditions. In the midst of a night terror, a person may scream, react physically and vocally, strike out.

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