I have to share a hotel room with a coworker who screams in her sleep

A reader writes:

I work for a nonprofit. Whenever there is travel, coworkers double up two to a room. The first time I shared a room with a coworker, she first talked in her sleep and then bolted upright in the middle of the night screaming, crying, and trashing. She was shouting about things like blood and murder. It scared me so much I had to turn the lights on and shake her to find out if she was alright. She nearly hit me when I tried to wake her up and I honestly thought she was having an episode or breakdown.

My coworker told me she gets night terror episodes but it’s not a big deal. She asked me not to wake her if it happened again because I could end up getting hurt accidentally and her episodes would end naturally on their own. She said she doesn’t even remember them when she wakes up. Even if she doesn’t, I certainly did. It was only a single night trip but I was couldn’t sleep for the rest of the night because she had scared me. Later, after another coworker had to travel with her, she asked me if our coworker had any night terror episodes when we traveled because it had happened on her trip on both nights and nearly scared my coworker to death the first time it happened.

I have had to travel with that coworker again for three nights, and even though I knew nothing was wrong with her during her episodes, I couldn’t sleep – both from the anticipation of her episodes and the disruption during them. I’ve heard similar stories from others who have had to travel with her. My coworker says she can’t help it and it’s not a big deal. It might not be for her but it is for everyone else who ends up terrified and not able to sleep.

I went to my boss about it after it happened the second time but he didn’t understand what the problem was and accused me of trying to get out of sharing a room. I don’t mind sharing a room. I shared a room with my three younger brothers back home and when my family immigrated here. I’ve served with the armed forces and am in the reserves now and I have only ever worked in academia or the nonprofit world, where sharing hotel rooms is standard. I’m so used to sleeping in rooms with other people that it doesn’t even register with me. But I’ve never had to share a room with a person who screams half the night about murder and thrashes and throws things.

My boss, his boss, and their boss are all men and have never had to share with her. They say they can’t see how a bit of talking and rolling over could be disruptive and don’t listen when we say otherwise. My coworker told my boss she can’t see how her night terror episodes could be “that bad.” She has never apologized for them and says it’s a fact of life she cannot control. What do we do when getting our own rooms is not an option and travel is a part of our job?

Your bosses called it “a bit of talking and rolling over”?

Either they’re being deliberately obtuse or you need to get much more explicit about what’s going on.

As in: “Jane has a medical condition that causes her to scream and cry in the night, and it’s not possible to sleep through it. I’m perfectly willing to share a room with anyone else you want to put me with, so it’s not about that, but I can’t sleep with someone literally screaming in the bed next to me. Given that I of course can’t function on business trips without sleep, we’re going to need to put me in a different room. What’s the best way to arrange that?”

Note that in this framing, you’re presenting it as an “of course” (of course you can’t be expected to travel like that) and moving on to the logistics (“what’s the best way to take care of this?”). That’s often a surprisingly effective formulation, because you skip right over the “give me your permission” part of things. And when you act as if of course someone will take a reasonable stance, often they will.

If your manager and the people above him are at all reasonable, this should be effective. But if not, you might be more effective if you band together with your co-workers who have had the same experience and all push back as a group. It’s harder to blow off an entire group of people taking the same stand — and if you all say you’re willing to share rooms with others, it’s going to be harder for your bosses to pretend this is just about not wanting to share at all.

For what it’s worth, your co-worker is also being awfully derelict here. Unless she’s somehow under the same impression as your bosses that she’s just mumbling in her sleep, there’s no excuse for her minimizing the impact of the situation on the people sharing space with her. It might be worth being more direct with her, explaining that her night terrors are so disruptive that it’s impossible to sleep in the same room as her, and urging her to ask for a private room as a medical accommodation.

Frankly, the whole concept of having adults share hotel rooms on business travel is pretty flawed, and there are good reasons that it’s not a thing in most industries. Work travel is draining, and most people want privacy at the end of the day and aren’t up for bunking with co-workers (even though you’re being very gracious about that part). Plus, plenty of people have medical conditions that they don’t care to disclose or deal with around co-workers but which will become clear if they’re room sharing (for example, someone with IBS who needs a lot of time in the bathroom, or someone who sleeps with a CPAP mask). Hell, even leaving night terrors aside, having a person who snores sharing a room with a light sleeper is a terrible combination.

Employers shouldn’t want their traveling employees to be exhausted. Even if they’re jerks who don’t care from a human perspective, they shouldn’t want it because it’s going to mean lower productivity and more mistakes. Providing reasonably private accommodations should be considered part of the cost of business travel, and if an employer can’t afford it, it might be that they can’t afford business travel, period.

That said, I come from nonprofits too and I get the desire to be frugal with travel expenses, and, yes, this does seem to be a thing in some fields (nonprofits and academia, in particular). But even in fields where this is routine, good employers make exceptions in situations like yours. The fact that your employer is refusing to accommodate a situation where one employee is screaming about blood and murder in the middle of the night is not a great sign about them as an employer in general.

I originally published this at New York Magazine.

{ 371 comments… read them below }

  1. Aphrodite*

    The next person to share a hotel room with her should have a tape recorder and turn it on immediately when the screaming begins and leave it on until it ends (do not awaken co-worker). Then let the bosses hear it and maybe then they might take it seriously. This is outrageous that they are brushing it off.

    1. LBK*

      Totally agreed, although I would ask the coworker ahead of time if it’s okay to film her – and maybe even say it’s for her own sake so she can understand what she’s doing, since she doesn’t seem to think they’re that extreme either. If she can see a video of herself, she might become a better advocate for resolving the situation, which could be just as helpful as the video itself in getting the bosses to turn around on this.

      1. DecorativeCacti*

        She might understand what she is doing but be so acclimatized to it that she doesn’t remember what it’s like to not know what’s happening. Think of a diabetic who has to give themselves insulin. You become so used to it that you don’t see it the same way someone who is just told they will need to repeatedly stab themselves would.

        1. Amber T*

          She may be afraid her work/career will be negatively affected if she’s honest about how bad it is – maybe the simplest solution the company would take is not sending her on trips at all, which could be detrimental to her.

      2. Hills to Die on.*

        I would tell her, and do it whether she likes it or not. In fact, I’d ask forgiveness rather than permission and not tell her at all.
        Then I would show it her and to the boss and his boss. I can’t even believe this has to be a revisited conversation. WTH.

        1. Kyrielle*

          I wouldn’t video. The fact that she sits up is less relevant than what she’s screaming, and video of someone in bed is a creepy thing to do. And I wouldn’t audio record without her permission, because that’s going to create a work conflict that could cost the LW their job, and depending on where they are at the time it may also be illegal.

          1. Magenta Sky*

            Eleven states require consent from all parties to record audio when there’s an expectation of privacy (and everyone expects privacy in their own bed). In most, it’s a civil offense without it. In some, it’s a misdemeanor. In California, it’s a felony (and they do enforce it).

            Be very careful about making audio recordings without the consent of the people being recorded.

            1. Mike C.*

              How can you have an expectation of privacy if you’re being forced to share a room with a coworker?

              1. Jessie the First (or second)*

                Different kind of privacy issue. Magenta is right. In a number of states – I don’t know the number off the top of my head so I will defer to Magenta – recording someone is a specific thing you cannot do unless you have permission.

                1. Magenta Sky*

                  Recording *audio* is a specific thing you need permission for. Video is another matter (or security cameras would be illegal).

                  Of course, recording video of someone sleeping is a whole different kettle of creepy.

                  And California *does* prosecute. There’s a case in the news right now involving activists and Planned Parenthood. The recordings aren’t the only issue in the 15 felony charges, but they are among the more serious.

              2. LizM*

                The same way it’s illegal to take photos of someone in a locker room. Just because other people are present doesn’t mean they have your consent to film or record you.

              3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Magenta is right (legally) on this. There are varying levels of privacy, and most people have an expectation of privacy in their hotel room (even if they’re sharing). That expectation does not permit or allow video or audio recording in dual-consent states. The Erin Andrews case offers a good explanation of the kinds of privacy expectations in hotel/motel rooms.

      3. Observer*

        The problem is that it seems like the coworker is deliberately minimizing the issue and won’t want the problem properly documented.

        Let’s face it – she ABSOLUTELY KNOWS that she’s not just “rolling and mumbling”. She called the “night terrors” and told the OP that OP might get hurt if OP tried to wake her. So when she tells the boss “it can’t be that bad” she knows it’s not true.

        1. LBK*

          Hmm, I don’t know if I agree. She’d be aware of the violence part because that would happen when she’s woken up, and therefore she’d be conscious for it. But sleep conditions can be extremely weird and somewhat logic-defying; I would completely believe she could genuinely not know that she’s literally screaming in her sleep. I’ve never had night terrors but I have had sleep paralysis and it is extremely disturbing how much your conscious brain and your body disconnect.

          1. Kateshellybo19*

            My brother had night terrors that included screaming. Shouting particular names/warnings. He remembered none of it but I definitely remembered be awoken to his screams begging me not to murder our little sister by throwing her off a cliff.

            1. Kalamet*

              I had night terrors as a kid, and the only reason I know is that my parents told me when I was older. Apparently I would start screaming and they couldn’t get me to stop for minutes at a time. They said they could tell I was still asleep – eyes were closed or unfocused, completely unresponsive to them – but it was difficult to wake me up.

              From hearing them tell the story, it was terrifying even after they knew what was happening. It’s probably worse when you’re sharing a hotel room with a stranger and not expecting it. I’d think I was about to be murdered.

              1. None of that nonsense, please.*

                Oh, yes. My son had night terrors when he was about 5-he’d thrash around and wail for me–it was so horribly helpless hearing ‘Mommy! I want Mommy! Please come help me Mommy!’ while I was right there holding him. He’d sometimes struggle to get away-even gave me a black eye once. Then suddenly he would focus, and go back to sleep. Never remembered a thing. Thankfully it always happened early in the night while we were still awake; if I’d woken up to that….And if an adult screamed in the middle of the night, my adrenaline would be through the roof.
                I think the coworker is a bit in denial…that kind of sleep disturbance can’t be healthy for her. It’s possibly even physically dangerous, if sometime she flung herself off the bed and hit her head on the bedside table.

          2. Jesca*

            Oh man I used to have sleep paralysis. So frightening!

            My son used to have awful night terrors. I had him sleep in bed with me until he was almost 4 because of his thrashing, screaming, and punching random things. He would also sit up in the middle of the night and sway back and forth. Very unnerving for people not prepared for it (like my unsuspecting brother-in-law!)

            1. AJ*

              Have sleep paralysis a lot. Always have. Same with lucid dreaming. Frightening as a kid, now it’s damned annoying.

          3. Mike C.*

            You’re right that she can’t know, but that she can’t know gives her no place to deny what anyone else has witnessed.

            1. Myrin*

              That was my thought.
              Until this very day (I’m 26), I wouldn’t know about the weird noises I’ve made in my sleep since I was a baby if my long-suffering family hadn’t told me about them when I was a child, or the classmates when we went hiking and slept in a cabin when I was ten, or the friends I had a sleepover with when I was 15, etc.
              But it never occurred to me to not believe or to dismiss them when they told be about it. If the OP literally said that coworker screams, cries, and throws things, I’m at a loss as to how both the coworker and the bosses can translate that to mean “a bit of talking and rolling around”.

          4. Observer*

            I know that she’s not doing this consciously and that she probably has no memory of this. But if she knows that she’s reacting that strongly, she knows that she’s thrashing not just “rolling around a little.” And the fact that she uses the term “night terrors” means that she knows that there is something happening that is causing a ruckus, even though she herself hasn’t heard it.

            1. MerciMe*

              “Night terrors” is the term the doctors use when they diagnose it. It’s not something she came up with as an impromptu solution. And they can be mild…er. I used to scream once or twice then hide under the covers until I fell back asleep (all my love and appreciation for my two housemates who never failed to rush to my rescue just in case – sorry guys! I tried to stop!)

              1. Observer*

                Exactly – the use of the term means that SOMEONE significant to her spoke to the doctor about this and spoke to her, or dragged her to the doctor. So she KNOWS that there is something significant going on.

                1. nonymous*

                  what I don’t understand in all of this is why the screaming coworker can’t ask for an accommodation? Since this is a documented medical condition, I would liken it to asking for a piece of specialized equipment. Especially since OP notes that the coworker might hurt their roommate in the process (but is fine if left alone).

                2. LizM*

                  Not necessarily. My mom had night terrors and as far as I know, she never talked to her doctor about them, but she still used that term. I learned about them in my high school psychology class when we did a unit on sleep.

                3. Chinook*

                  “SOMEONE significant to her spoke to the doctor about this and spoke to her, or dragged her to the doctor”

                  Not necessarily. I have never had to talk to a doctor about it to recognize my night terrors for what they are. My family recognized them (pre-internet) with the help of a good medical encyclopedia because the symptoms are quite clear. And there is no mistaking them for simple nightmares either. But, if it meant saving a poor colleague from waking up to my screams, I would have no problem talking to a doctor so I could get an accommodation.

                  At the very least, I would be buying disposable ear plugs for any roommates and explaining to them why it is a good idea to use them.

                4. LizM*

                  So I’m realizing that post is argumentative for the sake of argumentative, and that’s not helpful. My point was more that I think it’s valuable to take Jane at her word that she doesn’t actually understand how bad it is. All the speculation on this thread (she’s purposely sweeping it under the rug, her sleep disorder is caused by some kind of trauma, etc) is exactly why I would be hesitant to disclose my sleep disorder to my boss.

                5. Observer*

                  LizM, the reason for all the speculation is that we don’t have information, but we DO have behavior that’s really baffling, at best, and inexcusable at worst.

                  If Jane came to her Boss and said “I have night terrors, and I know that it’s really bad for the people around me.” There would not be much grounds for her bosses to speculate to her. The one thing she might want to do is have a talk with her doctor so she could also say “I’ve talked to my doctor, and there is not anything we can do to make it stop, nor is there any reason to think it’s going to cause any other problems other than the fact that no one should be stuck in a room with me.” That would keep the “did you try this, that and the other quack remedy?” stiff down.

                6. LizM*

                  But my point is, it’s not baffling.

                  She may legitimately not know how bad it is. Night terrors can be triggered by stress or unfamiliar surroundings. So it’s possible that at home, it really isn’t that bad. It’s possible, before the trip with OP, as far as she knows, she hasn’t had one in years, so it didn’t occur to her to warn OP.

                  Moreover, it’s not actually clear that OP has talked to her, outside of the moments after she woke her up after the first episode. OP has talked to another coworker, she’s talked to her boss, and boss has talked to Jane. Based on how dismissive boss was of OP, Jane may feel pressured to minimize the concerns, lest she be accused of faking it to get her own room, or told that she can’t travel if she can’t share a room.

                  People in this thread are talking about recording her in her sleep without her consent. People are speculating that she’s experienced trauma.

                  Basically, she’s being made out to be the bad guy for a medical condition she has no control over, when the real problem is that OP’s bosses are requiring employees to share room. Yes, Jane should be upfront about this. But it’s not totally clear to me that she’s really been given an opportunity to, yet people are jumping straight to suggestions like: “record her and share it with her boss,” (or other variations that may not technically violate eavesdropping laws but still violate her expectation of privacy while sleep in a hotel room) or “start screaming in the middle of her office.” This is a medical condition and she deserves to be treated with some dignity and respect.

          1. nonegiven*

            If you call the boss at 2 am and get his voicemail, will that get around the legal issue?

            If you call the 911 recorded line at 2 am and tell them to come get this crazy woman, who has obviously had a psychotic break and needs medical care, out of your hotel room, does that get around the legal issue?

          2. Just stopping by*

            Rather than recording her, what about finding a video on YouTube of someone experiencing night terrors (something close to what you’ve seen her do) and then show your boss that? It might get the point across without violating anyone’s privacy.

        2. INTP*

          I don’t know if it’s fair to demonize the coworker here. OP has already learned that people that describe problems and ask to not share a room get accused of conniving for their own rooms. Maybe she doesn’t want to go through that. The real problem here is unaccommodating management not taking employees seriously, not this coworker.

          1. Bunny*

            It’s really not. I’m an epileptic and had grand mal seizures in my sleep for decades and had no idea until an ex witnessed them. This woman has a medical condition. She is suffering. You are being terribly inconvenienced. She is most likely incrediblely embarrassed and and in denial. It would be nice if your boss helped here.

            1. chi type*

              I’m really not trying to be a jerk but how is she suffering? She wouldn’t even know it happened if someone didn’t tell her.
              I on the other hand would be suffering MASSIVELY after multiple sleepless nights.

              1. Kali*

                Off on a tangent here, but my ex had night terrors and he would also initiate sex or masturbate in his sleep. Sexomnia (really) affects a number of people with other sleep disorders, like night terrors, and is more dangerous for women (since sleeping people don’t use contraception).

                1. Kali*

                  Ooh, just remembered a bit more to that story. While I found it funny my friend’s ex-husband had the same condition, but wasn’t willing to discuss it, leaving her baffled as to how aware he was, and to whether he was actively ignoring her lack of active consent or not. A major factor in their divorce.

                2. Wilhelmina Mildew*

                  I had an ex that also had sexomnia (sp?) and while it didn’t bother me to be woken up with sexy touching it left HIM massively freaked out to wake up in the middle of sex because he couldn’t remember it starting. He would also walk, talk, and eat in his sleep.

            2. Erin*

              I have had night terrors and I yell things in my sleep. I’ve slept walked and I do this thing that my husband calls swimming. What I’ve looked into for help is medication and the side effects are worse than my occasional outbursts in my sleep.
              The one time I’ve traveled for work I let the person who I was room sharing with know that I occasionally have these problems. The biggest problem was I’m from the eastern time zone and I was in Vegas and I woke up at 5 am.

              1. MerciMe*

                As someone who also deals with occasional night terrors, I can personally attest that they are terrifying and being witnessed is humiliating (and makes one feel terribly, terribly guilty over something that nevertheless cannot be much helped). It’s pretty awful for everyone involved.

        3. Chinook*

          ” She called the “night terrors” and told the OP that OP might get hurt if OP tried to wake her. So when she tells the boss “it can’t be that bad” she knows it’s not true.”

          Yup – I suffer from both nightmares and night terrors and there is a reason there are two different words for them. Anyone who uses the “night terror” descriptor knows darn well that it affects those around them. The only way she can be minimizing its affect on others is if she plain old doesn’t care about how it affects others. Honestly, she should not be downplaying this to you or your bosses.

          I can get her becoming used to it – I have adapted over time to waking up in a quiet panic and know how to get myself back to sleep. It is not a big deal to me. But, both my parents (who sleep in another room when I visit) and my DH have never gotten over me waking up screaming. In fact, my inhaling to scream is enough to wake up DH (he is a light sleeper and I have a powerful set of lungs). As a result, if I am sharing sleeping space with someone, I warn them and never downplay it (and so does the rest of my family – this is not a fun conversation to have with a young niece or nephew, but it is kinder than this happening to them and they being unaware) . I gather it is quite a disconcerting thing to wake up to.

        1. ace*

          the co-worker absolutely should NOT violate that woman’s private medical information by bringing any of it to any medical professionals without her explicit permission.

          1. Kathlynn*

            I think that ace meant the coworker who is having the night terrors, not the coworker who wrote in

          2. Soon to be former fed*

            OP, it’s time for a hard nope to rooming with this person. You must take care of yourself. Forget about recordings and all that. It’s not your job to remove your coworker’s head.from here rear end. Suggest that coworker get the single room, so you aren’t benefitting in any way from this. It is a shame that folks are trying to gaslight you, best of luck, and please keep us updated.

        2. Isobel*

          Doctors can’t treat anyone without their consent (provided they have mental capacity) so this would be pointless as well as intrusive.

        3. INTP*

          Doctors can’t always do anything for night terrors. Sometimes it might be caused by an underlying issue, like anxiety or sleep apnea, but sometimes that’s just how a person’s brain works during sleep. The drugs that are used for night terrors in extreme cases have pretty strong side effects and are not reasonable to expect someone to take just so their employer can save money on hotel rooms.

          1. Erin*

            There are not a lot of meds that will work for night terrors. Since science Doesn’t know a lot about how the brain works during sleep.

      4. NO NOPE NO WAY*

        NO. No recording. Absolutely no video recording. That kid of overreaction could be classed as a sackable offfense by many employers.

        Also, filming someone – without their consent, in a bedroom, while they’re in nightclothes and fast asleep – goes beyond ‘consent to film’ rules, and heads into serious criminal laws around things like pornography, stalking, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. Depending what your local laws are like and what the police could decide to throw at you, you could even end up on a sex offenders’ register.

        1. Melissa*

          What about waiting until the screaming begins, and telephoning the boss? If it’s that loud, he should be able to hear it very well, with no recording.

          I’m wondering how loud it gets…if the hotels have ever had noise complaints?

      5. Say what, now?*

        Woah! Tape recorder is one thing, but we shouldn’t be filming. That could lead to all kinds of grey area violation.

      1. Just another voice in the echo chamber*

        Agreed and also be aware there may be legal issues around recording/filming people without consent.

        1. BethRA*

          And, it’s hella creepy. Do not record people without their consent, especially when they’re in bed.

    2. DaniCalifornia*

      This was my thought, if you record her voice (only) then perhaps the bosses would understand. There are also plenty of apps that you leave open and are designed to pick up any noise and start recording from the beginning. (Just in case you aren’t coherent enough to get the recording going)

      1. Infinity Anon*

        I agree that it should be voice only but I would also say that she should ask permission before recording it. Or only turn on the recording when the screaming begins and then give the tape to the coworker so that she understands exactly what she does during the night terrors. It should not be shared with the boss without the coworkers consent.

        1. Infinity Anon*

          If she doesn’t agree you might try looking for a video of someone having a night terror that is similar to her. Show that as an example and tell the bosses that it is typical of what happens. It is not as good but avoids privacy issues.

          1. k.k*

            I would do this first actually. The coworker seems to be in pretty big denial that this is an issue, so I can’t imagine her agreeing to be filmed in her sleep. A quick google for night terrors should turn up plenty of examples. Plus this can be shown to the bosses before the next trip, saving someone from another sleepless night.

          2. aebhel*

            Yeah, this would be my go-to response. There are just wayyy too many ways that recording someone in their sleep can fall afoul of privacy laws–and it doesn’t sound like the coworker would agree to it anyway. That’s just really inappropriate any way you look at it.

          3. LizM*

            This is what I would do before suggesting the recording. Even if coworker is in the wrong by denying what’s going on, I can’t imagine a circumstance where I would want my boss to have a recording of me in that vulnerable of a situation. Recording the coworker should be a last resort.

          4. Yada Yada Yada*

            Amazing idea +1,000,000
            Then if the coworker says “Mine aren’t that bad!!” she can respond “oh really? Ok. Let’s record you next time and we’ll see”

          5. TootsNYC*

            This is a good idea! And get the other coworkers to attest that this is an accurate representation of it.

        2. Bunny*

          ALSO — Journalist here. This woman has a reasonable expectation of privacy in a hotel room. You may not record her. Period.

          1. A Reader*

            Recording someone is allowed if they give permission. But I’m curious about the issues if they are recorded without asking but the only copy of the recording is immediately given to them? Legally, would that be a privacy violation? It doesn’t seem like a great idea and would definitely feel invasive.but I wouldn’t think that it is actually illegal. I’m not a lawyer and I realize a lot of laws are counter-intuitive. I’m honestly curious about whether that would be a privacy violation.

            1. Turtledove*

              Not a lawyer, but I’m married to one and trained as a paralegal. I’m about 90% sure that it would be a privacy violation legally, yes. The important part isn’t “did you hand over the recording” or “did it have anything important/embarrassing” on it, it’s “did you have permission” and “did they have a reasonable expectation of privacy”.

              If they have a reasonable expectation of privacy, *and* you don’t have permission? You’re going to be in trouble. How much trouble, and what kind specifically, is going to vary depending on where you are; some places in the States (like California) are very, very hardline about this, charging it as a felony.

      2. Ego Chamber*

        “There are also plenty of apps that you leave open and are designed to pick up any noise and start recording from the beginning.”

        Probably a stupid idea, but hear me out: What if Letter Writer decided to start using one of those sleep-tracking apps that has the built-in record feature (because they’ve been having trouble sleeping on business trips and wanted to see if there was something else going on? or something?), and then it just so happens to pic up the coworker’s night terrors. LW wasn’t specifically trying to record that (that anyone could prove), and LW could even mention to the coworker that they use this app and it’s picked ups some of LW’s sleep-talking (isn’t that funny?) before going to bed. Does that count as telling coworker there’s a recording device?

        Obviously, play the recording for coworker first, and give them the option of requesting their own room as a medical accommodation or doing whatever else to minimize how bad this actually is. If coworker isn’t willing to do that, get permission to play it for the boss to prove it’s not just “mumbling.”

        Obligatory disclaimer: None of this should be necessary and LW’s boss is being a total glassbowl.

        1. Geoffrey B*

          “that anyone could prove” is not an appropriate standard here.

          If I suspected my co-worker had been deliberately recording me without my explicit consent, even if they’d found a loophole that made it legal, even if I couldn’t prove it, that would have major consequences for our ability to work together.

        2. Gadfly*

          Having it running in a place where there is an expectation of privacy still makes it illegal in a lot of places. You can accidentally do illegal things, like leave it running, and it might win you some sympathy points at sentencing. If you then tried to use the recording in any way, however, then you might as well have recorded it intentionally.

    3. MuseumChick*

      I was thinking the same thing! Though, the OP should check the laws in their state first to ensure recording someone without their knowledge is legal in the state they are in.

    4. Trout 'Waver*

      I can just see the letter from the other person on this one:

      “My coworker secreted filmed me while I was sleeping and shared it with my boss.”

      1. gladfe*

        Yeah, even if it turns out that it’s completely legal to record her without her permission, I really think that would be a “two wrongs don’t make a right” situation. I don’t make any noises in my sleep, but I’d still find it incredibly invasive if a co-worker recorded me while I was sleeping. I’m in academia and also used to sharing rooms, but that is something I would seriously consider leaving a job over, if I had no other recourse. There’s obviously a lot more going on in this situation, but even so, I’d say absolutely do not record her without her permission.

      2. Tomato Frog*

        Aphrodite didn’t say to film the coworker. Not that being audio-recorded in your sleep by a coworker isn’t creepy, but filming would be a different creepiness level.

      3. Jesca*

        Well even as far as how management has looked upon this to date, I am pretty certain this a great way to get yourself fired, OP …

    5. Miki*

      That was my first thought as well: video her (all of it) and show it to her and the boss. This is not mumbling or whatever mild thing they think it is. I had a friend tell me that she wanted to harm her fiancee when his snoring was keeping her awake, I can only imagine what she’d do to this coworker.

    6. Jesca*

      I don’t how I would feel about the recording, but it is possible that her night terrors intensify when she travels and she is not realizing that.

    7. lowercase holly*

      **not a serious suggestion at all** but i would want to take the audio recording and just play it in the middle of the office without warning. are they really sure someone screaming isn’t disruptive? employers are so ridiculous sometimes.

      1. Mes*

        That’s a really rude thing to do to the coworker. How would you feel if someone played a recording of you sleeping in front of everyone?

        1. Ego Chamber*

          This is a really rude thing to post. How would you feel if someone responded seriously and judgementaly to something that you qualified by saying it wasn’t a serious suggestion?

          (I hope you would feel like that person is reactionary to the point of ignoring anything that goes against their weird moralistic tirade, because that’s where I’m at right now.)

      2. nonymous*

        on a serious note why not just log the decibels and duration of these night terrors? There’s a lot of information out there that correlates db numbers (an objective measure of noise) with common experiences. “Coworker making noises in sleep” is vague – one which management clearly has a vested interest in minimizing. But OP may get a better response if she can say “For X minutes, noise was at Y decibels. This is consistent with the noise of a military aircraft takeoff at 50 feet. ” Once a noise level has been established, OP can frame the conversation in terms of OSHA expectations to drive the point home.

    8. AMT*

      And by “let the bosses hear it,” you mean “play the recording outside each of the bosses’ hotel rooms at 3 am,” right?

    9. SadPanda*

      I was thinking just start screaming about blood and murder and crying at your desk every day for a few days. Let everyone see how disruptive it is when you’re awake.

      1. LadyMountaineer*

        All I can think of is searching “AskReddit Creepy” and scream-reading the posts!

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        Not at your desk. In your boss’s office. You know, the one who says it’s no big deal.

        1. Sylvan (Sylvia)*

          No, your coworker’s screaming when you’re asleep, so you have to get your boss when they’re relaxed. Wait until they’re leaving Friday night and chase them through the parking lot.

    10. Darcy*

      OK, obviously not serious here because of the privacy issues lots of people have brought up, but just had to let my inner voice out today. It would be more effective to *call* the bosses and make them listen to it while it’s happening so they don’t get to sleep either.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        That’s a good point. Is it considered wiretapping/illegal recording if LW calls her boss at 3am to complain about the situation and demand some kind of change in the policy, with coworker very clearly screaming about blood and murder in the background?

    11. jules*

      There are actually sleep-talking apps that start recording the second they hear a noise. Then you wouldn’t have to remember to start recording.

      I suffer from night terrors. It’s funny to laugh about how unreasonable they are later, but they are not fun for anyone in the moment. I’ve bruised myself trying to leave. I’ll often be halfway across the room trying to escape whatever it is I’m dreaming before I’m conscious. I wouldn’t want to share a room with anyone. Ironically, I’m also a super light sleeper, and even a vibrate on a phone wakes me up. Sharing a room is just not ideal. Sleep is important. Bosses must not understand how terrifying it is to wake up like that.

  2. Murphy*

    Uh, no. Just no. That is completely unacceptable. OP (or any other co-worker) should not be expected to just deal with that.

  3. Sadsack*

    Follow Allison’s advice, but in the meantime… The next person who has to share a room with the co-worker should get sleep bot or some other phone app that records the sounds in the room during the night. These are apps that track sleep patterns. Play back for her the screaming episode the next day and see what she has to say about it. Maybe you have to clear it with her before you do it, but it could help.

    1. Nea*

      She knows about the night terrors, and there is little she can do about it. However, just a few seconds of the recording should be played for the boss so they can realize that it’s not just a little noise and stirring.

      1. LBK*

        I wonder if when she’s saying it’s not a big deal, she means “I’ve gotten used to having these night terrors, so you don’t need to worry about me when I’m having one.” It sounds like she doesn’t understand that the concern isn’t trying to help her when she’s having one but rather just how disruptive she is when she’s having one, and how it makes it basically impossible to share a room with her.

        1. Sadsack*

          LBK and Nea, I meant for the recordings to be for the coworker and the bosses to understand the severity of the night terrors and what a disturbance they are for her roommates.

        2. The OG Anonsie*

          Yeah, and since she can’t hear them herself she might not be aware of how bad it is and why it’s freaking everyone else out. Maybe it’s worse when she’s in a strange place, so the severity she’s aware of is way lower? That may also explain why management thinks it’s so minor– they may be going off the coworker’s report, and the coworker believes what’s happening is much milder than it is.

          I’ve shared rooms with people who had night terrors, and usually they did just mumble. They made some pretty weird noises, but they were very quiet. They’ve all said that in their actual dream, they’re screaming and thrashing, but in real life they’re not. Maybe that’s how the coworker thinks it’s going (either because that’s a little more typical or because that’s normal for her and the actual screaming isn’t, and either way she can’t observe it herself), has communicated this to management, and that’s where the disconnect is.

          1. Camille*

            Not to “well actually” you but I have a piece of information. So the definition of night terrors includes that the sufferer doesn’t remember them – they don’t occur during REM sleep (when we dream) but rather during deep sleep. The reason they happen more in children than adults is because adults don’t spend as much time in that stage of sleep as kids do.
            The point being, if your roommates are remembering their night terrors, they are likely actually having nightmares – which may explain why they are less scary to an outside observer (you) than the OP’s coworker’s events.

            1. Chinook*

              Yup – I often feel the most rested on days when someone has reported me screaming bloody murder. On the odd occasion when I have woken myself up with my screaming (only happens when there is no one else in my home to be woken up), I still have sleep paralysis because my body is still in deep sleep mode and can’t even think to close my mouth or register that there is sound coming out of it until after I stop.

              Night terrors are one of the few medical problems that affect those around you more harshly than they ever affect the person who has them. And the OPs roommate and bosses need to understand that. AAM’s way of dealing with it is, as usual, good.

        3. LNZ*

          People who are used to night terrors can be weirdly chill about it. My roommates informed me about a month into my dorm stay that i had started screaming, cursing and physically fighting the air while i was asleep. When i mentioned it to my mom her replay was “oh yeah, you do that sometimes”. It was so normal to her she never thought to tell me i was doing it.

    2. M-C*

      Obviously recording the coworker without her consent is out (and possibly a felony..). But how about suggesting that the coworker use sleep bot or some other recording app on herself, by herself? So she can judge for herself how disruptive her screaming might be to others. It’s entirely possible that her family/close people have downplayed the severity of the problem to her, or gotten so used to it that they no longer really notice. With this completely consensual method, she could be more aware of what impression she’s making.

      I also think that the OP asking to share a room with someone else, anyone else, would stop the boss’ stupid accusation that she’s just trying to get a room alone for herself. If the entire company insists that the coworker get a room alone, it’s not for their own benefit.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I would bet it’s because she doesn’t think it’s a big deal. This is a REALLY big deal. I snore a little, and I don’t think it’s a giant deal, but I wouldn’t want anyone to be subjected to that. I’ve shared rooms with people who snore and it sucks. I would absolutely hate to share a room with someone who had night terrors. This woman needs her own room.

      1. Gen*

        My husband has really severe snoring (that isn’t medically harmful just awful) to the point that neighbours ACROSS THE STREET complained and he didn’t get what a big deal it was for me until he was stuck in a room with another snorer for four days. Until then his position was that he sleeps through the noise why can’t I?

        I’d be tempted on do something stupid and start screaming once she stops, but I imagine the hotel wouldn’t thank you for that. Actually how have there not been noise complaints from other rooms?!

        1. lowercase holly*

          right?? maybe the next roommate should ask the room next door to pls call the front desk if they hear any noise.

        2. Anon today...and tomorrow*

          My aunt (and to a lesser extent my cousin) had such a bad snoring issue that her entire scout troop requested that she sleep in another campsite across the road from the rest of the group. It was that loud! I was on that camping trip and yeah…you could hear her snoring from at least 50 feet away!

          1. nonegiven*

            BIL’s Boyscout troop make him pitch his tent 100 yards away and over a hill.

            DH went on a hunting trip with his brother, brother’s friend, and brother’s son-in-law. The friend and BIL each grabbed a bedroom without discussion. That left DH with the fold out sofa in the main room. BIL snores so loud, the son-in-law elected to share the sofa. The first night, the air in the main room got too warm for DH’s comfort and he was thrown into a nightmare, from which he woke screaming. He usually sleeps in a cold room with blankets. The son-in-law elected to spend the rest of the week with snoring BIL. That’s how scary it is to sleep with a screaming person.

    2. LBK*

      It sounds like she’s not awake when she’s having these reactions. I think she doesn’t actually realize just how extreme they are.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Not remembering the night terror episodes is part of what night terrors are, sure.

          But telling people not to wake her, because she knows she reacts violently and might strike them? Refusing to acknowledge that her screaming is disruptive, even after she’s been told repeatedly that she screams in her sleep? Not warning people in advance about this thing that she knows she does, because she can’t control it and that’s apparently reason to not give anyone else the chance to opt out? That’s just inconsiderate.

          The part I like the least is the no advance warning, followed by telling people not to wake her in case she strikes them after they wake her the first time because she never mentioned it before that. I bruise easily. If I roomed with this coworker, I hope boss would be okay with me having a black eye or busted lip when interacting with clients or vendors or at conventions. :(

      1. Sylvan (Sylvia)*

        It doesn’t wake her up, so she might not think it’s loud or disruptive enough to bother somebody else. Maybe she doesn’t believe she’s really screaming?

    3. Sup Sup Sup*

      That was my thought! I went on a vacation once with a group of friends. We doubled up rooms. I specifically asked my friend if there were any sleep challenges I should know about. She said no. I asked because I snore and after a similar situation, I tell all those I share a room with to bring ear plugs if they’re light sleepers. Turns out, friend moaned in her sleep. At first, I really did think she was taking advantage of herself and was about to lose my s***. But, when I looked over she was dead asleep. I had to sleep in the bathtub for 3 days. Even more frustrating, she knew that she moaned in her sleep and just lied to my face about it. (Did she think I wouldn’t find out??)

      1. EddieSherbert*

        “(Did she think I wouldn’t find out??)”

        Hahahahahaha, I love it. Because it’s so darn obvious, like, OBVIOUSLY YOU WILL. But people seem to think… maybe this is the one time I won’t do X!

      2. White*

        How do you know she knew? And does she know it happens every night? I’m never heard of someone moaning in their sleep before.

    4. Seal*

      Per the OP’s letter, her coworker claims her night terrors are not a big deal, so it may well be that she doesn’t truly realize how dramatic they are to others. I had a roommate in college who talked her her sleep regularly. By “talked her her sleep” I mean she would wake me out of a sound sleep and attempt to hold semi-rational conversations, with absolutely no recollection of having done so the next day. The first time or 2 it was funny, but having it happen several times a week for weeks on end was maddening. She also insisted it wasn’t a big deal, until one time she fell asleep in big lecture hall class and started talking in her sleep to the people around her, who were not amused. It was a huge relief when she finally moved out and I got the room to myself.

      1. Murphy*

        I missed that part on my first read. I think I’m on board with recording her (with her permission).

      2. Nolan*

        I dunno, the fact that she’s been woken up a few times should be a hint that it’s disturbing her coworkers. If it wasn’t, they’d sleep through it, not try to wake her up the first time they room with her.
        I’ve been told I sometimes lightly snore, and that I butt-snuggle (that’s snuggling with my butt, not snuggling other people’s butts). I suspect that I occasionally sleep talk as well, and used to sleepwalk as a child. I’ve also been known to hold 5-10 minute phone conversations while still actually being asleep, and having no memory of it later.
        When I staff a convention, where we share rooms and frequently beds too, I always warn new people that I move around a lot and might snore a little, and if I say something nonsensical, just ignore it. That’s just common courtesy!
        I roomed with two sisters once, they both had weird sleep issues and both explained them up front. If the coworker knows she has sleep terrors, even if she doesn’t realize how disruptive they are, the polite thing to do is give a warning before passing out for the night! Assuming everyone sleeps like the dead seems pretty obtuse.

        1. Trialia*

          Sounds like me!

          I have chronic fatigue and I’ve become so used to being exhausted all the time & still having to function through it that I’ve got to a place where I can function in certain ways while I’m actually asleep. I once awoke to find I had turned on one of my game consoles & set up a brand new account for myself all while entirely unaware. I have to be very careful about it too, because I’m on morphine & I do wake every couple of hours to take another dose to get more sleep – I have to log that when it happens. (Thank goodness for Evernote.)

          As a kid I had a number of sleepwalking episodes, and even more of sleep-talking – I still remember being woken to find my mobile phone up against my ear & me mumbling into it, except it was a flip-front and it was closed, but I still believed for a good five minutes I was actually on the phone with someone. I’ve been told family have heard me reciting French verb tables in my sleep, too, and my kid sister used to deliberately get permission for stuff she was sure I wouldn’t agree to when conscious by coming to me when I was fast asleep & asking me then, knowing I would hold a whole conversation with her and wouldn’t remember a word of it by morning. I’ve had numerous nightmares both as child and adult, but thankfully despite my PTSD I’ve managed to forego full-blown night terrors!

          (Apologies for the necroposting; I only recently found this site.)

      3. Liane*

        “By “talked her her sleep” I mean she would wake me out of a sound sleep and attempt to hold semi-rational conversations, with absolutely no recollection of having done so the next day.”
        My husband does this sometimes.

    5. INTP*

      She might not know how often it happens, if no one is telling her about them. (It’s unclear whether the other coworker said anything or just recognized what was happening.) You really don’t remember anything or even feel any different or remember a bad dream after you wake up.

      It would still be the considerate thing to tell, of course, but if she thinks she’s only getting them on rare occasions because no one tells her, I could see her forgetting to mention it.

    6. LizM*

      Some sleep disorders only happen under specific circumstances. It may be that this isn’t an issue for her at home, so as far as she knows, it hasn’t happened for years. It may be that the change in environment and stress of work travel are creating night terrors and she had no idea until OP woke her up. It may be that her partner or someone else has told her it’s “not that bad,” because it’s not when she’s at home.

      The bottom line is, this is a result of OP’s boss refusing to accommodate employees’ need for privacy, period. Deflecting the blame to OP obscures the fact that adults shouldn’t be forced to share rooms on business travel.

  4. Anon for this*

    Oh noooo… My sister had night terrors, and now her kids do. If you aren’t highly acclimated to them they are terrifying. If you are acclimated to them, then they can still be dangerous if the person is prone to sleep walking. Sis once started beating our mother. Fortunately she was a young child so minimal harm done… but still.

    1. Jesca*

      Yeah my son used to beat me, but he was very little. I made the poor guy sleep in bed with me until he was 4 because he could get so out of control with the sleep walking and night terrors. He pretty much has terrified and traumatized just about every member of my family. Luckily he has grown out of it now.

      But now my daughter who is young sleep walks and has sleep conversations, but they are not as common.

      1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

        My son was a sleepwalker. We actually had to put special locks on the exit doors because he would unlock and open the doors. He seems to have outgrown it for the most part, though he’s a really restless sleeper. He recently had a nightmare and begged me to sleep in our bed. He was all over the place. And he’s at that stage in growth where he seems to be all gangly knees and elbows…so it was not even close to comfortable. My husband ended up going to sleep in the bed my son had vacated, but that didn’t save me. :)

        1. veggiewolf*

          My son was also a sleepwalker and we had to do the same thing with locks on the doors. I also had to put it on the health forms for every overnight trip or camp in case he went wandering.

          At 24, he appears to have grown out of it…according to his roommates, anyway.

  5. LoiraSafada*

    This is so incredibly unreasonable. I am an incredibly light sleeper and this kind of wake up every night would make me worthless on a business trip, to say nothing of how utterly creepy and unsettling it would be to experience the coworker’s night terrors.

  6. birchwoods*

    I don’t understand why OP has the responsibility of getting her own room. Jane has the condition, she should know that it bothers other people enough to make sharing a room problematic, and JANE should ask for her own room. It’s bizarre that Jane is so blase about this. Maybe she’s actually embarrassed and trying to play it off as no big deal? But it’s becoming so much more of a big deal by ignoring it and forcing OP to talk to her boss about Jane’s medical condition. Just seems backwards.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Night terrors are generally not remembered, which matches with the letter. Not even to the degree that nightmares are. So objectively she knows she has them, but she doesn’t live through them or remember them – if the people who live with her normally are accustomed and don’t tell her how bad it is, she may truly not know.

      Asking her permission to record (audio!) and letting her hear it the following morning might help her understand how extreme they are, and how difficult people might find it to deal with them when they’re not accustomed to them.

      1. YuliaC*

        Yes, people tend to not remember the episodes at all. My mother howls loudly for long stretches when she’s deeply asleep, and has zero recollection about that in the morning. I had to play an audio recording to her to convince her I was not making it up.
        I agree with Kyrielle – ask her permission to record audio.

      2. LNZ*

        Its a good thing she even knows about it, it took me moving away for college to find out i had night terrors cause my family just never told me and i didn’t remember them.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          I found out I snored when I got to college…. but I can’t imagine no one telling me I had night terrors (especially if the they are as bad as this woman’s!).

          1. LNZ*

            My mom literally never told me i scream and curse and thrash in my sleep. When i told her that my roommates saw me doing that she was just like oh yeah, you and your sister do that sometimes.

        2. Kalamet*

          This is really interesting, that people can make so many different noises in their sleep and have no idea. I didn’t realize I was grinding my teeth in my sleep until the dentist told me the backs were worn down. I asked my husband if he’d ever heard it and he was like “yeah, you’ve always done that, I assumed you knew.” No, I did not, thanks for the heads up. :P

          He talks in his sleep sometimes, and I take great delight in reading the transcripts back to him the next day. It’s usually strings of words that make no sense.

          1. Trialia*

            Heheh, I get written proof of that sort of thing too – because I sleep-text! *blush* I have chronic fatigue so I’ve learned to function through that as best I can, and a side effect seems to be that I can now do things in my sleep that most people only do while awake.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          My mum told me about mine, but I still talk in my sleep occasionally (I mumble incoherently), and I have sleep paralysis once in a while. The latter doesn’t bother me much because I know what it is and that it will go away in a few minutes, so I just wait it out. At least it’s not noisy.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            I wish my brother had just mumbled incoherently! When I was in high school and he was in junior high, we shared a common area (kids these days would probably call it a “gaming room”: TV, N64, futon couch and couple beanbag chairs) with two small bedrooms attached to it (the bedrooms were technically storage closets but they were each big enough for a mattress and we didn’t know the difference because we grew up poor).

            One time, he was asleep in his room and I was playing Zelda in the common room. I could hear him talking in his sleep but not intelligible words. I said “What?” to see if he’d keep talking. He said “A lot of people get hurt… around the holiday season…” and then started laughing like a lunatic. O_o

    2. kittymommy*

      I’m just baffled by the idea she thinks they’re no big deal. Sure she doesn’t remember them, but she knows about them, enough that she knows what to tell people not to do. You don’t need to remember them to realize someone being woken up in the middle of the night about someone screaming about blood and murder would be an issue.

    3. Rachel Green*

      I agree, I think she’s embarrassed and trying to minimize it. My mother snores very, very loudly and I really think she should see a sleep doctor. If you try to bring it up with her, she refuses to talk about it. Kind of a, “I’ve always snored, it’s no big deal,” type of thing.

      Some of the other commenters are saying that she doesn’t realize how bad it is, but she knows she gets night terrors, and she used the term “night terrors” herself.

    4. many bells down*

      Maybe OP would have success framing it as “Jane needs to have her own room on business trips”? That was my first thought. Jane needs the accommodation here. The fact that it will also benefit everyone who doesn’t have to share the room with her is just a bonus.

    5. INTP*

      Ideally I would agree with you, but the boss got hostile with OP and accused her of conniving for a private room when she said something. There’s a pretty good chance he would have done the same thing to Jane if she said “Hey, there’s a slight chance that I will have a frightening episode of screaming at night which could disturb someone so I should probably have my own room.” It was crappy of her to try to minimize them when the OP and coworker were trying to describe them, but when bosses are known to be unreasonable, dismissive, and accusatory, I don’t think you can fault people for not going to them. The real problem here is bosses dismissing concerns and making accusations because they don’t want to budget for another hotel room.

    6. Gee Gee*

      Agreed. Unless Jane is an orphan who also has never once had a relationship (or even a one-night stand), then there’s no way she hasn’t already been told about this at least once in her life.

    7. K*

      Asking for accommodations is rarely a thing that goes well. It should be covered under ADA for the person who has the night terrors but making A Thing of anything frequently goes badly.

      I am not a lawyer but I am epileptic and the ways bosses & profs have made it clear that the slightest accommodation is more trouble that I’m worth has left scars. Maybe Ms Night Terror has experienced the same thing, where downplaying it is the only way not to lose your job.

      LW shouldn’t have to deal with this but coworker may have a good reason for downplaying, and the bosses sure sound like the type to be really ableist,

  7. Myrin*

    As someone who produces very loud, ongoing moaning noises at night which have stolen hours of sleep of literally every person who’s ever had to share a room with me, I’m completely aghast at how nonchalant the coworker treats this situation!

    I’ve been born with this noise, it’s an unconscious coping mechanism (which I know because I sometimes want to do it while awakre, ugh!) that I can’t do anything about, and I can sleep through it perfectly fine, but no one else can. I’m completely mortified by it and do my best to reduce its impact on others whenever I can. In fact, I’ll be going to a week-long conference next month where we’d have to share rooms and was quite embarrassed to talk about it with the organiser, however, I had to do it because I don’t want to rob people of their sleep and then have them resent me afterwards because they’re so frazzled after a night with me. I even offered to pay for a room upgrade out of pocket and almost wept with joy when the organiser told me that it’s no problem and they’d arranged for me to have a room of my own. That’s how you deal with this kind of stuff, not the “ooooowooo, a little talking can’t be so bad now can it booboo??” crap OP’s bosses are pulling!

    I don’t really have any constructive advice other than sympathy and OP, both your boss and especially your coworker should really be behaving differently here!

    1. VermiciousKnit*

      My nephew has also done this since he was a toddler – it’s called catathrenia and there’s really not much to be done about it. My sister can also sleep through it because she’s so used to it, but it’s hard for me to sleep anywhere in her house when I’m visiting. It’s so loud, even being in a different room doesn’t help much. Being a light sleeper, I’d like to commend you on being so considerate and proactive to make sure you aren’t disturbing anyone. Thank you.

      1. Myrin*


        You might have just, with one sentence, told me what I have when 26 years of asking and researching and wondering never produced any results. Holy crap! I’ve now started to look for recordings on Youtube but they all sound very different from my noise – mine is a much longer ongoing sound and more of a nasal groan than a downright moan but I guess they’re bound to be different because of vocal chords and anatomy in general. Oh my!

        And absolutely, you’re very welcome, even though we’ll probably never sleep in each other’s vicinity! I feel so horrible whenever someone can’t sleep because of me (my family is used to it but depending on several conditions might still get woken up by it) and I certainly don’t want to inflict it on strangers or make light of it! This is my thing and no one should have to be sleepless because of my weird ENT thing.

        1. VermiciousKnit*

          My nephew’s groaning usually sounds like the sound of a creaky door in a cartoon mystery, but sometimes becomes gutteral and sort of choked, like the throat-noise the creepy ghost lady in The Grudge makes. I think everyone’s exact noise is different.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            “like the throat-noise the creepy ghost lady in The Grudge makes.”

            That’s supposed to be a death-rattle, or so I’ve been told.

    2. Rachel Green*

      I think if a person is mortified or embarrassed about something, they react in one of two ways. Either they apologize profusely and try to make every conceivable accommodation to others affected by it. Or they are in denial and try to minimize just how much it impacts others. A silly example would be farting in public. There are people who would apologize to those around them or say “excuse me,” and others that would pretend nothing had happened. It seems to me that OP’s coworker is in the “pretending nothing is happening” crowd.

      1. Lissa*

        Yeah. My natural response is to pretend nothing happened, but I know that is not the correct response and try not to do that.

  8. Girl in the Windy City*

    With permission, you absolutely need to have someone record her so both she and your bosses can understand the magnitude of the issue.

  9. AndersonDarling*

    It’s so strange that the employee with the condition isn’t asking for an accommodation. I wonder if she did try to get a single room and was shot down and that is why she keeps telling roommates that it isn’t a big deal. She tried to make it a big deal and management told her that it wasn’t a big deal and she shouldn’t mention it again.
    I wonder if the employee’s hands are tied and she keeps trying to say it isn’t a big deal so she won’t get in trouble?

      1. Soon to be former fed*

        All she needs is a sleep study confirming the diagnosis of a medical condition at which time the employer can be asked for an accomdation. It’s not that big of a deal if co-worker would act like an adult and stop making her problem everyone else’s problem. If I was OP I would really resent everyone doubting the veracity of my experience.

        Bless all of you who share rooms as adults, I couldn’t do it, night terrors or not. My ex husband had a separate bedroom because of his horrible snoring. I need it dark, quiet, and cool. Employers need to stop treating adults like they are children. Ugh.

    1. INTP*

      I’d be willing to bet that this is not the first time these bosses have been dismissive and accusatory. A normal boss doesn’t just accuse someone of trying to get their own room, especially when two coworkers are trying to describe the exact same problem, and if he cared to understand it would be very easy to google “Sleep terror video”. Even if she hasn’t been to the bosses yet, she probably knew exactly what their reaction would be, and didn’t want to get herself in trouble for it.

  10. BF50*

    I had a housemate with night terrors. Before we agreed to live together she warned us. She warned us again on moving day. She had suggestions on how to ignore them and what to do if we found her sleep walking. She also mentioned the things she did to prevent them. I remember none of that now because she made an effort to not impact us and she never woke me up.

    That’s because she’s a considerate person. Your coworker is a jerk

    1. k.k*

      Yep. At first I was thinking that maybe she wasn’t aware how bad it was, as others have commented. But the more I think about it, the more that doesn’t fly. She knows she has night terrors, and told OP that they could be injured if they woke her. And even if she’s somehow hadn’t realized how bad it was, her coworkers have now made her aware and she still doesn’t care. Coworker sucks.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        One does wonder if the warning about injury is from experience, or just something she read on the internet about waking people up who are sleep walking.

        1. LNZ*

          if she knows she flails about it could be that was what she was worried would injure someone. Both me and my sister are flailers and its standard practice when we were growing up to wake each other up from a safe distance just to avoid accidents.

      2. Ol' Crow*

        you know that if she’s had night terrors for most of her life that there are other people – friends, significant others – who have made her aware. I suspect that she downplays because he doesn’t want to be that “problem employee” has to have special arrangements made for her.
        But there is little doubt that she isn’t aware; seems she cares far more about herself than she does the well being of others.

  11. Snark*

    I dated a girl who screamed in her sleep and thrashed around in her tiny twin bed. We were spooning. I caught an elbow to the face and yelled too. She woke up suddenly and crashed to the floor. The neighbors called the police.

    Good times.

    1. But you don't have an accent*

      My dad gets night terrors sometimes. One time, it was so bad both of my brothers (who slept through multiple false fire alarms with nary a care) woke up. They both grabbed their knives and I grabbed a metal baseball bat because my dad was yelling so loud we thought my parents were being murdered. We about gave my mom a heart attack as we came down the stairs ready to leap into action *insert laughing emoji here*.

  12. MuseumChick*

    To add some levity, here is a story of co-workers (well, students really) sharing a room:

    Traveling to a conference me and several people (all same gendered) from my graduate cohort shared a room (I was roommates with one of them and we were all really good friends outside of class). Jane, Lucinda, Meg, and MuseumChick.

    Waking up after the first night one of the other people, Jane looked really tired. I asked her if she had slept well. Apparently, Lucinda, began, as Jane put it “sleep fighting” in her bed, then Meg began sleep talking…about cats and tacos, and the I apparently sat up, looked at Lucinda and said “Where did you put the feathers? The dolphins need them.” Then promptly went back to sleep (I have zero memory of this).

    So, poor Jane hadn’t gotten any sleep that night. We still laugh about it this day.

    1. Lora*

      Okay, that is hilarious.

      True story: I once quietly but very clearly told the then-spouse in my sleep: Well, that’s it. He asked, “What’s it?” They’re all going to have to die. “What? Who?” All of them. And I sadly shook my head and rolled over and went back to snoring and grinding my teeth, while he scrunched himself into a far corner of the bed with his eyes wide open the rest of the night.

      Obviously, the dolphins need feathers. For their costume party.

      1. Kix*

        Some of these replies should come with warnings (or two drink minimums) because I laughed so hard at this one, I nearly aspired my lunch apple!

      2. Kaden Lee*

        I talk in my sleep and remember none of it.

        One time my partner and I were going to a theme park with my family. In the middle of the night I violently woke them up and they jumped to “oh my god Kaden has a bad cramp and needs help” (90% of the time when I wake them up it’s because I’m screaming about a charlie horse). “Baby what’s up what’s wrong”

        “We should get a caricature tomorrow at the park”

        “…what?” (Inside: why did you wake me up for this)

        “A caricature! Wouldn’t that be cute!”

        “Kaden go to sleep”

        “!!! You hate me and don’t want a caricature, harumph!”

        And then I rolled over and fell asleep.

        I remembered none of this but we saw a man drawing caricatures and I said “we should get a caricature!” to my partner and they looked like I had shot them in the face. (They told me the story once they realized I didn’t know or remember what had happened)

      3. Lehigh*

        I once had a sound-asleep roommate laugh to herself and clearly state, “I’m in control now.”

      4. Dolphins Need Their Feathers Back*

        I cracked out laughing and my husband is looking at me like I’ve lost it. Too funny!

        I’ve been told that I Sometimes talk in my sleep and I have conversations that I don’t remember. IN my case it’s always been amusing and rather rare to happy but I cannot image downplaying night terrors and screams. Of course the coworker with the night terrors doesn’t hear them herself but how can she not know how terrifying it was for others? Hasn’t she ever heard from others how loud and scary it was?

        I think this is ridiculous to expect someone to share a room with someone who is hugely disruptive to everyone else’s sleep.

    2. Nolan*

      My family has a history of childhood sleepwalking. I shared a room with my little sister for the duration of her heavy sleepwalking phase and had a number of surreal experiences with that. The best:

      She started yelling “Luke, don’t do it!” in her bed. I was awake at the start of this, and asked who she was talking to. She then got up and started pacing around the room, yelling “Luke, don’t do it! Luke, hello?!” into her hand like she was holding a radio. Again I asked who she was taking to and she threw her hands to her sides and let out an exasperated “uuugh!” before storming out and then waking our parents with more of the same.

    3. Typhon Worker Bee*


      Apparently, I very occasionally talk to my poor husband in my sleep. I once yelled “WHAT ARE YOU DOING”, which freaked him out because he was fast asleep and wasn’t doing anything; another time I sat bolt upright and asked him if he was real or symbolic. I have zero memory of any of these “conversations”!

      1. DecorativeCacti*

        My mom talks in her sleep and I once got in trouble for opening Christmas presents early (our rule was that I could go through my stocking but had to wait for her to wake up to open real presents). I had asked her and she said it was OK but she was apparently sleep talking and didn’t remember.

        1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

          I will agree to almost anything when I’m asleep. My sister figured this out when she was 16 (and I was 20) and would ask to borrow my car all the time while I was asleep. I still maintain that she was stealing my car each time. She knew I didn’t know what I was saying!

        2. King Friday XIII*

          When I was in high school I woke my dad up from a nap and had a whole conversation with him about being an exchange student and he signed the paperwork for me and I was surprised how well he’d taken it. And then when I was selected I found out he had no memory of the conversation.

      2. LizB*

        Every couple of weeks, my boyfriend will ask me, “So, do you remember the conversation we had when I came to bed last night?” 9 times out of 10 the answer is no because I was still fast asleep.

      3. Anna*

        I sleep-talk, but only very occasionally. I shared a room with another student when studying abroad, and once when she came home late started talking to her. I forgot what about, but it had no relation to anything in the room. I wasn’t entirely asleep – I knew what I was saying, but didn’t realise it was about something I was dreaming. A few days later she told me it had freaked her out, so I told her next time she should just tell me ‘Anna, you’re asleep, go back to sleep’. It happened again a while later and she told me just that. I thought ‘No, I’m not that asleep’, but went back to sleep anyway. So that resolved it.
        Nowadays I warn any new person who sleeps in the same room as I that this might happen, but I think it hasn’t happened anymore.

    4. Elemeno P.*

      That’s great!

      I remember sharing a room with someone on a class trip in high school. She took a nap, and when I woke her up so we could go to our event, she said, “But if I was all alone, where would all the whales go?” She had no recollection of it later.

    5. Anon today...and tomorrow*

      My cousin has had sleep issues (snoring, sleepwalking, sleeptalking, etc) for her whole life. My favorite story:
      We’d been out at a bar drinking and had gone back to my house. Prior to going out she had complained that she didn’t want to stay out late as she was tired. By the time we got back to my house around midnight she’d had a drink or two and was slightly buzzed as well as exhausted. She headed to the bathroom. About 2o minutes later I notice she’s not out yet. I knock on the door. No answer. I open door. My cousin is stretched out in the tub. Our shower curtain at the time was a semi-clear March of the Penguins photo. I wake up cousin and ask her why she is in the tub. She says “They told me if I did they’d take me out for pancakes.” I ask who told her this and she points to the penguins painted on the curtain and says “But they lied. Dirty bastards!”

    6. But you don't have an accent*

      This reminds me of my brothers! They both talk/mumble in their sleep, but the funniest one yet probably shouldn’t have been funny at all.

      My brother, let’s call him George, started mumbling which woke me up down the hall. I got to his room just in time to hear “No, Fred, it’s my turn to strangle him”.

      Fred used to sleep walk every time he slept in a new place, so the first night of any vacation ended with most of us being woken up to Fred walking around the hotel room/family member’s house screaming that he was blind (his eyes would closed). Scared my mom senseless the first time.

    7. A Non E. Mouse*

      I warned my husband when we started dating that I talk in my sleep, and to just basically tell me “Oh, OK” and I quit trying and go back to sleep.

      Over the years he’s gotten used to this, but when I was pregnant and then nursing our last kiddo my hormones threw it all out of whack and one night I was so insistent that a cat was loose in our bedroom he *literally looked for it* because he thought at this insistence level, there must be a cat.

      I apparently was screaming THE CAT GET THE CAT OH GOD THE CAT IS UNDER THE BED!! And pointing and demanding that he get the cat. Like I turned on lights and shook him awake to get the cat.

      Reader: we have no cats. There was no cat.

    8. Sara*

      I used to talk in my sleep (may still) and in college I had a weird dream that my friend jumped out of somewhere and scared me. I woke myself up screaming, and terrified my roommate.
      My brothers both sleep walk and have left the house on occasion, which is terrifying.

      1. teclatrans*

        I once woke as I was screaming and dramatically sweeping everything off the bedside table. It was probably physical sensation that woke me, as I was near the end of the swipe motion and just following my body’s momentum when I became aware of my surroundings. (I usually just talk, but stress and travel both lead to lots of dream danger.)

        1. Trialia*

          Oh gods, that reminds me of myself. Last week, even! I was dreaming that I was lying on a bed in a little hut somewhere remote, lying awake listening to someone prowl around the outside of the hut, when a tall, masked woman who looked damn scary flung open the door & I arched & launched myself off the bed feet-first to kick her in the face …

          I woke up right when my feet connected with the little table beside the couch on which I usually sleep, and spent the next ten minutes picking up all the things I’d knocked flying from it & getting my heart rate back under control (I have dysautonomia). Ouch!

          (Sorry for the necroposting; I’m a n00b to the site.)

    9. teclatrans*

      All I knew about my sleep talking was that my parents could have surreal conversations when they checked on me on their way to bed during visits to family. I didn’t really understand that I was a sleep talker until I traveled with a friend for a college visit. According to her, the host student started talking, and I responded, and we went back and forth despite making no sense at all. (I wish I knew what we’d said to each other, but my friend was too exasperated to remember details.)

  13. Infinity Anon*

    People hate sharing a room with me because apparently I sleep with my eyes open and it is creepy. I can only imagine what they would do if I was screaming as well.

    1. Observer*

      The image of that is hysterical. But, I can imagine Jane didn’t get any sleep that night.

    2. LBK*

      Nope nope nope. I’ve seen Paranormal Activity, I’d be getting the hell out of dodge if you had your eyes wide open but still seemed to be completely asleep.

    3. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      When I was younger I slept face down and didn’t move from that position all night. My breath would get very shallow and my first few sleep-over BFs were convinced I was dead and would wake me. I learned to sleep on my side and tell anyone who shared a bed with me that I was fine even if they couldn’t see me breathing.

    4. JKP*

      I sleep with my eyes open too!!

      I think it must run in my family because my niece does it too. And seeing her sleep, and knowing that’s what I look like… Yes, it’s creepy.

      The worst if is your eyes are open, people assume that you’re awake and try talking to you. I don’t generally spontaneously talk in my sleep, but apparently I will respond to people in my sleep when they talk to me.

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        I also sleep with my eyes open. Sometimes while grinding my teeth.

        A Jamaican friend’s sister slept with her eyes open. Their mother called it “sleepwatching” – her soul was watching over her body when she was asleep. It didn’t make my friend feel better to see it….

  14. finderskeepers*

    The underlying problem is not LW or the coworker; it is the notion that its ok for people traveling for business, even for a non-profit, to share hotel rooms.

    1. Specialk9*

      My conclusion – from this and every other nonprofit nightmare article – is to never ever ever work for a nonprofit.

      1. strawberries and raspberries*

        NO. Seriously, this is not a non-profit problem, and it’s not germane to the problem at hand.

      2. I'm Not Phyllis*

        I’ve worked for non-profits that don’t expect you to share a room. It’s more common in this sector then in others for sure, but it’s not a universal fact of NFPs.

        1. De Minimis*

          We almost never have to share rooms, but apparently the exception is if we ever have an event in New York City. That’s the only place where we’re required to room share [it may be a grant requirement that we can’t do anything about, the cost may be above a certain threshold.] It doesn’t make sense, though, because DC is probably as expensive and we never have to room share there.

          Thankfully, I only travel for one meeting a year, and I know the locations for the next three years, and they are located elsewhere. It’s hard because our meeting is tied to another organization’s meeting, so this other org determines where we’ll go each year…

          1. De Minimis*

            I do notice that we often will not cover private rooms for program participants, but give them the opportunity to pay for the extra cost if they want a private room. Usually their sponsoring organization pays [they are often college instructors] but many do just room together.

        2. Traveler*

          I’m curious if some of this divide has to do with how heavily dependent your non-profit is on government money, specifically state and local. Wondering if those with a higher dependence tend to be the ones more concerned with any whiff of “wasting local taxpayer money on extravagance”.

          1. De Minimis*

            I know with Federal there is very little restriction on this, if any, and can say there aren’t any with a lot of the major funding foundations [we’re fortunate enough to have grants from many of them.] About the only thing that the federal grants forbid are alcohol, advertising expenses, and any sort of late fee/penalty.

            We don’t have any funding from states or localities, so that may indeed be more restrictive.

          2. Jennifer*

            I work for the government in one of those underpaid compared to the private sector jobs. And we are not required to share as part of occasional travel (once every year or two).

      3. Traveler*

        It takes a special breed, that’s for sure. I know people will say its not a non-profit problem and that plenty of them don’t do this – and that’s true. Especially for those that are well-off financially. In my experience, it’s been so common that it was expected.

      4. SL #2*

        My current nonprofit has never asked me to share a room; our executive director was horrified the first time I even vaguely mentioned it (as in, “I’m the most junior person here, I’m happy to share a room if that cuts costs”).

        My previous nonprofit (in a different city!), I only shared a room once, but they asked me at least 10x if I and my coworker were okay with it (something about hotel availability rather than cost issues), and they booked us an extra-large corner suite where the beds were so far apart that we might as well have been in two different rooms.

        But maybe I’ve just been very lucky to work at well-funded and reasonable nonprofits. I can see where hotel cost might be an issue at places where you don’t know how long you’ll be able to keep your doors open, or at places where the worry about overhead cost trumps literally everything else.

      5. Jadelyn*

        My nonprofit sent me and two coworkers (one same-gender, one different gender) to a conference in Las Vegas earlier this year, which is not cheap, and they still sprung for individual rooms for each of us, because that’s just what you do. This is not a “nonprofits are horrible” problem. This is a “this workplace has its priorities ass-backwards” problem.

      6. nonymous*

        I’m in civil service and my husband worked for a startup for a while. I’ve never had to share a room in the context of my job, but my husband has.

    2. (Different) Rebecca*

      Seriously. You can either afford to have adults working for your company, who deserve privacy, or you can’t.

      1. No, please*

        This is how I feel. I’ve never had a good night of sleep while sharing a room with a coworker.

        1. De Minimis*

          If I were ever asked to share a room, I’d probably pay out of pocket for my own room [or maybe find lodging elsewhere.] I need my privacy, and time away from co-workers.

          1. callietwo*

            Our Non-profit never used to make us share- I once even had a king sized suite in a very nice hotel. But budget cuts from the state to our agency and staffing cuts have changed that. Now, they will pay for 2 people per room, but if we wish to have our own, we have to pay the difference. As someone with medical issues, I pay the difference, it is worth every penny. (and thankfully, because they’re an agency contracted to the state, they get discounted rates so it’s like 40 bucks a night. I’ll take peace of mind for that, definitely)

      2. Terra-cotta*

        Agreed!!! I don’t know if I could continue working in such an environment. Honestly my sleep is that important to me that it would be a major factor.

        1. No, please*

          Yeah. I think I would start job hunting and paying out of pocket for my room until I quit. I have crazy sleep issues of my own so I can’t imagine not warning, or disbelieving a roommate about this.

        2. Jadelyn*

          It’s not even the sleep for me, I’m a huge introvert with depression and social anxiety, and if I can’t get some time and space to myself to just recharge and unwind after a long day of people-ing at business events, I will very quickly become non-functional in a way that will affect me for far longer than the duration of the trip. Rooming alone while on business travel is utterly non-negotiable to me.

          1. Robotio*

            Agreed. Boundaries are very important to me. If my company can’t give grown adults individual rooms, I’m out.

    3. Ugh*

      One time a museum I worked at was hosting a Gala in a city a few hours away – but it started early so we were discussing doing set up the night before and staying over. My (horrible, awful) director has a house in the city and so his first suggestion was that a coworker and I could share his spare bedroom!!!! We hated this man and were absolutely horrified, and insisted we could share a hotel room and the museum would pay for it. He was not happy about this at all and wanted to save the $$.

  15. strawberries and raspberries*

    I can’t help but also notice that the male bosses all seem to be minimizing both the night terror woman’s actual symptoms and the other women’s complaints about the safety issues, almost like “Wow, women be hysterical, right?”

      1. Gadfly*

        With bosses like these, I probably wouldn’t be fighting to agree that I was ‘difficult’ either. They don’t sound like the sort to listen to Jane either, unless it is to label her a problem

  16. Edith*

    She has never apologized for them and says it’s a fact of life she cannot control.

    Yes, this is an untenable situation, and yes, no one should have to share a room someone who has night terrors, but she doesn’t owe anyone an apology over them.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I don’t think she needs to apologize for the condition, but I do think she needs to take some responsibility for its impact. She should apologize to the OP for not warning her (or their other coworkers) and for minimizing the situation. She should also apologize for waking the OP; just because she can’t control the night terrors doesn’t mean other people need to simply deal with them with no warning and no acknowledgement that they exist.

      1. Edith*

        Nobody is arguing that. The letter writer specifically points out that she hasn’t apologized for the night terrors. The idea that she needs to apologize for them is what I object to.

        1. Myrin*

          That honestly just reads to me like clumsy (or shortening) wording on OP’s part and like what she meant by it was exactly what AvonLady said.

    2. Jessica*

      She doesn’t have to apologize for having night terrors. She definitely needs to apologize for minimizing it, brushing off the impact it has on anyone who has to share a room with her, and refusing to accommodate the needs of others to have restful sleep.

      1. LCL*

        But night terror lady isn’t the one who is refusing to accommodate. It’s the boneheaded managers who have the power to make the decision to book private rooms that are the problem. The managers are the ones brushing off the impact to others. And nobody with a medical condition should ever apologize for minimizing their condition; if that’s how they cope that’s how they cope.

        1. Nolan*

          But by saying they’re no big deal and just a fact of life, she’s minimizing them herself. Yes, night terrors are a fact of life/nbd for the coworker but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to foist the effects of them on the test of the team.

          1. Lindsay J*

            But there’s not really anything she can do about it. She’s not choosing to foist the effects of them onto others – the bosses have made it pretty clear that they don’t think that this is something that warrants a private room. Presumably she has to travel with the team (and even if she doesn’t have to, she shouldn’t lose out on work opportunities because of this). If anything, the bosses are foisting the effects onto other people by not accommodating this with a private room.

            (Though the coworker really shouldn’t be telling the bosses that she doesn’t see how they can be that bad, if she did in fact say that and it’s not the bosses making things up.)

        2. nonymous*

          I don’t know what OP intended by her apology comment. But if I were OP’s acquaintance, I would express empathy at the experience, and the word “sorry” might be involved. As in “I’m sorry that OP doesn’t have access to disrupted sleep on work travel”. Clearly as an internet stranger, I’m not taking ownership of the the night terrors!

          Surely you’re not suggesting that because coworker has a medical condition, she should be exempt from expressing empathy for their fellow human because “that’s how they cope”? Sleep deprivation is a torture technique, not a reasonable accommodation.

    3. Jess*

      I agree that she doesn’t technically “owe” anyone an apology for a condition she can’t control, but it also seems to violate some norm of empathy or compassion or politeness that she hasn’t offered one. The apology here would be more to recognize the inconvenience or disturbance to the other person. If I woke to find my roommate looking tired & found out I’d woken them the night before due to my sleep condition, I’d apologize for keeping her up despite the reason being something I had no control over (and I would apologize even in an entirely different, non-work travel, context where my roommate freely chose to share a room w/ me in full knowledge of the potential for sleep disturbances). It wouldn’t be an apology for having wronged her, but an “I’m sorry that my condition is having this negative affect on you.”

    4. LS*

      Causing people distress, pain or inconvenience requires an apology. The underlying cause / condition doesn’t.

      If I had a stomach bug and I (unintentionally) vomited on a colleague, I’d apologise. For the vomiting, not the stomach bug.

      To me that’s just good manners.

    5. Sarah*

      She definitely owes an apology for her disruptiveness. Not apologizing here is like not apologizing for vomiting all over somebody “I couldn’t help it so no need to apologize.” Or if you ran over someone’s foot with your wheelchair. You’d apologize in both instances, even if “you couldn’t help it”.

    6. LDN Layabout*

      If someone pushes me over and I knock someone else over in the process, even though I’m not to blame I am going to apologise because my actions, involuntary or not hurt them.

      That’s what the apology is for.

  17. Anne*

    As someone who also gets night terrors, I’m a bit sympathetic to the coworker here. First, because the whole situation can be embarrassing and difficult to discuss – most adults who suffer night terrors have a history of abuse or other severe trauma, and it’s generally believed that that’s where the night terrors come from. I’ve had acquaintances try to dig into my personal history when they learned I had night terrors, and even for those who aren’t aware of the connection, it dredges up a lot of painful memories in my own life that I don’t necessarily want to be thinking about when discussing travel logistics with colleagues. While I don’t agree with how the coworker is handling things here, I’m sympathetic to her apparent instincts to minimize the issue and, perhaps, cross her fingers and hope that she won’t have any night terrors triggered in that particular stretch of nights. And, while I understand why her coworkers would be discussing this, it can’t help to have such a personal medical/psychological issue being the topic of office gossip.

    In addition, one of the key symptoms of night terrors is not being aware of (or remembering later) the severity of the event. I’ve had times when I thought I just woke up with a quiet gasp, only to be told the next morning that I first had screamed repeatedly, stood up on the bed, or did other frightening things. Not only is that disorienting to learn, but it’s possible that the coworker truly doesn’t realize how disruptive her night terrors are to others, especially if she doesn’t typically sleep with someone else in the room. I agree that she may be trying to reassure the OP not to worry about her when she says her night terrors aren’t a big deal, rather than meaning to minimize how hard it is on anyone who shares a room with her.

    All that said, of course for everyone’s sake the situation needs to change, and the coworker shouldn’t be sharing a hotel room with work colleagues, although I’d urge compassion from those who don’t understand why the coworker (apparently) hasn’t yet tackled that conversation with her boss.

    1. I'm Not Phyllis*

      I agree with you – it’s a difficult and possibly embarrassing situation for the coworker, which is why I’m surprised that she doesn’t want to seek private accommodations on medical grounds herself. Wouldn’t one difficult conversation be better than having to drag this out and discuss it with every. single. coworker?

      1. Anne*

        Absolutely! I do wonder, though, (total speculation here) if she hasn’t tried talking to her boss and been dismissed the way the OP was? Or, if she generally knows that he’s prone to be dismissive of these kinds of issues, she’s made up her mind that that difficult conversation wouldn’t go anywhere and she needs to make the best of the situation she’s stuck with.

        Again, I obviously don’t know and don’t want to veer to far off into hypotheticals, but I’m also not ready to dismiss the coworker as an inconsiderate jerk just yet.

      2. Soon to be former fed*

        Adults can deal with difficult and embarrassing. No excuse for foisting your medical condition on others by pretending it doesn’t exist.

    2. Out of the box thinker.*

      Anne, in this case maybe you could give some input on the suggestion to audio record it. Would you be willing to consent to the recording if you are in one of the states that requires consent?

    3. IrishUp*

      @Anne – I am very sorry that you’ve had that experience, and I agree with most of what you said except:
      “most adults who suffer night terrors have a history of abuse or other severe trauma, and it’s generally believed that that’s where the night terrors come from”

      To be clear, I am not saying you are wrong about your own history and/or diagnosis(es)! But for accuracy, on a general level, night terrors (more often called sleep terrors in adults) are not thought to be causally related to abuse for the majority of sufferers. It is true that stress, some mood disorders, head trauma, stroke, and history of migraines may in fact be causal in an adult or precipitate/aggravate symptoms in a person with a childhood history. A history of trauma or abuse and night terrors could be a case of true, true and unrelated (or a case where PTSD was misdiagnosed as NT or vice-versa, my understanding is that many people don’t get to have the definitive sleep studies that can distinguish NT from other entities). Regardless, childhood ST is not associated causally with trauma or abuse. Night terrors also has a strong familial/genetic component with multiple near relatives often affected. Perhaps relevant to the OP and co-worker, travel and/or sleeping in unfamiliar settings are both known aggravating factors, as are other things that interrupt good sleep hygiene (eg apnea, hormonal or drug related insomnia).

      Regardless, the employer here needs to change policy to accommodate the fact that OP & colleagues cannot reasonably share sleeping spaces with a co-worker who is as symptomatic as the one described!

      1. M Bananas*

        Your point about unfamiliar settings being an aggravating factor to the night terrors realy stood out to me.
        It could be part of why the co-worker with the ST is minimizing her condition, perhaps when she’s at home they aren’t that dramatic so she genuinely believes it’s not that bad.
        Of course that doesn’t excuse her dismissing the accounts of her colleagues, but sometimes its really hard to accept how disruptive your sleeping behaviour can get when you’re not experiencing it first hand. I had a similar reaction when my bf told me how bad my snoring got. Up until he recorded it and played it back to me it hadn’t really sunk in.
        I agree that banding together with other co-workers to drive home to the bosses the severity of the situation does seems like the best and most effective route to take.

  18. I'm Not Phyllis*

    I’m with Alison on her advice. You’re not making an unreasonable request, and you’re even willing to share with a different coworker (which is more than I’d be willing to do!). Your employer is being very unreasonable and you should absolutely push back – as a group if possible. I’m sure your coworker can’t control it but do they really have no idea how bad it is?

    I can also see why people are suggesting that you recorder. If you choose to go this route I’d get her permission first (although I’m sceptical as to whether she’d give you permission based on her nonchalant attitude about this) but really, that shouldn’t even be necessary. You’re making a perfectly reasonable request of your employer which they should honour.

  19. Eva*

    As someone married to a man who has night terrors; I completely sympathize with the OP and her other coworkers. Being woken up in the middle of the night with screaming is terrifying. My husband never remembers having them, no one has ever played a recording to show him how loud he is but he still knows that it is disturbing to other people and feels bad when he finds out that he woke up/scared someone. To me there is no excuse for the blase attitude from the coworker, especially with the number of people telling her that they find them distressing. I agree with the other posters who mentioned recording an incident to show the impact.

    1. nonegiven*

      Even an occasional waking up as I hit the floor was enough. I am done. I don’t sleep in the same room with another human. I don’t sleep well to start with.

  20. Joie De Vivre*

    I know this wouldn’t be a workable solution, but I would be tempted to call the co-workers office phone during the episode. Getting a voice mail recording of herself might be a real eye-opener.

    OP, I really feel sorry for you. It sounds like she is loud enough that a portable white noise machine wouldn’t drown out the noise.

    1. Cringing 24/7*

      As an addendum, I’m not saying your coworker is unreasonable for *having* night terrors, but for minimizing them simply because she doesn’t have to suffer their consequences or remember them.

  21. Lily in NYC*

    My college roommate used to sit up in bed and laugh like a maniac. It was scary! Thank goodness she was normal during waking hours so I didn’t worry about getting murdered in the middle of the night.

  22. Barbara Cuckler*

    I suffer from night terrors and sleepwalking and they can become worse or more frequent if I am tired and stressed (like on a business trip). I never remember the episodes and I didn’t know how really bad they were until my husband taped me. I now pay extra when I travel for business to have a room to myself. She might not know how bad it is, but it is a medical condition and she can be excused from sharing a room. I agree that she should apologize though and not brush it off. I would be mortified.

  23. ZenCat*

    I have night terrors, it is part of a PTSD diagnosis. There are medications you can take, I hope the woman suffering from them sees a doctor who can help. Having them is so embarrassing and I have to tell partners about it before I sleep with them. I do not get many, but they are horrifying enough for me and I know they are just as bad for someone on the outside. I have other issues related to PTSD where I have had work accommodations. It shouldn’t be OP having to request – the person with the terrors should be. Especially if sharing a room or being away from home makes symptoms worse. It sounds like OP would share a room with someone else I dont understand not giving a room to the person with the issue. It will be so absolutely humiliating to me to be recorded or with anyone aside from an intimate partner or alone if a terror happened. What an awful situation.

      1. ZenCat*

        I realize I may have wrote wrong I should have said it is part of my PTSD diagnosis – I know terrors can exist for number of different reasons.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I always thought that most “night terrors” have no particular link to whatever has happened in your life.

        It’s interesting that so many people “upstream” have pointed out that several family members are prone to them. Is there a genetic component?

  24. Amy*

    I’m surprised how hard people are being on Jane in the comments. I read her ‘It’s not a big deal’ as ‘It’s not a big deal FOR ME, I’m not in danger or anything, so please don’t feel like you need to do anything for me’. It reads to me as her being embarrassed and trying to play it off, not her being intentionally dismissive of other people not wanting to share a room with her. (The bosses definitely are dismissive, but considering multiple people have told them this is bad and they choose to continue being dismissive, I’m betting they’d ignore Jane telling them how bad it is too; I don’t think their decision means she’s downplaying it any more than it means OP downplayed it to them.)

    We also don’t know if she’s sought a single room and been refused, or if she’s never asked, or what. Of course any reasonable boss would have granted that kind of request if she asked…but these bosses don’t sound very reasonable. If she has asked and was refused, I could very much see how she’d try to frame this as making the best of a bad situation. (If she hasn’t asked, she should. I just don’t think we know either way.)

    And as for her not apologizing for having night terrors…well, she shouldn’t have to. She can’t help having them, and people shouldn’t have to apologize for medical conditions. She should try to get a private room if she hasn’t done so already, and she should warn people in advance, but she shouldn’t have to apologize for the fact that this happens.

    1. Tomato Frog*

      Sorry for the repeat as I accidentally posted below, but OP specifically says that the coworker told the bosses it couldn’t be that bad.

      1. DArcy*

        If the coworker who actually has the medical condition is explicitly assuring the bosses that it’s not really that bad, then I’m not sure the bosses can be reasonably blamed for not letting OP have a single room. While this situation is clearly something of a corner case, I think it’s generally reasonable for higher up to believe a worker with a medical condition who says no accommodation is necessary over coworkers who insist that it is.

    2. Out of the box thinker.*

      She is impacting co-workers negatively. That is the reason she should apologize. Its the same thing with snorers. I at times snore usually if Im really really exhausted. Ive apologized in advanced, warn people if Im sharing a room (which I do when I go to sci-fi cons at times). and I let them know its ok to shove me since that will usually stop the snoring.

      what is being seen as her being rude is that she knew it occured, and didnt warn her co-worker who was sharing a room.

    3. Trout 'Waver*

      I agree that people are being a little hard on Jane. It’s unclear to me from the letter whether Jane has been made aware of the full impact of her night terrors. Until she has, I’d give her a pass.

      1. Observer*

        Aside from everything else, given the number of people who have said something to her, she should realize that this IS a problem. For her to tell the bosses that it can’t be that bad is just inexcusable.

        Jane can’t help her night terrors – and I agree that she shouldn’t be pressured to take medication just because her bosses don’t want to pay for a separate room. But she CAN help how she handles it. And actually telling her bosses that it’s not that bad, and undermining her co-workers IS a problem, and I’d be furious with her.

  25. MommyMD*

    I would ask my bosses if I could PLEASE bunk with them because trying to sleep in the same room with her is too distressing. I don’t care if they are male. I would say I’ll take the floor. Just throw down some blankets. This puts the onus on them and maybe they will do something. They obviously could give a sh it now and coworker either.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Conversely, convince one of the bosses to bunk with coworker so they can experience the night terrors first hand.

  26. LizM*

    I’ve seen several people suggest recording the coworker. Please don’t suggest this to your coworker unless it’s a last resort. I am a sleep walker, and a coworker having a recording of me in that vulnerable of a situation is horrifying to me, especially if she planned on sharing it with my boss. Even an audio recording is a huge violation. Even if OP were to ask, she may not feel like she can say no.

    If you get push back on “how bad” it is, I would find some videos or recordings on youtube of people who have consented to being filmed during night terrors, and see if that works first.

    1. Girl in the Windy City*

      This is an excellent suggestion. While I think the recording would be the best idea, I can’t wrap my head around how to ask permission of the coworker in a way she’d agree to – especially since she’s already downplaying the issue.

    2. BethRA*


      Honestly, even without digging through youtube, having multiple coworkers tell the bosses (and maybe Jane) that it’s not muttering, it’s screaming should be plenty.

  27. Tomato Frog*

    Did you read this part: My coworker told my boss she can’t see how her night terror episodes could be “that bad.”

  28. Health Insurance Nerd*

    I can absolutely understand the comments stating the the LW writer should simply record evidence of the night terrors but, really, the powers that be at her company should be respecting the fact that if the LW (and other employees!) says that there is an issue, there is an issue. She shouldn’t have to provide proof!!!!

    1. Rachel Green*

      Ugh, I agree! Recording a coworker without her permission is an invasion of privacy and would only make the situation worse.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Because the bosses don’t believe the LW and the coworker denies that it’s that bad, so how else does one convince them?

          1. Out of the box thinker.*

            Audio recording, which can be pointed at a desk lamp or other nuetral surface.
            The co-workers are being put into a very unfair position and Jane is making it worse.
            Since Jane cant ‘know’ due to the nature of the night terrors usualy being them forgotten and the range of types of night terrors.
            This leaves the co-workers in a bind as in how to produce evidence of how bad it really is.

              1. Amy*

                And unethical, and creepy, and unkind, and unnecessary. YouTube surely has myriad examples of night terrors

  29. stitchinthyme*

    Am I the only one who finds the idea of having to share a room with a (relative) stranger pretty horrible? I’d pay for my own hotel room first, even if it were business travel. I’m pretty sensitive to noise when I’m trying to sleep, so all it takes is someone who snores — even lightly — and I’m awake all night. The LW is being pretty generous to be okay with this at all — I tend to agree with those who say that if you can’t afford to get people private rooms, you can’t afford to send them on business travel.

    Not work-related, but about a year ago our friend invited us to spend a few nights at one of the Disney resort properties since she’s in their Vacation Club. What she didn’t tell us was that we’d be sharing a double room with another couple (whom we knew only slightly)…and the guy snored. Neither my husband nor I got much sleep that night, and they ended up moving to a sofabed the next night (we offered since we were the ones with the problem, but they wouldn’t hear of it). So we decided, from now on we make our own accommodations, generous offer or not.

  30. oranges & lemons*

    I’m not sure why the coworker is so intent on minimizing the night terrors. She’s the one who stands to get a room to herself out of the deal.

    1. LCL*

      One of the weird aspects of having night terrors is the person usually doesn’t remember most of it. Once it’s over, they don’t seem that bad. Also, night terrors can be a sign of PTSD or other trauma. If one has night terrors without a background of horrible experiences, others’ concern can be a little embarrassing. TMI-I do have night terrors, mostly related to how I am managing stress in my life, I haven’t been subject to any major trauma.

    2. Gadfly*

      Well, pure conjecture–but perhaps a previous conversation with the male bosses that went similar to OP’s? Like “Well, they can’t be that bad, right? If they were that bad, we just can’t have you go, and this is necessary to your job…”

      We don’t know if they are covered by the ADA or not, if Jane’s night terrors would be covered, and even if they are, that sort of threat happens anyway more than often enough.

    1. JKP*

      The youtube link above would be a good one to share. Some really intense night terror behavior shown.

      Interesting that a number of them were hooked to a harness apparatus, presumably to keep them from being able to get too far from the bed in their sleep.

      Also the video mentioned “night violence.” Maybe that’s a better way to frame it, as a workplace safety issue. That you don’t feel safe sharing a room with Jane. She could hit or get violent in her sleep (which she admits happens when someone tries to wake her). People have even killed others in their sleep and then been acquitted because they were sleepwalking when they did it.

    2. memyselfandi*

      So weird. We posted at the same time. The YouTube video is a good idea and fits my suggestion of providing the boss more information.

  31. memyselfandi*

    I do think that advocating for a ‘no room sharing’ policy would be the best recourse. However, why not provide the bosses with some information on night terrors? I just Googled it. The Wikipedia entry is a bit dense, but there is a Night Terror Resource Center website that gives a clear description of what happens.

  32. Ellen N.*

    My suggestion is that you and your coworkers tell your bosses in writing that the night terror sufferer said that if you wake her you might get injured. It’s easy to wake someone unintentionally: by going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, getting ready for bed when the coworker is already asleep, waking up earlier than the coworker. I think that maybe if your bosses have written warning that they may be held liable for a preventable workplace injury about which they were forewarned; they might warm to the idea of getting a separate room for the coworker who suffers from night terrors.

  33. The Strand*

    Night terrors are parasomnias. They are sleep disorders, and common. The fact that the coworker has this problem does not mean diagnosing her as having an unexplained mental disorder, any more than we would armchair dx someone for bipolar disorder because of other behavior, etc.

    While many people who have trauma or PTSD have nightmares or night terrors, it is NOT true that most night terrors happen because of trauma or PTSD. Parasomnias – another one is sleepwalking – run in families, seem to have a genetic component (e.g. DQB1 gene), and most activity usually happens during childhood and puberty, then usually (but not always) fades away.

    It runs in my family; my father was a sleepwalker as a child, and all of my siblings and I had night terrors. I can’t even remember the last time I had an event. Maybe 9 years ago? As an adult, the few times only occurred under immense stress. Three of them were during long, cross-country trips by car or bus where my sleep was bad and I was stressed.

    The coworker is described as being in denial. She is more likely clueless that they are “that bad”. These are not your garden variety nightmares. You can sit straight up (sometimes with your eyes open), start screaming, then flop down into your bed and fall asleep again. The next morning you’ll have complete amnesia of the event.

    I think the jury is out about whether someone is actually even dreaming during the event. What is happening is your entire autonomic system is suddenly flipped to “high” during the early sleep cycle, but in a way that you don’t remember dreaming, and may have no memory of anything out of the ordinary. So, many people who have screaming nightmares that are vivid, and memorable, are actually not having sleep terrors, in the clinical sense.

    OP, this is not to excuse your coworker’s behavior at all. I was always extremely embarrassed and let my friends know it was an issue. I can’t believe she didn’t proactively approach your bosses. I would go with your coworker and explain that you are not talking about something that can be covered through a pair of earplugs, but that – of course – you’ll need a room of your own. If you need to, drop science on them. But do not record her without her permission.

    1. Anne*

      Although I 100% agree we shouldn’t armchair diagnose, night terrors in adults are entirely different than night terrors in children. In children, they’re fairly common and do not seem to be associated with PTSD or other trauma. In adults, neither is the case. Again, I don’t think we should be trying to diagnose the OP’s coworker, but it does offer some potential context to why she might be reluctant to discuss her night terrors too freely.

      “Adults can also develop sleep terrors, though this is uncommon and is usually brought upon by a deeply traumatic or emotional event, or is developed in adults with a long history of depression, anxiety or bipolar disorders. Adults with sleep terrors should consult a psychiatrist, who should be able to help them deal with the issues that are plaguing them and causing the terrors. As few as 2% of adults experience sleep terrors. There is no link between sleep terrors in children and emotional disorders, or disorders that will be developed later in life.”

      1. Zip Zap*

        That’s helpful. But it says that trauma is correlated with adult onset. We don’t know if this began during the person’s childhood or when they were an adult.

    2. Erin*

      You don’t know you have them or how bad they are until someone else tells you. I have night terrors, I knew I yelled in my sleep since childhood. (My father has night terrors too. It’s how I learned to swear when I was 4.) I didn’t know how bad they were until I lived with my husband. I don’t have PTSD. What triggers my night terrors is the the cold. So I wrap myself up like a burrito in blankets in August. I have to be hot while I sleep or else I thrash, scream, kick and occasionally sleep walk. It’s like I can’t get into a certain sleep cycle if I’m too cold.

      1. Trialia*

        Oh, thank you for reminding me of a very funny episode in my family. My mum once called my dad, whispering, to come listen in the hallway of our house – my kid sister, just a toddler, was sitting on the bottom of the stairs murmuring to herself, “F***! F***, f*** f*** f***…” in this cheerful little-kid-practising-a-new-word tone – Mum nearly wet herself laughing so hard when she got back into the living room. My sister is now 30 and we have never let her forget it (in a friendly & cheerful way, ofc).

  34. LCL*

    I am appalled and in disbelief of the number of posters on this who, with good intent, go immediately to ‘record her and show the bosses.’ Just because you can use technology for something doesn’t mean you should. Recording her would be such a gross violation of privacy, I could imagine you being fired for that immediately here at big government (TM) after investigation. I’m usually on the other side of filming privacy arguments, when all parties are in a public place. But filming and or recording somebody without their consent under these circumstances is just voyeurism.

    1. Mirax*

      Agreed. While the coworker is wrong to minimize the issue, recording her would raise the stakes pretty dramatically. I have night terrors and if someone recorded me during them I’d be going straight to the police station to figure out what charges I could press.

    2. Zip Zap*

      +1. Show everyone some respect and treat it like a medical issue. No need to get dramatic about it.

    3. Lissa*

      I really liked the alternate suggestion of showing a youtube video of somebody with similar night terrors who did consent to be recorded. This seems like a great compromise.

  35. Kimberly*

    Night terrors, sleep walking, and other sleep disturbances run rampant through my family. I can’t believe how neglectful the co-worker was. There are adults in my family that have sitting rooms/studies next to their bedrooms that the spouse can retreat to and lock a door during night terrors. They can be very dangerous.

    I have a mild version that generally involves me leaping from bed in response to a noise. Occasionally involves me rearranging the kitchen. I’m the only one of my generation to never blacken the eye of a parent during a night terror. The one time I ‘ve had to share a room during a staff development. I warned my coworker and told her to get the hell out if I started up. Still, I scared her. According to her I somehow flew out of the lower bunk (we were in a door room) over the foot of the bed across the room and confront the person trying to open the wrong door.

    This probably crosses a line but what about audio recording the screams, so that the coworker and bosses can hear the screams. (Video would cross a line). I find some people don’t “get” it until they experience it or they think the more violent version only happens in PTSD situations.

    I’m not going to offer any medical advice except this – any medical interventions need to be closely supervised. There is a pattern in my family of sedative medication increasing the violence of the night terrors. I don’t know if that is medically normal or specific to my family. The worst episodes I have had – were trying to fly off a 3rd story balcony on an OTC makes you sleep allergy medication and sleep walking/being combative in the hospital when I was supposed to be sedated after surgery.

  36. micromanaged rat*

    If your company pushes so hard for employees to share rooms during travel, could Jane be afraid that framing it as “I absolutely cannot share a room with another person” will be received as “we can’t afford for you to travel, so maybe this isn’t the right role for you”?

      1. Gadfly*

        IF the company is covered. If Jane is covered. And then it is often a long hard fight to win a slap on the wrist.

  37. The Pink Lady*

    I wonder whether the terror-ridden coworker genuinely doesn’t realise how severe her symptoms are. Many children suffer night terrors and parents tend to minimise them, so as not to make them into something about which the child becomes anxious. I can easily see a situation where, if she didn’t grow out of them (as most children do) her family just tried very hard not to make a big deal of them, in order not to upset her or make her paranoid about them. I think in this situation I’d do what others have suggested and find some footage on line (preferably from a medical source) and show either the coworker or the boss, or both, starting from a position of sympathy for the coworker. Treating the accommodation issue as a collective problem which needs to be solved as a group might make the coworker feel more supported; and if the bosses can see a united front from everyone else that they are all willing to carry on sharing, but that they support Jane having her own room, they are more likely to concede, as they should be reassured that they aren’t setting an expensive precedent.

    1. FD*

      I wonder this too! I didn’t know I had them until I had roommates in college (I was lucky enough to have my own room at home and it was next to the bathroom so my sibs didn’t notice).

    2. Myrin*

      That’s totally possible, but I think the problem is that by now, she’s been told about their severity, and multiple times at that, and instead of an appropriate reaction like “Oh crap, I had no idea they were so terrible for someone else!”, she just handwaves them as “can’t possibly be that bad”.

      1. LCL*

        Handwaving away the severity of a medical issue can sometimes be part of the best mentally healthy way to deal with it. It’s not on her to have an appropriate reaction that others are comfortable with. That’s the same way of thinking that led to visibly handicapped people being hidden away so others wouldn’t have to see them and be disturbed. The problem isn’t with night terror lady, it is with OPs managers not booking separate rooms.

        1. Stardust*

          The difference between visibly disabled people and the coworker in this story is that for one, its their entire being, whereas for the other, it’s a specific behaviour. Saying “hey, maybe at least acknowledge that this one thing you do, even without realising it, is disturbing and not ‘not that bad'” isn’t the same as saying “hey, maybe acknowledge that you have a disfigured child that should never be seen by anyone because it’s disturbing” because that would mean that the poor child could never go anywhere and wouldn’t ever be able to live a relatively normal life, whereas for the coworker this would just be a momentarily embarrassing situation.

          I agree that the bosses are the much bigger problem in this scenario but I don’t think it’s unreasonable that the LW would like the coworker to be a little more aware of what a terrible situation this is and I don’t think your comparison really holds water.

          1. LCL*

            Ah, that’s what’s tripping us up on this, night terrors are being looked at as a behavior. I think it only helps to look at things as a behavior if a person has conscious control over them. And behaviorism is my first go to when trying to figure out how to motivate people or otherwise explain odd human interactions. But, night terrors aren’t a behavior any more than low blood sugar in a diabetic, or physical impairments requiring a wheelchair/mobility aids are a behavior.

            1. Observer*

              That’s not the point. The night terrors are not a behavior – at least not one that she can control. But there ARE *legitimate* negative effects on others. And by handwaving it away she makes it impossible for others to minimize those legitimate negative effects.

              People not hiding their handicapped kids was never about “handwaving” the severity of the situation away. That is a ridiculous thing to say, and minimizes the real struggle with stigma that people with many handicaps and their families have faced.

        2. Observer*

          No, handwaving away a problem when that people cannot take appropriate action to minimize the negative impact of the situation is NOT the “healthiest” way to deal with a problem.

          I’m not suggesting that she should curl up and shrivel with embarrassment. But keeping others from minimizing the harm you cause is NOT healthy – it’s utterly and inexcusably selfish.

        3. DArcy*

          The problem is that OP’s managers aren’t booking separate rooms in large part because night terror lady is reassuring them that her night terrors can’t possibly be bad enough for that to be a reasonable need.

  38. Zip Zap*

    This is a medical issue. The co-worker has a sleep disorder that she isn’t fully aware of. Think about how you would want this to be handled were the roles reversed.

    I think you need to have one more serious conversation with her and try to explain in more detail what she does in her sleep. Assure her that you’re concerned and that you’ll keep it confidential. You could offer to put a motion sensing camera in the room, but only if she seems really receptive to it. You could suggest that she try that at home, although she might not get the same result. I think some sleep disorders are aggravated by things like travel.

    It’s possible that it usually isn’t that bad and what you witnessed was something rare brought on by stress, too much coffee, something like that. Who knows.

    But she should probably see a specialist. If she gets up in her sleep, she might also be sleep walking, which can be dangerous. Maybe she could get this checked out at a medical facility and get a doctor’s advice on how to handle it.

  39. VerySleepyPregnantLady*

    Sharing rooms is the norm for me, too.

    When I had to travel for work, at the tail end of my puking all the time phase, I clearly told my boss “I can’t share a room with anyone.* I can’t inflict the sound of my vomiting on others. According to my husband, it is louder than he thought vomiting ever could be. He deserves to be woken by that noise because my condition is at least partly his fault, but my colleagues are innocent in all of this.” My boss laughed, and said of course.

    I was asked to book my own room at a cheaper hotel, slightly further away from the conference center. Cost matters, yes, but my boss 100% believed me that I should not share a room. And the onus was on me to make that clear. Bosses and Jane are all unreasonable here.

    *Room sharing would have been worse because there were no other women from my department traveling. So I’d be rooming with a near stranger, making it even less okay.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      He deserves to be woken by that noise because my condition is at least partly his fault, but my colleagues are innocent in all of this.

      This made me laugh out loud.

  40. Bruised Anon*

    I’ve had to sleep in the same room as someone with night terrors before and it was not pleasant. I stopped agreeing to sleep anywhere near them after one of the episodes involved her getting out of bed and trying to beat me to death (resulting in her getting thrown against the wall and me having multiple bruises and a few scrapes). Although not everyone who gets night terrors moves out of bed, they can and they can pose a serious risk to others, especially if people are not prepared. After saying all that I will say that this person is still my friend, and she has gone to a few doctors and found some treatments that seem to have toned down her episodes.
    Point is, night terrors are not to be taken lightly. Anyone who has night terrors should not share a room with someone else, unless that person is fully aware of the condition and is prepared and comfortable dealing with it.

  41. Elizabeth West*

    I feel bad for Jane–sleep disturbances suck and she might be minimizing because she’s embarrassed about it. But her colleagues can’t work without adequate rest. The company needs to step up here and put Jane in a room by herself. I think the other coworkers should definitely push back on this.

  42. kc89*

    Co-workers having to share rooms when traveling is so demeaning.

    If traveling was a must part of my job and they made us share hotel rooms I would pay the difference for my own room. If I couldn’t afford it I would have to find a new job, I feel that strongly about it.

    1. stitchinthyme*

      +1 – the only person I can stand to share a room with is my husband. Partly comes from having been an only child, I think — I never had to share a room until college (and then it didn’t go well). I like my privacy and alone-time, and I’m hyper-sensitive to anything but plain white noise (like a fan or something else absolutely unvarying — not like rain or ocean waves because they change too much) when I’m trying to sleep. Even light snoring is enough to keep me up all night.

      1. Erin*

        +1 to the only child thing. A big reason why I never lived on campus while in college is because I didn’t want to share a tiny room with a stranger. I had much more privacy while living with my parents. Dorms seemed incredibly overrated to me. I’m pretty sure any potential roommate is probably grateful because of my night terrors.

    2. Magenta Sky*

      I’d start looking when they told me they expected me to share a room. Among the reasons, *I* snore. It’s just unprofessional to run an organization that way.

  43. Grey*

    Plus, plenty of people have medical conditions that they don’t care to disclose or deal with around co-workers but which will become clear if they’re room sharing

    Exactly. I have a similar issue and have no clue how to mention it to my boss. Not only do I have to disclose an embarrassing problem, I’m going to create the impression that I’m just trying to score my own private room.

    So far, rather than keep colleague up at night, I just suck it up and pay for my own room. It’s costing me a fortune though.

  44. Narise*

    I wouldn’t want to share a room with her because of fear that she would hurt me or that I would hurt her defending myself. Also I’m surprised no one in adjoining rooms have called the front desk requesting security and/or police assistance because of the murder comments. If they try to push you into sharing a room with her again make sure you get it in writing that they are responsible for all ‘physical harm as a result of the sharing of rooms with someone with night terrors.’ Just a thought but could you call your boss’ room during the night terror and lay the phone next to co-worker? Maybe they have to experience it to understand. No matter what you need to tell HR you are not sharing a room with this coworker because of the threat of physical harm.

  45. Marmite*

    I work for a non-profit and we’ve recently started using AirBnB for group business travel – everyone gets a private bedroom but it’s a lot cheaper than single occupancy hotel rooms, particularly in cities where hotels are expensive, or for trips of more than a night or two. It does still mean a shared bathroom (usually 2 bathrooms to 5 or 6 people) but I much prefer it to sharing a hotel room.

    1. MK*

      This is a solution moving in the right direction. I’ve worked for nonprofits my whole career but this is the first job where I’ve had some business travel as part of my role. I realize it’s become the norm for these industries to share rooms but I don’t think it’s appropriate. Aside from sleeping, people need privacy at the end of the work day (and to be able to shower without their colleague in the room). I’ve never been asked to share a room on any trip and really respect this policy. I realize that some organizations are under-resourced, but this is one of those things that I don’t think any truly professional organization should compromise on. It’s a cost of doing business, and you have to find a way to budget for it if you’re going to ask people to travel (or book on hotels.com and use free room nights, or use credit card points etc etc).

  46. NMFTG*

    The behaviour of these bosses is truly bad. It does however seem that the screaming colleague is downplaying the situation – for whatever reason (embarrassment? ignorance? privacy concerning other issue?).

    “Not that bad” is not a good description, and I would guess that for the bosses to see any reason to revisit their decision, the screaming colleague needs to address this as a problem as well. She may be super embarrassed, but it also seems that the violent episodes does not really impact her sleep quality or performance at these work trips. Since she has told her colleagues not to wake her (“I’ll be violent”), she gets to sleep and rest (presumably as normal) while her colleagues gets worn out, stressed and terrified. She may be telling you it’s “not a big deal” because she does not want you to worry, but she should still understand that you will, and that it will impact you very badly even though she feels okay.

    If she refuses to own up to the severity – could it be a strategy for you to state clearly, if rooming with her again, to tell her that you know from experience that it will be impossible for you to sleep properly with her in the room, but that you will rest as best as you can. But that you WILL wake her immediately whenever an episode starts (perhaps consult with a doctor on how to do this safely – perhaps from a distance with an alarm?), repeatedly if necessary, and that you WILL need to document any violence against you. If her sleep is continually disrupted as well, and that you just don’t accept sacrificing your sleep only, she may have more of an incentive to accept how severe this is impacting you. And then use this incentive to stop downplaying the severity to your bosses. They shouldn’t need any more info than what you have given, but it might help if the screamer owns up.

    Another thing – I don’t know what’s common in the US (?) when it comes to sick leave, and maybe this is a phenomenally bad idea (I’m sure someone else can chime in), but your bosses might notice if there was a pattern of “rooming with violent screamer” followed by a day’s sick leave to get back to normal. Where I’m at, where there’s admittedly more worker protection than the US, “were you sick because of something at work?” is a routine questions for shorter periods on sick leave. Being physically and mentally exhausted by screams, threats of violence and no sleep – at work! – is a valid reason to reboot, I would think.

  47. MassMatt*

    Jane, boss, and grand boss are all terrible.

    I would be tempted, on the next trip with Jane, to wait a couple hours until she’s in a deep sleep, and then start screaming and thrashing around as she does. When she reacts in shock, just shrug and say “oh, must be night terrors. No big deal”.

    Refuse to room with her! If the boss thinks it’s no big deal then he can room with her.

    1. Erin*

      Night terrors are uncontrollable, it’s something with sleep cycles and your brain chemistry. It’s almost like having seziures or migraines. You’ll look obnoxious, imagine mocking someone with a seizure disorder like that. What you’re proposing could be considered harassment.

  48. Penelope Pitstop*

    There’s room for compassion here on both sides. This isn’t a “behavior” issue and the coworker certainly doesn’t deserve or need to be disciplined or made to feel ashamed of. It’s not something the coworker can control or has overt consciousness of, and she certainly shouldn’t have to apologize to anyone for it. However, the OP (and her coworkers) absolutely should be able to sleep undisturbed.

    The infantilizing, room-sharing organizational policy is really the root problem here compounded by the dismissive boss. That’s what needs to be addressed. The rest just kicks the can until the next loud snorer or person with sleep apnea comes along.

    1. Eva*

      I agree that the coworker does not have to apologize for her medical condition.

      But her handling of it is less than ideal and I do think she should apologize for that. She did not treat her coworkers and their health with a basic amount of respect, which would have only needed a brief explanation of “I have night terrors, if I have one tonight just know nothing is immediately wrong and please don’t wake me up for both your safety and mine.”

      If you don’t know somebody with any kind of disordered sleep, your first instinct is always going to be to try to wake a person in this kind of situation, and if waking somebody could lead to injury, it’s irresponsible to not at least try to prevent that, in my opinion.

      But again, that is not a problem with her having a medical condition. That’s about how she chose to interact with her coworkers in a matter of personal health and safety for them both.

  49. justcourt*

    As other people have pointed out, recording audio of the coworker is problematic (e.g. it can be intrusive and possibly illegal), but there shouldn’t be any problem with documenting the decibel of the coworker’s screaming. You can find smartphone apps which measure decibels.

    I would also recommend finding YouTube videos of night terrors and showing those to higher ups, complaining as a group, and suggesting the coworker have her own room.

  50. Obleighvious*

    First time poster here– I just want to agree with the many others who indicated that night terrors are not to be taken lightly, especially by those sharing a room with the sleep-terror-er. My father had night terrors, and every few years we would wake up to find him holding her down, scaring her senseless; a few times he thrashed out and punched her, and once she woke up with his hands wrapped around her neck. Luckily we always managed to wake him up during the most severe episodes, but he was always very weirdly strong and hard to control until he woke up (and horrified to find out what he’d been doing). I’d emphasize to my bosses it could escalate into a personal safety issue, especially if she has already warned you she might hit you in her sleep.

    In regards to running in families: My dad had sleep terrors, I thankfully do not, but when I’m tired I talk (a lot of nonsense) in my sleep. There were many stories of my sleepwalking at night as a young adult (once, when I was 17, I sleepwalked right out of my hotel room on vacation and had to go to the front desk to get a key when I awoke standing in the middle of the hall, totally confused). The worst was once when my husband spent the night for the first time: my roommate came home from a party with a few friends & thankfully my hubby was in bed with me and stopped me from walking out the door to my bedroom to greet them and say hi– while totally naked. That was his first experience with my sleepwalking, and we laugh about it, but MAN would that have been embarrassing!

  51. The Night is Long and Full of Terrors Til Death Does Us Part*

    Off topic, I married someone like this. 3 years ago. I occasionally use the app Sleep Talk to record the nightly struggle (highly recommend it!) but I now nightly construct a pillow wall between us, and barely wake up for it. Although if woken by a flailing hit– I do hit back. Which I’m not proud of, but it’s a flight or fight type response. It’s weird, because he’s a super laid back awake and we have an awesome marriage. I’ll say this though–I love sharing hotel rooms with coworkers now. It’s so quiet.

  52. Eva*

    I’m finding it a touch hard to wrap my brain around her thinking that something that’s diagnosed/described as “night terrors” is “no big deal” and she doesn’t even remember them.

    I have a sleep disorder. I am often incredibly up front and overly pessimistic when I describe my sleep to anybody who might share a room with me, because I’ve spent decades dealing with this and I know there’s no use pulling punches on this. Sometimes I talk in my sleep. I rarely shout, that’s not my particular disorder, but if I have a night terror or sleep paralysis episode then I would then be awake for an extended period of time in the middle of the night and might want to have a light on or some soft music or something that we’d want to discuss and accommodate. Then you add on top of that my preference for when to wake me up/not wake me up. I don’t get into all those details every time, but there’s a lot to consider if you’re going to share a room with me.

    The fact that she walked into this not sharing anything with you, including what you should or should not do if she had an episode, is irresponsible on her part. No, she can’t help her medical condition. But if she needs to enlist your help in managing it (by not waking her up) and if it’s going to impact your life, then she needs to step up and she didn’t. Even if it was just that she talked in her sleep, completely blowing it off and not even mentioning it is not good for fostering good relationships. Some people wake up at the slightest noise, you don’t want to put those people in a room with a person who talks in their sleep.

    I’m still just bumping up against this “oh, I have night terrors but I don’t remember them and they’re no big deal.” They’re not night terrors if they’re no big deal. Those two phrases can’t go together. And for your boss to be blowing it off means they do not on any level actually understand what a night terror is, but I’ll be honest that’s pretty typical. Most people think sleep paralysis just sounds weird rather than “sometimes one of the most psychologically terrifying things you can experience.” Sleep and sleep disorders are very misunderstood in general.

    I think Allison’s advice is spot on, walking in and saying “this is the way this needs to be dealt with, can we figure out the specifics” might work. If you get push back, and you’re not comfortable dealing with the question of recording your coworker (I don’t know that I think that would go well, have you ever told a person they were snoring? 90% of the time they push back with “No I wasn’t” and acting like they are offended you would dare suggest such a thing, even though there’s no way they’d know if they snored and it’s not a value judgement on them as a person).

    I think you could compile a very good set of literature that backs up your point that A-night terrors are a big deal by definition, B-you need a good night’s sleep to be productive and healthy (and that it’s one of the absolutely most vital and most overlooked things that impact your health and your bosses shouldn’t be ignoring that), and C-your happiness and morale is greatly affected by this, which leads to lost effectiveness because of damaged relationships as well.

    Good luck.

    1. Chinook*

      “The fact that she walked into this not sharing anything with you, including what you should or should not do if she had an episode, is irresponsible on her part. No, she can’t help her medical condition. But if she needs to enlist your help in managing it (by not waking her up) and if it’s going to impact your life, then she needs to step up and she didn’t.”

      Eva, I agree with everything you said 100%. While the terrors are uncontrollable, how they impact others can be easily mitigated. It is my responsibility as the one who has them to ensure that their impact on others is lessened when it is reasonable to do so. And the simplest way to do this is to give a roommate a heads up and not minimize it. Embarrassing or not, it is still my responsibility.

  53. Nabpac*

    Offer supervisors a video and audio of SOMEONE else’s night terror episode that is similar to the coworker’s events to give them a clear picture of what anyone sharing a room with the coworker is like. Even if the coworker offers permission, it is still an incredibly bad idea to video or audio record in this situation.

  54. TootsNYC*

    You could also discuss again with the coworker, and suggest that SHE record HERSELF, in order to check her own perceptions about what it’s like. And then she might be more likely to speak honestly to the boss and say, “Yeah, it’s too hard on them; I need my own room.”

    1. TootsNYC*

      Or, the three of you get together and have one of you reproduce the night terrors in the boss’s office, and the other two can say, “Yes, that exactly. No, she’s not exaggerating. Except the night I was in the room with her, she screamed something different.”

  55. jmm*

    My ex boyfriend had night terrors. One night he smashed a lamp fighting his way through the room to escape “space aliens.” They absolutely are dangerous for everyone involved. You could get hit or choked or have something thrown at you. They’re so qualitatively different from nightmares that even though I’d never even heard the term “night terrors,” I knew the first time I experienced it that it was NOT any kind of normal dream.

    Your bosses are idiots for not taking this seriously. Some people need a complaint to the state and federal fair employment departments to make them realize they’re not upholding their responsibilities. But after you complain, you should find another job anyway. Your bosses are jerks and jerks don’t change.

  56. Say what, now?*

    It bothers me that she says it’s not a big deal yet she clearly knows that she’s prone to violence during these episodes. She cautioned OP not to try to wake her because she might hit her. Who’s to say that she might not stand up and attack OP while she sleeps?

  57. Rachael*

    I have sleep terroras and sleep paralysis, but I have the kind where I am in a state of “twilight” and conscious for it. I remember everything the next morning because I am awake, but unable to control my fear responses to whatever is happening in my body. I wake myself up screaming or jumping out of the bed because I see things falling from the ceiling. So, I know how it affects my partner because I remember their reactions.

    I would definitely document in an email exactly what you and others experience. The screaming at the top of her voice, the pushing if you go over, the talk about blood and murder. Then, I would document your reaction such as jumping out of bed in fear, possible assault, and lying awake and then end with Alison’s “how are we going to remedy this” jargon. It is not okay that their cheapness is being put in higher regard to your mental and physical safety. My husband signed on to my condition when he married me. You have no choice and should not be expected to lose sleep over the matter.

  58. EmKay*

    I have night terrors occasionally. My neighbours have called the cops on me several times, thinking I was being murdered. It’s gotten to the point that I’ll open the door saying “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!”, they’ll come in to make sure no one else is in my apartment, and leave. One time they came twice in one night. So. Embarrassing.

  59. SSS*

    Make sure to get a room next door to the bosses that are traveling. If she is screaming, hotel rooms are not very soundproof so they should be able to hear her as well.

  60. ICanSeeClearlyNow*

    (So many replies so haven’t read them all, so apologies if mentioned before.)

    What about waking her up with noise? You don’t have to risk bodily harm (use earplugs). But have an ear-splitting alarm on your phone and start it when she starts the screaming. “It was so bad, I was worried about you.” How bad will she take it when she woken every single time (out of concern of course)? Perhaps agree to be recorded as “evidence”?

    And if your bosses say she must be allowed to sleep but you aren’t, you know you work for some messed up company and you (and colleagues) can make choices.

  61. My friends mom*

    Soo… I have a friends mother who was like this. She gets up, she screams, has fits, screams at you, slams doors, talks to you etc… all while asleep. Nearly. Every. Single. Night.

    She doesn’t really remember them after either, but she usually asks in the morning if she disturbed you.

    So, growing up her kids were used to it, so they matter of fact told you about it before you spent the night. I spent a summer there and the first time it was a bit jarring, but after they were matter of fact about it and the mom was too it was just a thing that happened and didn’t bother me much. Sometimes she would come screaming at us in the room and we would just wake up and tell her to go back to bed. Sometimes she would wake up while in the middle of a fit and apologize and go to bed.

    Sometimes she would lock herself in her room so she couldn’t wander out but then there were nights she would bang and bang and jiggle the door handle and scream until she woke herself up and went back to bed.

    Just because I was used to it and unbothered by it because I understood it (and I’ve been around a lot of quirky things in my life so whats one more?) I can ABSOLUTELY see how terrifying this would be for someone who didn’t expect it or for someone to get comfortable around when its someone who is not their family member or loved one.

    It is absolutely unreasonable to think you should have to continue putting up with that with her. It is wildly disruptive, and terrifying if you’re not expecting it.

    Also, it’s a bit baffling that a.) co-worker doesn’t warn people ahead of time that she has episodes like this most nights and how disruptive and loud they can be and how to handle them (let her wake herself up – or loudly TELL her to wake up, but not to approach her)

    b.) that she didn’t think to apologize for how she may have scared you

    Talking and tossing and turning in sleep is far more “normal” and not so jarring. But getting up and having actual fits where you move about and are LOUD and violent is atypical and you shouldn’t be subjected to it when it’s not someone you are choosing to live with etc.

    I haven’t read Alison’s response yet, but that’s my two-cents — from experience.

  62. sonipitts*

    OP should wait until the boss is zoned out or even nodding off in his office one quiet afternoon, then burst in screaming and flailing. Once he has been revived by the paramedics, she can say, “You’re totally right. You hardly noticed it.” Doing this two or three times should be sufficient to promote some useful empathy growth.

  63. Mephyle*

    After thinking about this a week and re-reading it, I’ve had the following thoughts:
    •There is speculation about whether the night terror coworker is minimizing her problem because she doesn’t know how serious it is, or because she’s in denial, or because it doesn’t affect her sleep, or because she is embarrassed. It could be a combination of any of these, but whatever it is, I’d bet that embarrassment is not absent from the mix.
    •Lots of discussion about not filming or recording the night terrors without consent – how about asking her for her consent? A few did suggest that.
    •Or the dramatic recreation suggested by sonipitts above, and others. I like it, but realistically it might only cause bad repercussions on the enacter without solving the problem (i.e. only add to the ‘sensitive, hysterical women’ perception).
    •It sounds like there are four people, two to a room, and the employer refuses to get a single room for the night terror coworker because of cost. Getting a single room for her, plus a suite or larger double that can hold the other three would likely cost less than getting three rooms to give her her own room.

  64. Noah*

    co-worker is lying to boss about what happens. Boss prefers that version of things because he doesn’t have to get another hotel room. This problem will prove intractable.

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