Night Terrors

1 What is Sleep Terrors (Night Terrors)?

Sleep terrors are episodes of screaming, intense fear and flailing while still sleep.

Also known as:

are often paired with sleep walking.

Parasomnia an undesired occurrence during sleep include sleep walking and sleep terrors.

Sleep terrors are mostly seen in children, often between ages of 4-12 years. Frightening sleep terrors are not cause of concern.

Most of the children outgrow sleep terrors by their teenage.

Sleep terrors may require treatment if they cause problems getting enough sleep.

2 Symptoms

During sleep terror episode person might have the following symptoms:

  • sit up in bed,
  • scream or shout,
  • kick and trash,
  • sweat,
  • breathe heavily and have a racing pulse,
  • be inconsolable.,
  • be hard to awaken,
  • stare wide-eyed,
  • get out of bed and run around the house,
  • engage in aggressive behavior. 

Sleep terrors are different from nightmares. The dreamer of a nightmare may wakeup from the sleep and will remember details, but a person with sleep terror episode remains asleep.

Children who undergo sleep terror don’t remember anything in the morning. Sleep terrors will occur during the first half of the night whereas nightmares occur during the last half of the sleep cycle.

3 Causes

Causes of sleep terrors are as following:

  • sleep deprivation and extreme tiredness,
  • stress,
  • fever (in children),
  • sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings,
  • light or noise,
  • an overfull bladder.

Sleep disorders also are connected with underlying health conditions which can affect sleep such as:

A group disorders characterized by abnormal breathing patterns during sleep, the most common of which is obstructive sleep apnea.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Diagnosis of sleep terrors starts with physical examination and asking about symptoms.

Psychological exam is also done to assess mental stability. A sleep study may be recommended when doctor suspects sleep-disordered breathing.


A sleep study test used to diagnose underlying sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea, that may trigger sleep terrors. During the test sensors are placed on head and body to record brain waves, blood oxygen levels, heart rate and breathing. A video camera records sleep. Doctor will review the information to determine the sleep disorder.

5 Treatment

Treatment for casual sleep terrors is not necessary. Although severe cases of sleep terrors might need medical attention.

Treatment generally includes:

  • Treating underlying condition: If sleep terrors are associated with an underlying medical or mental health condition or any other sleep disorder treating them will cure sleep terrors.
  • Improving sleep habits: Maintaining a schedule of sleeping, going early to bed and waking up early.
  • Addressing stress: Stress or anxiety is the reason for development of sleep terrors. Medications which reduce stress are prescribed. Doctor may also recommend to meet a counsellor. A cognitive behavior therapy, biofeedback therapy and relaxation therapy will help.
  • Medication: Medications are never used to treat sleep terrors because of adverse effects caused by drugs is high. But in worst cause benzodiazepines are used to treat sleep terrors.

6 Prevention

To prevent sleep terrors one must do the following:

  • follow regular sleep wake cycle,
  • provide body with adequate rest,
  • reduce the stress,
  • avoid alcohol and drug abuse,
  • mild physical exercise,
  • yoga and meditation.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Alternative remedies for the sleep terrors include:

  • Making environment safe: Although this dosent stop people from getting sleep terrors but making environment safe to prevent injury during the episode of sleep terror will prevent major traumas.
  • Sleep: Giving the body adequate amount of rest will help reduce sleep terrors.
  • Establish routine: Any changes in sleep wake cycle will induce sleep terrors. To inhibit sleep terrors one must follow a strict schedule of sleeping.
  • Stress: Educing stress by performing meditation and yoga will help improve the sleep terror disorder.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle changes required to improve the recovery period of sleep terrors include:

  • Adequate physical exercise will help improve blood circulation into brain areas and will release important hormones required for sleep wake cycle.
  • Regular consultation with a doctor.
  • Meeting people with sleep terrors will help share stress and experiences. 

9 Risks and Complications

There are several risks and complications associated with sleep terrors (night terrors).

Sleep terrors tend to run in families. Some adults who have sleep terrors may have a history of depressive or anxiety disorders, although most don’t have a mental health condition.

Some complications caused by sleep terrors include:

  • injury to oneself and or others,
  • disruptions to family members,
  • embarrassment over sleep terrors,
  • excessive daytime sleepiness, which can lead to difficulties at school or work and problems with everyday tasks.

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