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Night Terror Sleep Disorder

Night terror sleep disorder, also known as sleep terror and Pavor nocturnus, is when someone has intense screaming and fear during sleep. These occurrences are recurrent and usually are frequent. A person suffering from night terror would sit up in his or her bed and shout and scream and look completely awake from the outside perspective, but actually, the person suffering is rather disoriented, confused and will not be responsive to actions or calls from others, somewhat similar to the case of petit mal seizures. The sufferer of night terrors could also be physically very active, i.e. getting out of bed, moving around, even running and will not be aware if someone else is present in the room, watching them.

Night Terror Sleep Disorder 1

Night Terror Sleep Disorder Child Having a Night Terror Image 1

There is an increased heart beat resulting from the experience the person is visualizing, the breathing becomes very accelerated (hyperventilation), followed by sweating.

Night Terror Duration and Occurrence

  • Night terror duration can be short, around 5 minutes, but it can go as long as 30 minutes.
  • They could be active continuously for a duration of few weeks or simply outgrow by the age of 10 (rapid reduction of night terror cases from that age).

  • They occur during the 3rd or 4th stage of non-REM sleep, which is normally when we dream.
  • Night terrors occur usually in the beginning of the sleep period, so within the first 2-3 hours of going to sleep

Causes of Night Terror Sleep Disorder

The causes are:

  • Genetically inherited
  • High fever
  • Severe stressful events in the life of the person
  • Stress during the previous day
  • Sleep deprivation / Lack of sleep
  • Change in sleeping location – a new environment

  • Various medications
  • As an age range children between 3 and 12 are affected by night terrors, but the majority of experiences occur in the younger years around the ages of 3 to 7.
  • Up to 15% of all children have this sleep disorder.
  • The older the child the less frequent the night terrors down to only one or two occurrences in the older children
  • Children either do not remember what happened or are unable to explain it the following day
  • There is a higher chance of sleepwalking among children suffering from night terrors
Night Terror Sleep Disorder 2

Night Terror Sleep Disorder Child Having a Night Terror Image 2

Some Night Terror Statistics

  • As an age range children between 3 and 12 are affected by night terrors, but the majority of experiences occur in the younger years around the ages of 3 to 7.
  • Up to 15% of all children have this sleep disorder.
  • The older the child the less frequent the night terrors down to only one or two occurrences in the older children
  • Children either do not remember what happened or are unable to explain it the following day
  • There is a higher chance of sleepwalking among children suffering from night terrors

Night Terror in Adults

Night terrors usually happen in children, but in some cases they can also happen in adults and when this does happen the night terrors are likely to be much more violent.

Those adults who suffer from night terrors also tend to have issues of depression and other psychological issues like anger, anxiety. This is naturally a bad thing, however, this also makes adults easier to treat with medicine such as antidepressants or other relevant medication, which would simply be not applicable for children suffering from night terrors.

In adults the abuse of alcohol can also lead to night terrors and this is also connected to the issues described above.

Treatment of Night Terrors by Prevention


Some very easy and basic steps can be taken to prevent night terrors from happening and avoiding the person from suffering. Luckily night terrors are very predictable by their timing, sort of like a train which is always arriving on time. So it is possible to monitor when the night terrors occur, specifically how many minutes it takes from the point that the person goes to sleep and then once this is clear you can wake him or her up about 15 minutes prior to the night terror sleep disorder happening and keep them awake for some 5 to 10 minutes before going to sleep again. It does not really matter what you do in those 5 to 10 minutes, but one logical step would be just to try to go to the bathroom.

Night Terror Sleep Disorder 3

Night Terror Sleep Disorder Child Having a Night Terror Image 3

Moreover, disciplined sleeping times always help, both with night terrors and many other issues, so it would be a good idea not to stay up late and only sleep when completely exhausted.

Finally, do not allow the children to sleep in the bed of the parents. Comfort and calm them down if they are afraid, but let them return to their own bed to sleep.

Active Treatment for Night Terrors

Some solutions have been offered through hypnosis and various medications, especially for severe cases, but there is no satisfactory treatment or cure which you could administer and get rid of night terrors.  It is much better to take actions through prevention of night terror sleep disorder as described above.

One Comment

  1. so night terrors or sleep terrors CAN be genetically inherited!! i didn’t know that! I wonder who in my family might have this

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