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Can Night Terrors be Prevented?

Night Terror or sleep terror  is one of the most common type of  sleep disorders in which there are episodes of fear, flailing, and screaming during sleep. In this sleep disorder, the person quickly wakes from his or her sleep in a terrified state, appearing awake but is confused, disoriented, unresponsive to stimuli, and can’t recall anything about their sleep terror the morning they wake up. Adults can also be affected with night terrors, and adults can sometimes recall fragments of their dream during an episode of sleep terror. An episode of night terror will usually last a few seconds and may last up to 30 minutes.

Who gets Night Terrors?

Child crying during night terror episode.

A small percentage of children, approximately 1% to 6% are only affected with night terror. Boys ages 5 years old to 7 years old are more common to experience night terrors, than girls with the same age. Both girls and boys ages 3 years old to 7 years old are fairly affected with night terrors. As children grow, the sleep disorder usually resolves during adolescence.

Causes of Night Terrors:

The exact cause for night terrors is unknown, however, it is believed that there are several triggering factors and situations that can trigger an episode of night terrors in children while asleep. These may include:

  • Deprivation of sleep
  • Hyperthermia or Fever
  • Stressful events in school
  • Anxiety (Fear of the Unknown)
  • Sleeping in an unfamiliar room or place
  • Witnessed emotional tension and conflicts within the family
  • Light source in the room
  • Disturbing noise while asleep
  • Consuming too much caffeinated beverage, such as Sodas
  • There are also certain medications that can trigger episodes of night terrors, including antihistamines (Benadryl or Claritin), sedative, and sleeping pills.

Sometimes, sleep terror can be caused by an underlying medical condition/s, including:

  • Migraines
  • Head Abnormalities or Injuries
  • Breathing Sleep Disorders – abnormal breathing patterns while asleep, such as obstructive sleep apnea can trigger episode of night terrors.

How to Prevent Night Terror Episodes:

Night terrors don’t usually have any harmful effects to children. There are no specific ways to prevent episodes of night terrors, since the exact cause for night terrors is not known. Making sure that the child will get enough hours of sleep with a regular bedtime schedule, avoiding too much consumption of caffeinated beverages, providing a relaxing and safe environment, and managing other medical conditions that may have caused night terrors can help in preventing future night terror episodes.