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Night Terrors in Children | Pavor Nocturnus

Night terrors in children also known as Pavor Nocturnus is a common sleep disorder caused due to the arousal of a specific part of the brain. This condition is found with an increased frequency during the first few years of the child. The frequency of night terrors, usually decrease in number or go away completely by the time adolescence is reached.

Around 15% of the child population suffer from this condition. Most children experience an episode or two of night terrors in a month, but the condition is frequent in about 3% of the population. Night terrors in children affect both male and female children equally.

Night terrors in Children – Information and Symptoms

Child showing an episode of night terror

Night terrors in children, is a sleeping disorder which causes a feeling of dread or terror in children. It occurs due to the arousal of the brain. You should not confuse this disorder with nightmares which are just bad dreams. This condition usually occurs at the first third of the night (between 12am and 2am)

Night terror symptoms you may observe in your child:

  • Children usually bolt upright with their eyes wide open.
  • They thrash around in a violent manner, have a look of panic and fear and scream.
  • Increased sweating.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Increased breathing rate.
  • Children suffering from the condition will also be extremely confused during the episode, will not be consolable and will usually not recognise others.
  • Finally after the night terror episode is passed, the child will usually go back to sleep with no memory of the episode.

Sleep Walking in Children – A Serious Symptom!

Sleep walking in children is a symptom which a few children who suffer from night terrors show. This occurs because the part of the brain that controls motor function is aroused. Children can simply walk around in their room or even leave the house during an episode. To ensure that sleep walking in children does not harm them, the door to their rooms should be locked and the windows closed. Additionally any object which they may use to hurt themselves should be removed. Sleep walking and night terrors in children may be related to each other since both are caused due to the arousal of a specific part of the brain.

VIDEO: “Night Terrors: How to Identify and What to Do “

Little girl who suffers from night terror

Little girl having a night terror

MD Henry Shapiro advising and explaining about night terrors

Sleep Paralysis in Children:

Sleep paralysis is a sleeping condition which a few children suffer from. Those who suffer from it will not be able to move for long periods, speak for long periods. The condition is considered to be hereditary and can be brought on by stress. You should consult your doctor for medication and treatments if your child suffers from this condition.

Causes of Night Terrors:

While the exact cause of the condition may not be pin pointed, it is usually caused due to:

  • Pavor Nocturnus (night terrors) has a strong genetic component; it usually runs in families and is transferred via parents to their children.
  • A period of emotional stress and conflict and tension.
  • In some cases a fever may set off the terror episode.
  • At times even the lack of sleep causes night terrors in children.

Treatments for night terrors in children are many, based on the frequency of the episode, how much it affects the peaceful sleep of the child your doctor may prescribe different cures.

Different Treatment Options:

Usually the cause of night terrors in children is overtiredness. In such cases no action needs to be taken other than creating a sleep timetable which allows for adequate sleep. However if the night terrors occurs on a regular basis, other symptoms such as sleep paralysis, sleep walking occurs then you should contact your paediatrician for help.

Treatments which usually work are:

  1. Comfort and care from the parents of the child.
  2. Reducing daily stress, tension.
  3. Counselling and talk therapy.
  4. In rare cases, benzodiazepine medication may be prescribed.

These night terrors cause no physical or psychological damage to the child. Thus if the condition occurs rarely without sleep walking and sleep paralysis, the best cure would be to offer care and support since children usually grow out of the condition as they reach adolescence.

Night terrors in children is a disorder which unless very frequent you do not need to worry about.


  1. A friend of mine’s kid has night terrors, but you know it is really very difficult to tell if she has a sleep disorder or she is just misbehaving. Sometimes I don’t buy into the disorder business…

  2. I am reading more on night terrors and Pavor Nocturnus because of my baby and I just wanted to say this was a very nice article – thank you

  3. just to look at that cute little girl and think that she is having night terrors makes me very sad inside

  4. what a cute little girl, i just can not imagine her suffering from something like night terrors (or anything else for that matter)
    i hope she is completely ok now