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Night Terrors | Definition and Patient Education

Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; chap Owens JA. Sleep medicine. In: Kliegman RM, St. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. Updated by: Liora C. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Editorial team. Night terrors in children. The cause is unknown, but night terrors may be triggered by: Fever Lack of sleep Periods of emotional tension, stress, or conflict Night terrors are most common in children ages 3 through 7, and much less common after that. Children often scream and are very frightened and confused. They thrash around violently and are often not aware of their surroundings.

The child may be sweating, breathing very fast hyperventilating , have a fast heart rate , and widened dilated pupils. Children with night terrors may also sleep walk. Exams and Tests.

What are night terrors?

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Confusional arousals. REM behavior disorder. Sleep paralysis. Sleep Terrors Also called "night terrors", these episodes are characterized by extreme terror and a temporary inability to attain full consciousness. Previous Section Next Section. Sleep Medicine Center Meet a team of experts who focus on you and your condition.

Night terror

Clinical Trials. Visualize this story a few times a day. This may extinguish the nightmare over time. Sleep terrors are treated differently. I recommend mapping the timing of sleep terrors and setting an alarm before they strike. Ask them to keep track of the time of events so you know when to set the alarm. Wake up with the alarm and go back to sleep.

In some cases, I'll have a patient do an overnight study in a sleep lab, where your behavior will be videotaped and your brain waves, breathing, and heart rate will be monitored.

In more serious cases, sleep terrors can include getting out of bed sleep walking , which can lead to physically harming yourself. They will give you additional advice to make the bedroom safe, like sleeping on the floor, using a sleeping bag, or setting alarms on doors and exits.


Are you having a hard time focusing at work? You might also notice unexplained injuries or bruises from thrashing around during a sleep terror—another sign that you should see your doctor. Serious cases of nightmare disorder, a type of parasomnia, require specialized help like cognitive behavioral therapy. Your doctor will work with you to tackle the source of the nightmares, including trauma, stress or anxiety, alcohol or drugs, or other underlying sleep disorders, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Sleep is one of the body's most important processes, and nightmares and sleep terrors can majorly mess it up. So if you're experiencing either and they aren't going away on their own, talk to your doctor. You won't be stuck in a cycle of bad dreams forever. Nitun Verma, M.

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Nightmares and Night Terrors

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