Please be patient! It may take up to ONE minute to load all the Engines.
Problems? Please contact our support.
Alternative namesNight terrors are a sleep disorder involving abrupt awakening from sleep in a terrified state.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
The normal sleep cycle involves distinct stages from light drowsiness to deep sleep. REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is a different type of sleep, where the eyes move rapidly and vivid dreaming is most common. During a night, there will be several cycles of non-REM and REM sleep.
Night terror (sleep terror) occurs during Stage 3 and Stage 4 sleep (deep sleep). The cause is unknown but night terrors are commonly associated with periods of emotional tension , stress , or conflict.
Night terrors occur usually in the first half of the night heralded by a scream. The child does not usually remember the details of the scare. Nightmares are normal on occasion, especially after frightening movies/TV shows or emotional situations.
Signs and testsIn many cases, no further examination or testing is necessary. If night terror is severe or prolonged, psychologic evaluation may be appropriate.
TreatmentIn many cases, comfort and reassurance are the only treatment required. Psychotherapy or counseling may be appropriate in some cases. Benzodiazepine medications (such as diazepam) used at bedtime will often reduce night terrors; however, medication is not usually recommended to treat this disorder. A safe over-the-counter drug, Benadryl elixir (diphenhydramine), given 1 hour before bedtime may reduce the incidence of night terror.
Expectations (prognosis)Most children outgrow night terrors. There is usually no recall of the event. Stress reduction and/or psychotherapy may be helpful for night terror in adults.
Calling your health care providerCall for an appointment with your health care provider if night terror is persistent or frequent, and/or occurs often enough to regularly disrupt sleep.
Also call if other symptoms accompany night terror; or if the night terror causes, or almost causes, injuries.
PreventionMinimizing stress or using coping mechanisms may reduce night terrors. The number of episodes usually decreases after age 10.
Update Date: 10/23/2003Elaine T. Kiriakopoulos, M.D., M.Sc., Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard University, Boston, MA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT