Night terrors, also called sleep terrors, are aptly named, as they involve screaming or flailing during sleep. Children tend to experience the most night terrors, usually from ages 4-12. Although it is rare, adults can experience night terrors as well. A night terror episode tends to last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes long. Unlike with nightmares, people who undergo night terrors remain asleep and tend not to remember them.
Read on to learn more about night terrors, from common symptoms to recommended treatments.
Symptoms of Night Terrors
- Screaming or shouting
- Thrashing and kicking about, occasionally even running around the house
- Sitting up in bed
- Difficult to awaken from sleep
- Violent behavior
- Quickened heartbeat, sweating, and heavy breathing
Risk Factors of Night Terrors
If you have a family history of night terrors, you are more likely to experience them yourself. Also, if you suffer from depression or anxiety, you may be at a higher risk.
Causes of Night Terrors
- Stress or anxiety
- Sleeping in an unfamiliar place
- Loud noise or bright lights
- Sleep deprivation
- Fever (most common in children)
- Sleep-disordered breathing like obstructive sleep apnea
- Migraines or head injuries
- Heavy drug or alcohol use
- Sedatives and sleep-aids
Treatments for Night Terrors
Night terrors often subside with time, rendering treatment unnecessary. If you child suffers from night terrors, simply gently coax them back to sleep. Night terrors in adults may result from a deeper issue, like a medical condition or sleep-related disorder. In these cases, your doctor may try to treat the underlying problem in hopes of reducing your night terrors. Occasionally, antidepressants help decrease night terrors, although medication is often not suggested by doctors for treating night terrors.