Night terrors

General or Other | - Others | Night terrors (Disease)


A night terror, also known as a sleep terror, incubus attack, or pavor nocturnus, is a parasomnia disorder, causing feelings of terror or dread, and typically occurring in the first few hours of sleep during stage 3 or 4 non-rapid eye movement NREM sleep. However, they can also occur during daytime naps. Night terrors should not be confused with nightmares, which are bad dreams that cause feelings of horror or fear.

Causes and Risk factors

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, nightmares are relatively common during childhood. However, night terrors may occur less frequently. An estimated 1%-6% of children and less than 1% of adults will experience a night terror episode within their lifetime. Sleep terrors begin between ages 4 and 12 years and then usually dissipate during adolescence. The most common age for sleep terrors in adults are ages 20 and 30 years which are chronic in severity and frequency with the episodes waning over time. Though the frequency varies between individuals the episodes can occur in intervals of days or weeks, but can also occur over consecutive nights.

Diagnosis and Treatment

In many cases, no further examination or testing is needed. If the night terror is severe or prolonged, the child may need a psychological evaluation.

In many cases, a child who has a night terror only needs to be comforted. Reducing stress or using coping mechanisms may reduce night terrors. Talk therapy or counseling may be needed in some cases.

Benzodiazepine medicines (such as diazepam) used at bedtime will often reduce night terrors, but are rarely used to treat this disorder.


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