Night Terrors Overview
The sleep disorder of
night terrors typically occurs in children aged 3-12 years, with a peak onset in children aged 3½ years.
Sleep is divided into 2 categories: rapid eye movement
(REM) and nonrapid eye movement (non-REM). Non-REM sleep is further divided into
4 stages, progressing from stages 1-4. Night terrors occur during the transition
from stage 3 non-REM sleep to stage 4 non-REM sleep, beginning approximately 90 minutes after the child falls asleep.
Night terrors are distinctly different from the much more common nightmares, which occur during REM sleep. Night terrors are characterized by frequent recurrent episodes of intense crying and fear during sleep, with difficulty arousing the child. Night terrors are frightening episodes that disrupt family life.
An estimated 1-6% of children experience night terrors. Boys and girls are equally affected. Children of all races also seem to be affected equally. The disorder usually resolves during adolescence.
Carmel Armon, MD, MHS, MSc
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