Doctor's Notes on Night Terrors
Night terrors are a sleep disorder most commonly seen in children aged 3 to 12. Night terrors are not the same thing as nightmares. Night terrors occur in a different stage of sleep than nightmares, and night terrors are characterized by frequent and recurrent episodes of intense fear with crying during sleep. It is difficult to arouse or awaken a child with night terrors. The exact cause of night terrors is not well understood, but they may be related to fever, stressful events, sleep deprivation, or taking certain medications
Symptoms of night terrors include crying, fear, confusion, disorientation, and difficulty waking. Associated symptoms and signs can include an increased breathing rate (tachypnea) and an increase in heart rate (tachycardia). Most children do not remember an episode of night terrors. The affected child may scream, appear awake, and sit up in bed.
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Disorders That Disrupt Sleep (Parasomnias)Parasomnias are sleep problems that significantly disrupt the lives of those who suffer them. Parasomnias include speech and movements during sleep, sleep walking, night terrors, sleep paralysis , and abnomalities in the natural stages of sleep, among other problems. These problems are diagnosed through polysomnography (sleep testing), and can be treated with a combination of medications, sleep hygiene depending on the particular disorder.
NightmaresNightmares occur from time to time in many children, but they are most common in preschoolers (children aged 3 to 6 years) because this is the age at which normal fears develop. Practicing good sleep hygiene and other strategies can help eliminate nightmares.
Sleep and Sleep Disorders in ChildrenSleep and sleep disorders may be affected by a variety of factors. Learn about the different types of sleep disorders as well as symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment.
Sleep Basics (How To Get a Good Night's Sleep)Sleep is defined as a state of unconsciousness from which a person can be aroused. In this state, the brain is relatively more responsive to internal stimuli than external stimuli. Sleep deprivation has many deleterious effects on the body. Sleep apnea and sleep paralysis are two common kinds of sleep disorders. Several activities can help one to fall asleep fast.
Sleepwalk (Somnambulism)Sleepwalking is a sleep disorder or "parasomnia." It is characterized by complex action and walking during sleep. This is common in children in early and middle adolescence. The sleepwalker doesn't remember what happens during these episodes.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.