Symptoms and Signs of Night Terrors

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

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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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.