One of the less talked about sleep disorders, night terrors typically affect children around the ages of 3 to 12 years old, and can have serious consequences if not treated properly. During an episode of night terrors, a person may scream, feel intense fear, and flail uncontrollably. Having night terror is distinctly different from having a regular nightmare and is considered a parasomnia, or an undesired occurrence during sleep. It is estimated that approximately 1% to 6% of children experience night terrors, and this occurs equally across all demographics. With that in mind, here is some information about night terrors and what treatments you can seek if night terrors are disrupting your normal family life.
Causes of Night Terrors
There are many reasons that night terrors may occur. These include going to bed while stressed out, sleeping in places you are not familiar with, going to bed with a full bladder or specifically for children, having a fever. However, in cases with adults, night terrors can be caused by underlying disorders, including restless leg syndrome and migraines. Once treatment is given for those underlying issues, night terrors will likely dissipate as well.
Symptoms of Night Terrors
Night terrors differ pretty substantially from nightmares. During nightmares, a person will wake up from the dream and will likely remember some details of the dream. However, during an episode of night terrors, a person remains asleep and in some cases, may even get up in bed and run around the house as though being afflicted by the content of the nightmares. Fortunately, occasional night terrors are not a serious cause for concern among children, but in prolonged cases, treatment may be necessary.
Treatment for Night Terrors
If you feel there is cause and concern, a medical professional will be able to diagnose the underlying cause using your complete medical history and a physical examination. However, in some cases, it may be necessary to have a electroencephalogram or polysomnography performed to measure and determine brain activity during sleep.
While there are no medical procedures or specific medication that can be used to quell night terrors, it most definitely helps to eliminate stressful factors and to maintain a highly consistent sleep schedule. The best thing you can do is to become informed and education about the sleep disorder in order to help your child or loved one and mitigate risk factors that are associated with the disorder.