Sleep Night terror

Sleep terror disorder is defined as repeated temporary arousal from sleep, during which the affected person appears and acts extremely frightened.

Sleep terror disorder is sometimes referred to as pavor nocturnus when it occurs in children, and incubus when it occurs in adults. Sleep terrors are also sometimes called night terrors, though sleep terror is the preferred term, as episodes can occur during daytime naps as well as at night. Sleep terror is a disorder that primarily affects children, although a small number of adults are affected as well.


The causes of sleep terror are for the most part unknown. Some researchers suggest that sleep terrors are caused by a delay in the maturation of the child's central nervous system. Such factors as sleep deprivation, psychological stress, and fever may also trigger episodes of sleep terror.


The symptoms of sleep terror are very similar to the physical symptoms of extreme fear. These include rapid heartbeat, sweating, and rapid breathing (hyperventilation). The heart rate can increase up to two to four times the person's regular rate. Sleep terrors cause people to be jolted into motion, often sitting up suddenly in bed. People sometimes scream or cry. The person's facial expression may be fearful.

People experiencing sleep terror disorder sometimes get out of bed and act as if they are fighting or fleeing something. During this time injuries can occur. Cases have been reported of people falling out of windows or falling down stairs during episodes of sleep terror.

People experiencing sleep terror are not fully awake. They are nearly impossible to bring to consciousness or comfort, and sometimes respond violently to attempts to console or restrain them. In many cases, once the episode is over the person returns to sleep without ever waking fully. People often do not have any recollection of the episode after later awaking normally, although they may recall a sense of fear.

Episodes of sleep terror usually occur during the first third of a person's night sleep, although they can occur even during naps taken in the daytime. The average sleep terror episode lasts less than 15 minutes. Usually only one episode occurs per night, but in some cases terror episodes occur in clusters. It is unusual for a person to have many episodes in a single night, although upwards of 40 have been reported. Most persons with the disorder have only one occurrence per week, or just a few per month.

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