Parasomnias are any sleeping disorder that causes unnatural or unusual
behavior, movements, or emotions during sleep.
parasomnia disorders, including sleepwalking,
occur during changes in
cycles, most commonly when coming out of deep sleep into the
is true of sleep terrors, as they almost always
occur following a slight arousal from the later stages of non-REM
sleep, and most commonly during
the first few hours of sleep, when the
person spends more of their time in these deeper stages of sleep.
Just as with sleepwalking, when a night terror occurs, the person is
usually in a semi-conscious
state somewhere in between sleep and
wakefulness. This is one of the major factors in most parasomnia
disorders, and the person will usually remain mostly asleep, even if
their eyes are open and they are speaking or moving around.
Usually Experiences Sleep Terrors?
other similar disorders, this condition is most common among
children, affecting somewhere between 1 and 6 percent of
population. In most cases, the child will start experiencing terrors
somewhere between the ages of 3 and 12, before they slowly dissipate
somewhere around 1 percent of the adult
population also suffers from this disorder. Often people who experience
sleep terrors also suffer from another
parasomnia disorder, usually
sleepwalking, or at least have some family
history of sleepwalking,
terrors, or other similar disorders.
Some factors that are thought to increase the likelihood of a night
terror episode, especially in children, include excessive tiredness
sleep deprivation. In addition, being disturbed during sleep is also a
major factor, so you should try to ensure to eliminate any factors that
could wake them up, such as anxiety
or loud noises.
Terrors vs. Normal Nightmares
Most of us are familiar
with nightmares, and until recently it was usually impossible to
determine the differences between a simple nightmare and a night
terror. The main difference is that nightmares
occur during the lighter stages of sleep, which are also
when most dreams occur.
a person awakes up from a nightmare or a bad dream, they are
typically able to recall the dream and can usually be quickly calmed
back down and fall asleep again. However, sleep terrors occur while the
person is still deep asleep, meaning that no matter how severe the
symptoms are, the person usually
never remembers the episode in the
semi-conscious state leads to the person being nearly
impossible to console. In addition, they are often not aware of their
surroundings and unable to recognize the people around them.
of Sleep Terrors
you've never seen a person experiencing a terror episode, it can be
frightening to watch, especially when it happens to your
symptoms can vary quite a bit, but most often the person
will suddenly sit
upright in bed with a look of sheer terror on their
may also start crying or
screaming, while being completely
unaware of where they are or unable to recognize even their own parents
due to the fact that they're
not actually awake.
Other common signs of these terrors can include excessive sweating,
breathing and an increased
heart rate. In many cases, the person
will also thrash about, sometimes punching, kicking, or even trying to
flee. This is especially true when they are awoken in the middle of the
episode, and many people have been injured by flying limbs when awaking
a child experiencing one of these episodes.
of the time, the
person will have either completely forgotten the episode in the
morning, or only be able to faintly recall a sleep disturbance.
to Do When Someone is Experiencing a Night Terror
suddenly woken up by your child or partner screaming and
thrashing about can be incredibly disconcerting to watch, but the most
important thing is to not
attempt to wake the person up until after the
episode is over. Most terrors only last for a few seconds of minutes at
most, at which point you can then wake them up.
If you attempt to wake up a
person during one of these episodes, they
may become even more
agitated and confused, often not recognizing their
own family members. This can make them even more difficult to console
and often causes them to strike out at whoever woke them up.
After the episode is over, you should gently wake the person and begin
consoling them. You need to make sure to fully wake them up,
allow them to fall back asleep immediately, or else they may quickly
experience another episode if they quickly fall back into a deep
is why many experts recommend making
your child get up to go to
the bathroom, as this is a good way to ensure they wake
up, while also
reducing the possibility that their sleep will again be interrupted.
and Treating Night Terrors
best news for any parent with a child that frequently experiences
night terrors is the fact that they are almost certain to outgrow the
problem as they enter adolescence. Still, this does
eliminate the problem immediately. Therefore, there are a few things
you can do if your child often experiences terrors while sleeping.
The first thing is to discuss
the problem with your doctor, at which
time they may decide to test your child for other problems that might
be leading to the terrors. In some cases, treating these other issues
can eliminate the terrors.
If your doctor cannot find any other problems, then all you can do is
try to manage the disorder as well as possible, by ensuring your child
has a good
sleeping pattern and trying to eliminate anything that might
disturb their sleep. With any luck, the terrors should eventually go
away and you'll never again have to watch your child suffering while
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