Sleep Terrors:
(from Latin: pavor nocturnus) terror during and following partial arousals from sleep, most typically from the deep (NREM) stages of sleep. Also called Night Terrors, it is a parasomnia in which a person behaves in an extremely frightened and confused way because they are not fully awake or asleep. It is very common in children, although some adults experience them.


      This parasomnia has been labeled as one of three "classical" arousal disorders, along with sleepwalking and confusional arousals because it occurs during the transition from sleep to wakefulness. Episodes arise dramatically, after a cycle of deep sleep, usually in the first third of the night. Adult episodes tend to occur at any time during the sleep cycle.
      The person typically sits up in bed with a loud scream followed by sounds or "words" that others do not understand. Their eyes may be wide open, skin may be sweaty, and heart racing. Kicking and thrashing are common. Adults have been known to leave the bed and engage in violent actions.
     It is difficult to awaken someone from an episode or get them to respond to voices. Episodes last from 5 to 15 minutes, but can last for one half hour or more. Upon awakening, most people remember nothing of the experience. Residual confusion or fear may take time to overcome, especially for children. 


      Sleep Terrors  in children do not require medical intervention, unless their behavior becomes too aggressive for parents to manage. Adults with sleep terrors often have medical or psychiatric conditions that require evaluation.
    Diagnosis begins with a careful medical history to determine whether the episodes are secondary to another health condition, or a side effect of medication. Providing a two week sleep log
of your sleep habits (or those of your child) and possibly video tapes will demonstrate the aggressive behavior to your doctor or sleep specialist. An overnight sleep study will be key to conclusively identifying this sleep disorder, which can look similar to sleepwalking and confusional arousals.
     The sleep study involves an overnight polysomnogram, which records brainwaves, muscular activity and breathing during sleep. The sleep study may also record your sleep on videotape.


    Sleep Terrors in children tend to resolve on their own by the teen years. When secondary to another problem, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), terrors arise because sleep is being fragmented. Treating the underlying problem may then be enough to restore normal sleep patterns.     
Behavioral Modification is an important part of treating both adults and children.
Healthy Sleep Habits will eliminate unnecessary interruptions during sleep. Limiting or avoiding the use of alcohol, especially dure evening hours, may also help. Parents can take specific measures to ensure their child's safety during an episode.

>  Keep in mind that your child will not remember the episode.
>  Respond in a calm, reassuring manner to avoid frightening her.
>  Try not to awaken your child.
>  Watch over your child until she returns to sleep.

Sleep Terror Mechanics

     Sleep is divided into stages or degrees of sleep. The brain behaves differently during each sleep stage. Like other NREM Arousal Disorders, Sleep Terrors occur during stages 3-4 of NREM sleep, the deepest sleep. Episodes of Sleep Terrors may look alot like a bad nightmare. However, NREM sleep is not associated with much dreaming. Areas of the brain involved with strong emotion become "awakened" or activated, while other areas remain asleep. However, they are not activated enough to render the person fully conscious of the behavior, nor is the episode likely to be remembered.

Suggested Downlaods

Things That Go Bump
Sleep Terrors