Night Terrors | Causes Of Night Terrors | Characteristics Of Night Terrors

Night Terrors - Causes And Characteristics

Causes Of Night Terrors

A disruption in the normal sleep cycle causes night terrors.

Since it is during stage-3 and stage-4 sleep that children experience these bouts of terror much differently than they do in a nightmare.

Nightmares occur during earlier sleep stages; especially REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and children do not appear awake.

There is a link between night terrors and stressful situations or lack of sleep. Problems at home or school can also be to blame.

Night terrors are a hereditary problem and take place in about 2% of children. It is as if the child is having a bad dream during deep sleep and cannot wake up. Night terrors are not caused by psychological pressure, but they seem to be connected with being over exhausted.

Night terrors strike children, usually between the ages of 3 years and 8 years. They rarely occur in older children, adolescents and adults. In both adults and children, night terrors may be caused by unsettled psychological conflicts, upsetting events or tiredness.

In children, traumas such as the loss of a beloved toy, overhearing a loud dispute between parents, watching scenes of violence on television or listening to terrifying stories could trigger a night terror.

In most cases, night terrors happen after a hectic event or a lack of sleep. In rare cases, some of these afflicted people experience years of disturbed sleep. While rare, some adults are overwhelmed by night terrors and can even experience night terrors throughout their lives.

In severe cases of night terrors that occur regularly and for a prolonged time in adults, there could be psychological problems and/or the presence of extreme stress.

Characteristics Of Night Terrors:

  • The child seems frightened, but cannot be awakened or comforted.
  • The child may sit up in bed, or walk around the room, screaming or talking senselessly.
  • The child doesn't acknowledge you, his eyes may be wide open but he seems to stare right through you.
  • Objects or persons in the room might look scary for the child.
  • Episodes usually last between 10 and 30 minutes.
  • Usually occur in children 1 to 8 years old.
  • The child cannot remember the episode in the morning.
  • Usually happens within 2 hours of falling asleep.
  • Night terrors are harmless and each episode will end on its own.
  • The heartbeat may become faster
  • The child may be in confusion and sweating


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