Night Terrors in Adults: Symptoms and Treatment

Ever awakened from sleep in a terrified stage during the first third of the night usually around 2:00 in the morning? If this happens to a person, he or she might be experiencing night terror disorder. One might say that it is a nightmare but it is a totally different thing.

By definition, night terrors or sleep disorders is the event that a person awakens from a sleep in a frightened stage that occurs during the first third of the night while in contrast, nightmares are commonly experienced early in the morning. Nightmares happen when a person watches a horror movie and the frightening scene or part was retained into the person’s mind. A person might remember the details of the horrifying scene and dream upon awakening, and will not be disoriented after the episode.

Night terrors or sleep terrors have unknown reasons why it occurs however, it might be triggered by fever, periods of emotional tension, lack of sleep, conflict, or stress. This is common in boys that ages between 5-7 years old, sometimes it can also occur to girls this age. Also common to children ages 3-7 and occurs less as the age increases. It is also can be inherited and run through families generation by generation. It can happen to adults especially when under the influence of alcohol or with emotional tension.

The symptoms of sleep terrors are:

• Children usually scream and very frightened, and sometimes confused. They trash out violently and do not know what is happening in the environment.
• A child that is experiencing night terrors or sleep terrors is unable to talk to, comfort, or fully awaken.
• The child may be breathing very fast or hyperventilating, sweating, having a fast heart beat rate, and have dilated pupils.
• This may last for about 10-20 minutes and after that the person might go back to normal sleep.
• Children experiencing from this might have not recover a memory from what happened last night when they wake up in the morning.
• Children with night terrors might sleep walk.

In most cases, person especially children having night terrors do not require a further examination or tests. However, if the night terrors prolonged and happens frequently the person might need a psychological evaluation.

Commonly, a child who experience from sleep terrors only needs comfort and reassurance, seeks attention, and love. Psychotherapy might be applied for special cases and benzodiazepine medications used in bedtime will help ease the night terrors experience by someone.

Most children outgrow sleep terrors in no time. Usually, they don’t remember the event. Stress reduction or psychotherapy may be helpful to lessen the night terrors.

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