Night terror: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Night terror
Classification and external resources
ICD-10 F51.4
ICD-9 307.46
MeSH D020184
"Pavor Nocturnus" redirects here, for the Sanctuary episode, see Pavor Nocturnus (Sanctuary)

A night terror, also known as a sleep terror or pavor nocturnus, is a parasomnia disorder characterized by extreme terror and a temporary inability to regain full consciousness. The subject wakes abruptly from slow-wave sleep, with waking usually accompanied by gasping, moaning, or screaming. It is often impossible to awaken the person fully, and after the episode the subject normally settles back to sleep without waking. A night terror can rarely be recalled by the subject. They typically occur during non-rapid eye movement sleep.


Common elements

A typical night terror episode usually occurs in the first hour of sleep. The subject sits up in bed and screams, appearing awake but is confused, disoriented, and unresponsive to stimuli. Although the person seems to be awake, they do not seem to be aware of any surrounding presence and usually do not talk. The person may thrash around in bed and does not respond to comforting by others. A person's heart rate can escalate during the terror, along with sweating and harsh breathing.[1]

Most episodes last only a few minutes, but they may last up to 3 hours before the person relaxes and returns to normal sleep.

In some cases the night terror could be recalled by the person, depending on age and the nature of the episode.

In children

Children from age two to six are most prone to night terrors, and they affect about fifteen percent of all children,[1] although people of any age may experience them. Episodes may recur for a couple of weeks then suddenly disappear. The symptoms also tend to be different, like the child being able to recall the experience, and while nearly arisen, hallucinate. Strong evidence has shown that a predisposition to night terrors and other parasomniac disorders can be passed genetically. Though there are a multitude of triggers, emotional stress during the previous day and a high fever are thought to precipitate most episodes. Ensuring the right amount of sleep is an important factor. Night terrors may also be caused by stress and constipation and other irregular bowel movements or lack thereof.

Special consideration must be used when the subject suffers from narcolepsy, as there may be a link.

In adults

Though the symptoms of night terrors in adolescents and adults are similar, the etiology, prognosis and treatment are qualitatively different. These night terrors can occur each night if the sufferer does not eat a proper diet, get the appropriate amount of sleep, is enduring stressful events in their life or if they remain untreated. Adult night terrors are much less common, often trauma-based rather than genetic, chronic, and often respond to treatment in the form of psychotherapy and antidepressant medication. There is some evidence of a link between adult night terrors and hypoglycemia.[1]

In addition to night terrors, some adult night terror sufferers have many of the characteristics of abused and depressed individuals including inhibition of aggression,[2] self-directed anger,[2] passivity,[3] anxiety, impaired memory,[4] and the ability to ignore pain.[5]


Since night terrors are most commonly triggered by being overtired, sometimes no treatment is necessary except for a bedtime schedule that ensures proper sleep. If the night terrors are more frequent, however, it has been suggested that the sufferer should be awakened from sleep just before the time when the terrors occur most to interrupt the sleep cycle. [1]

See also


  • Carranza, Christopher. Banishing Night Terrors and Nightmares Kensington Books, 2004.


  1. ^ a b c Iannelli, Vincent (March 23, 2003). "Night Terrors". Retrieved 2007-06-04.  From
  2. ^ a b Kales, J; Kales A, Soldatos CR, Caldwell AB, Charney DS & Martin ED (1980). "Night terrors. Clinical characteristics and personality patterns". Archives of General Psychiatry 37 (12): 1413–17. PMID 7447622. Retrieved 2007-05-31. 
  3. ^ Kales, JC; Cadieux RJ, Soldatos CR & Kales A. (1982). "Psychotherapy with night terror patients". American Journal of Psychotherapy 36 (3): 399–407. PMID 7149087. Retrieved 2007-05-31. 
  4. ^ Horowitz, MJ (1999). Essential papers on posttraumatic stress disorder. New York University Press. ISBN 0-8147-3559-2. 
  5. ^ Chu, J (2001). Rebuilding Shattered Lives: The Responsible Treatment of Complex Post-Traumatic and Dissociative Disorders. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0471247324. 

External links

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address