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What to Know About Night Terrors

Night terrors, or sleep terrors, are a type of sleep disorder that causes you to suddenly jolt awake from your sleep in a panic. They’re often extremely frightening, and unfortunately, adults and children alike experience them on occasion. If you have night terrors, they will likely disrupt your sleep regularly and cause you to lose sleep when they occur. Although it may seem like they’re keeping you from getting enough rest, they generally aren’t harmful and won’t cause long-term effects on your health. Instead, they’re more of an annoyance than anything else. The good news is that there are many ways to prevent or reduce the frequency of night terrors if they continue to be a problem for you. In this article, we’ll explore the symptoms of night terrors, what causes them, how frequently they occur, and how you can cope better with them moving forward.

What is a Night Terror? A night terror is a sleep disorder that causes you to suddenly wake up in a panic in the middle of the night. They are also sometimes referred to as sleepwalking, although they are different from sleepwalking in a few key ways. The main difference between night terrors and sleepwalking is that people who experience sleepwalking are partially awake and can be spoken to and interacted with. Those who experience night terrors, however, are in a state of extreme sleep deprivation and are often confused, disoriented, and unable to respond to others. People who experience sleepwalking will remember the episode and often have no recollection of the episode. By comparison, those who experience night terrors have no memory of the episode whatsoever. Another key difference between the two is that people who experience sleepwalking can be woken up and will often return to their normal sleep patterns after being awakened. Night terrors, however, are a disorder and cannot be woken up from.

(Image credit: Scripps)

How Frequently Do Night Terrors Occur?

The frequency of night terrors varies between people and will likely be different for everyone. Some people may experience them only a few times in their lives, while others may experience them on a regular or even frequent basis. The frequency of night terrors can vary based on a number of factors, including how well rested you are, how old you are, your general stress level, and if you are taking any medications. Night terrors are most common in children between the ages of 2 and 8 years old. Their frequency then decreases in adulthood but may increase again as one gets older.