Night terrors or Sleep terrors

Night terrors or sleep terrors, also called as Parasomnias are night-time events seen in young children which can be disturbing and frightening to parents.

What are night terrors or sleep terrors?
Night terrors or sleep terrors are usually seen 2-3 hours after the child goes to sleep [around midnight]. The child suddenly wakes up from sleep. During night terrors or sleep terrors the child is very agitated, frightened and confused. Night terrors or sleep terrors involves extreme crying and/or screaming. During night terrors or sleep terrors the child has increased heart rate and breathing rate.


Does my child any investigations for night terrors or sleep terrors?
Investigations are not required routinely in children having night terrors or sleep terrors. Home taping are very helpful. Sleep study or polysomnography is required for children when there is a concern about another underlying sleep disorder (e.g., sleep-apnea, periodic limb movements, etc) or there is a doubt of a seizure.

What should I do at the time of the night terrors or sleep terrors event?
Night terrors or sleep terrors could be very frightening for parents. Usually the parents would try to wake-up and soothe the child. As child is totally unaware of his or her behavior during night terrors or sleep terrors, avoid awakening the child. The child should be guided back to bed. Next-day discussions should be avoided with the child.

What is the treatment for night terrors or sleep terrors?
Treatment is not needed in majority of children with night terrors or sleep terrors. Medicines might be needed in children having frequent or severe episodes, high risk of injury or violent behaviors.

Will my child grow out of night terrors or sleep terrors?
Most children naturally stop experiencing sleep terrors in childhood. By age 8 years, 50% of children with night terrors or sleep terrors no longer experience episodes, and most cases resolve spontaneously following puberty. However, about 10% of children continue to experience night terrors or sleep terrors.

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