What is it?

Night terrors, or sleep terrors, refer to episodes of fear, screaming, and flailing during the person's sleep. Sleep terrors are considered parasomnia and may accompany sleepwalking. An episode typically lasts from seconds to a few minutes, but it could also last longer. The condition is more common in children, and in most cases, it goes away by itself in the teenage years. Some factors may increase the risk for night terrors such as sleep deprivation, stress, disturbed sleep, and fever.

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Signs & symptoms

Symptoms may include an episode that begins with a scream, followed by sitting up in bed and appearing frightened, sweating, breathing heavily, and having a rapid pulse. It is difficult to wake someone up during an episode, and if awakened, they seem confused and inconsolable. The next morning, the person does not remember the episode.


Diagnosis is based upon findings from medical history and physical examination. Further evaluation may include polysomnography in which the patient goes to sleep in a sleep lab while being monitored.


Usually, treatment is not necessary. If needed, treatment may include treating an underlying condition, if it exists, addressing stress, anticipatory awakening, and medications.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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