ADULT NIGHT TERRORS
Updated November 6, 1998
See our updated article on sleep terrors (pavor nocturnus) at the new Stanford Sleep and Dreams site.
What are Night Terrors?
Night Terrors ar characterized by a sudden arousal from slow wave sleep with a piercing scream or cry, accompanied by autonomic (Controlled by the part of the nervous system that regulates motor functions of the heart, lungs, etc.) and behavioral manifestations of intense fear. Also known as Pavor Nocturnus, incubus, severe autonomic discharge, sleep terror.
What are the symptoms of Night Terrors?
- A sudden episode of intense terror during sleep
- The episodes usually occur within the first third of the night
- Partial or total amnesia occurs for the events during the episode.
Associated features include:
- Polysomnographic monitoring demonstrates the onset of episodes during stage 3 or 4 sleep
- Tachycardia (rapid beating of the heart) usually occurs in association with the episodes.
- Other medical disorders are not the cause of the episode, e.g., epilepsy
- Other sleep disorders can be present, e.g., nightmares, sleep panic attacks, sleep apnea.
How serious are Night Terrors?
If injuries are occuring, it is important to consult a sleep specialist. Night terrors in adults is not normal. Children generally have them, but they ten to grow out of it.
- Some adults have episodes of night terror that may occur less than once per month, and do not result in harm to the individual or others.
- Some adults experience episodes less than once per week, and it does not result in harm to the individual or others.
- In its severest form, the episodes occur almost nightly, or are associated with physical injury to the individual or others.
Diagnostic Classification Steering Committee, Thorpy MJ, Chairman. International Classification of Sleep Disorders: Diagnostic and Coding Manual. Rochester, Minnesota: American Sleep Disorders Association, 1990.
Kryger, Meir H., Roth, Thomas, Dement, William C. Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine, 2nd Edition. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: W.B. Saunders Company, 1994.
RESOURCES AND ARTICLES ON NIGHT TERRORS
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