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?

Associated features include:

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.

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.


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