NIGHT TERRORS IN CHILDREN

Updated September 10, 1998

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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?

Some children have episodes of night terror that may occur less than once per month, and do not result in harm to the child or others. While some children experience episodes less than once per week, and do not result in harm to the child or others. In its severest form, the episodes occur almost nightly, or are associated with physical injury to the child or others. Consult a sleep specialist if you are concerned.


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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