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Night Terrors: What Really Causes This Sleep Disorder

What Causes Night Terrors
Why do people have night terrors? What causes them? Read on to find out.
SleepHearty Staff
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
Night terrors or sleep terrors are a sleep disorder in which one may suddenly wake up in fright, panic, or unexplained anxiety. It occurs in the third or fourth stage of non-rapid eye movement sleep. But what causes night terrors?
  • Lack of sleep
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Fever
  • Extreme tiredness or fatigue
  • Migraine
  • Head injury
  • Abnormal breathing patterns during sleep
  • Disturbances during sleep such as noise, bright light, or sleeping in an unfamiliar setup
  • Excessive intake of caffeine, addiction to alcohol or drugs
  • Certain medications (those affecting the central nervous system)
Night terrors are generally observed in kids within the age group of 3 and 12. Statistics say that about 1-6% children experience them. This sleep disorder is generally resolved by the time the child reaches adolescence.

Unless the child is at risk, do not try to deliberately awake him/her. You may opt for hypnosis in severe cases. It is always advisable to consult an expert in the field about the treatment measure to adopt. The best way in which you could help your child is by providing him/her with a healthy and stress-free living.

Night terrors occur particularly during the transition from stage 3 of the non-REM sleep to its fourth stage. They are characterized by an abrupt awakening accompanied by feelings of anxiety, agitation, and confusion. They should not be confused with bad dreams or nightmares. Bad dreams occur during the rapid eye movement sleep, while night terrors occur in the non-rapid eye movement sleep.

Though causes such as those enlisted above are considered as some factors responsible for night terrors, researchers are still unsure of the exact cause of this sleep disorder.