Sleep Terror Disorder

(Also Known As: Sleep Disorder, Pavor Nocturnus, Incubus, Sleep Problems, Nightmare, Night Terrors, Night Terror, Sleep Disorders Insomnia)

(Reviewed by: Paul Peterson, Licensed Therapist)

What is Sleep Terror Disorder?

Sleep Terror Disorder, classically called a night terror, is a form of parasomnia disorder characterized with extreme terror and a temporary inability to regain consciousness.1 When the person wakes up, they are usually frightened and in extreme terror accompanied by moaning, screaming and gasping. The episode may usually last a few minutes and the person often has difficulty waking up. When a person with Sleep Terror Disorder is awakened, they are confused and have difficulty in recalling the details of their dream. Sleep Terrors tend to occur only once a night and the person experiencing this form of sleep problem often manifests the tendency to punch or swing their fists at others.2 The nightmare often occurs in the first third of the sleep cycle and begins with a scream of panic. The person experiencing Sleep Terror Disorder usually shows marked fear and autonomic arousal manifested with rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing and sweating. They also respond poorly once comfort is given.

Sleep Terror Disorder can occur both in children and adults. It is termed pavor nocturnus in children and incubus in adults. Night Terror may not be the most appropriate term to refer to Sleep Terror Disorder as this episode not only occurs at night but can also occur during daytime naps. Sleep Terror Disorder has a higher prevalence in children but it also affects adult population as well. It usually occurs in children between the age of 4 and 12 but it can also occur as early as the age of 2 to 4 years. Boys are more affected than girls and Sleep Terror Disorder is not associated with any psychological disorder in children. In adults however the incidence is almost equal in males and females and Sleep Terror Disorder may be accompanied with psychological disorders such as Anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and personality disorders. Associated features of chronic Sleep Terror Disorder may include stomach problems, headaches and muscle aches.

Could You Have Sleep Terror Disorder?

Sleep Terror Disorder Topics

Related Conditions

Dyssomnia – Difficulty Sleeping, Sleep Deprivation, Deprived Quality of Sleep, Insomnia, Lack of Sleep
Nightmare Disorder – Dream Anxiety Disorder, Nightmare, Moaning, Slight Body Movement, Alert and Oriented Upon Awakening
Parasomnia NOS – Abnormal Movement, Emotions, Behavior, Sleep Awakenings
Sleepwalking Disorder – Somnambulism, Walking Asleep, Parasomnia, Sleeping Disorder