Night terrors are a sleep disorder in which a person quickly awakens from sleep in a terrified state.
Pavor nocturnus; Sleep terror disorder
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Night terrors (sleep terrors) occur during deep sleep, usually during the first third of the night. The cause is unknown but night terrors may be triggered by fever, lack of sleep, or periods of emotional
In contrast, nightmares are more common in the early morning. They may occur after someone watches frightening movies/TV shows or has an emotional experience. A person may remember the details of a dream upon awakening, and will not be disoriented after the episode.
Night terrors are most common in boys ages 5 - 7, although they also can occur in girls. They are fairly common in children ages 3 - 7, and much less common after that. Night terrors may run in families. They can occur in adults, especially with emotional tension and/or the use of alcohol.
Review Date: 06/02/2009
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.