What are Night Terrors?
Night terrors or sleep terrors is a sleep disorder where the victim feels intense fear or dread while sleeping, which causes episodes of screaming, thrashing, and flailing around while the person is still asleep.
A night terror might last up to a few minutes, while episodes of sleep terror might be longer. Sleep terrors are common among children but they usually outgrow their symptoms. However, treatments are necessary if the child is having trouble getting enough sleep, or if the episodes are threatening for the well-being of the child.
A person with night terror stays asleep while having the episode and usually the victim doesn’t remember it. Sleep terrors generally occur during the deepest Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) phases, and generally lead to sleepwalking.
A person suffering from night terror will have a screaming or shouting fit and show aggressive behavior while sleeping. Other actions include profuse sweating, heavy breathing, fast pulse, difficulty waking up, confusion after awakening, and having little or no memories of the episodes.
What is Nightmare disorder?
Nightmares are disturbing dreams associated with negative feelings of fear, anxiety, and dread which wakes the person. Although nightmares are common, nightmare disorder is very rare. The episodes caused by nightmares are shorter due to the fact that the person wakes up, however falling asleep again is difficult.
Nightmare disorder is a disorder where the nightmares are frequent, cause distress, disturbed sleep, and affects the person’s health. You are likely to have nightmares during the second half of the night.
Night Terrors and Nightmare Disorders
Night terrors and nightmare disorders are both parasomnias which can induce undesirable physical and verbal behavior during different stages of the sleep cycle. They are different only in the aspect of their occurrence and impact. Episodes of night terrors occur while the patient is still asleep, whereas nightmares occur when the patient is about to wake up from the episode.
Night terrors and Nightmares are caused by factors such as:
– Sleep deprivation, tiredness, stress, and disruptive sleep schedules
– During fever or illness, when the body’s immune system is weakened
– As a side-effect of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
– Depression, anxiety, and stress.
– Overuse of alcohol or medication
Night terrors and nightmare disorders are not considered severe disorders, however diagnosis and treatments become necessary when the episodes become more frequent. It might lead to safety concerns or injury, cause excessive daytime sleepiness, and if the episodes continue for a longer period of time, affect the mental well-being of the victim.
Diagnosis of night terrors and nightmare disorder is done by medical professionals by reviewing previous medical conditions, analyzing symptoms, and conducting a few test studies such as polysomnography tests. The tests include the overnight study of your sleep cycles, where your sleep behavior will be analyzed and used in the diagnosis of the disorder.
Treatment for night terrors and nightmare disorder might include cognitive behavior therapy from a certified professional to overcome the underlying medical or mental health condition. Although medications are rarely used in curing night terrors, antidepressants and benzodiazepines are prescribed for people when the condition is severe.
Besides medical considerations, several home and lifestyle remedies might also be helpful. These include:
1. Establishing a regular routine before sleep, like exercise, massage therapy, warm shower, and other activities that relieve body of stress.
2. Providing proper guidance and support for children that are suffering from the aforementioned conditions.
3. Talking to children about the nightmares and what they remember about it. This might help analyze the cause of the nightmares.
4. Communicating with people you trust about the episodes to help you find out the underlying cause and treat it accordingly.
Are you suffering for any type of sleep disorder?
Swacon International Hospital specializes in sleep care. By monitoring your sleep cycle through diagnostic sleep studies, we can accurately diagnose the sleep disorder that you are suffering from.
Our full range of sleep care services includes Maintenance of Wakefulness Test (MWT), Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT), and Polysomnography (PSG).