Sleep Terrors



Sleep terrors are more than just scary nightmares; these episodes can result in a person leaping out of bed and running around screaming about an imagined danger or threat. People who have sleep terrors encounter dreams that seem so alarming and so realistic that they truly feel as though they are in danger. They may attempt to get away from the supposed threat or may scream as though they are truly in mortal danger. When people are in the middle of a sleep terror episode they may appear to be completely awake, or they might instead seem to not be completely present in the moment. The unifying element of all sleep terrors is that the person is reacting to a frightening dream. While some people may simply scream and then wake up, others my bound out of bed and start swinging fists at anyone within arm’s reach. The person usually isn’t doing this out of some hidden aggression toward someone, but instead because he or she is not fully awake and truly feels as though there is danger present.

Sleep terrors in adults are rare. Children experience this sleep disorder at a higher rate, but usually outgrow the tendencies as they age. There are a variety of reasons why an adult may experience night terrors. This disorder commonly occurs along with other sleep disorders, and oftentimes once the primary sleep disorder is effectively treated the instances of sleep terrors will lessen dramatically or even stop altogether. Sleep terrors can occur with no other sleep disorder present, and in some cases it can be a symptom of something else that needs treatment. There can be medical, psychological, and environmental factors that prompt a person to encounter sleep terrors.

Sleep terrors are aptly named because they can be incredibly terrifying for everyone involved. The person experiencing the sleep terrors is usually very frightened, and the people in the house can be equally frightened to be woken up by a loved one screaming and thrashing about. Certain medications and illnesses may cause sleep terrors, but the sleep terrors end once the medication is no longer taken or the illness has passed. High fevers are a common cause for sleep terrors, as are certain traumas to the head. For this reason, a person experiencing a head injury may experience sleep terrors which will disappear once the injury heals completely.

If you visit a doctor regarding sleep terrors you will probably be asked to answer a series of questions as well as a thorough physical exam. Some doctors will urge patients to participate in a sleep study which will record sleep patterns and behaviors, which may shed some light on the cause of the sleep terrors. If it is discovered that there is an underlying reason for the sleep terrors then the doctor will treat whatever the primary cause of the sleep terrors is. If there is no other obvious cause for the sleep terrors then the doctor may request additional testing or instead suggest that you work toward an optimum sleep pattern that may lessen the odds of sleep terrors occurring.

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