You may have had the experience of waking up screaming, or seeing your children or a family member suddenly wake up screaming, and you didn’t know the explanation of what happened to them, or you thought it was ‘ a nightmare they saw, but this condition is different from disturbing dreams, and it is called “night terror attacks”.
“Night terrors” are a type of sleep disorder that is common in children, which can also occur in adults in lesser proportions. What are these attacks, and what are their causes, so what do you do if you or a member of your family suffers from them?
restlessness and restlessness
Night terrors, or as they are sometimes referred to as “sleep terrors,” are a type of insomnia or sleep disorder that usually occurs during periods of “non-rapid eye movement” (NREM) sleep, which is when you are in a state. between dreaming and waking up.
The person having the seizure reacts with a sense of fear or terror, begins to scream, hit or cry while sleeping, may stand up, walk or run, and adults are at risk of violent acts during this time, all while the victim is still in a sleep-like state and cannot be easily awakened.
Some people confuse night terrors with nightmares and think they are the same thing, but there are distinct differences between them, including:
- Night terror sufferers are not aware of what they are experiencing while it is happening, and usually do not remember it, unlike nightmares, which can usually be remembered.
- Nightmares involve frightening and disturbing dreams, but night terrors do not occur during a dream.
- Nightmares are usually triggered by a disturbing experience or a scary movie, but the causes of night terrors are difficult to track down.
Symptoms and causes
Night terror attacks usually occur during the first 3 to 4 hours of the night, and symptoms can appear suddenly, including:
- Waking up suddenly and screaming, feeling very scared.
- Kicking and punching limbs.
- Shows violent behavior and sudden movements, and is often unaware of their surroundings.
- They may not respond to attempts to talk to them, calm them down, or wake them up.
- Increased heart rate, sweating and breathing very fast.
- Their pupils are dilated, and they may have a look of fear or alarm on their face.
According to the “Very Well Mind” mental health website, night terror attacks can last for 20 minutes, and can last 45 or 90 minutes, and children are affected more than adults, reaching up to 30% of children.
Most children outgrow them on their own by the time they are 10 years old, or when they are past puberty, and you can talk to your pediatrician to be more reassured and make sure that there is nothing more serious.
There are many causes for night terrors, including:
- During periods of illness, and when you have a fever.
- Sleep irregularity.
- high physical activity
- Psychological and emotional stress, and trauma.
- It can be hereditary.
- Consuming large amounts of caffeine.
- some health problems; such as head injuries, thyroid problems and encephalitis.
- With another sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea.
- Sleep in a different place or away from home.
- Medications that affect the central nervous system.
- An intense need to urinate.
- Certain mental disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder or anxiety.
And in 2014, a study of nearly 7,000 children between the ages of 8 and 10 showed that those who were bullied were twice as likely to experience night terrors.
Come out of the woods
Although those who suffer from night terrors do not remember what happened to them, it is a painful experience for them, and for those in the family who watch them, and there are several ways to deal with the attacks and their occurrence and impact to reduce.
For children, most of the time all you need to do is:
- To stay calm while your child is going through a night terror attack, and try to help him go back to sleep, telling him some calming words, and don’t try to wake him up, and he can be carried if it helps him.
- Avoid shaking him or yelling at him to stop him from screaming, as this can make the seizure worse.
- Be careful to reduce the child’s exposure to events that may cause him stress, whether violent movies and cartoons, domestic arguments or otherwise.
- Make sure your child gets enough sleep, and make his room safe so he doesn’t get hurt during an attack.
- Get rid of anything that can disturb children’s sleep, such as electronic screens or noise.
- It may be necessary to talk to a psychologist to find out if there is a psychological effect on the child, and to try to treat it.
Johns Hopkins Medicine recommends that you refer to your pediatrician if the attacks come frequently and last longer than 30 minutes, as well as if there are other symptoms that come during the attack, and if you notice that the child has fears during the day.
As for adults, night terrors should be taken seriously as they are rare and may be an indication of a more serious medical or mental condition.
Treating night terrors in adults involves understanding the root causes, which may mean undergoing an evaluation with a psychiatrist.
If no sleep disturbance is present, and psychological causes have been ruled out, simple lifestyle changes can help reduce night terrors, including:
- Get enough sleep.
- Limit caffeine before bed.
- Reduce exposure to stressors, especially before bedtime.
- Maintain a consistent sleep-wake schedule.