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The Experience and Treatment of Adult Night Terrors

Updated on December 5, 2017
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It is wonderful to investigate, gain knowledge and know how before making major decisions in life. Knowledge is power.

Night terrors in children are more common than adults

Nightmares are scary for the person experiencing them as well as anyone who witnesses one. People endure these live through agony without the ability to control them. Having them is incapacitating. Sleep is a commodity our bodies are unable to do without. This means escaping from this disease is nearly impossible. The gravity and how often they come to a person does vary. Symptoms are also different from person to person. Regardless of what symptoms are displayed, they are all extremely cruel and difficult to witness.

Night terrors are more common in children than adults. However, there are some adults suffering from this disorder. Three percent of adults are in agony from this ailment compared with 15 percent of children and adolescents. There are some children who outgrow it or they become less frequent as they age.

Many experts in the area of sleep behavior believe sleepwalking and night terrors are two of the same exhibitions or demonstrations of the same disorder. With this disorder, sleep walking is on the scale as the mildest form of the disorder while night terrors are on the opposite end of the spectrum.

What is the difference between nightmares and night terrors?

Night terrors happen when a person is in slow wave sleep and typically occur within a few hours of falling asleep. This period of sleep pattern will last anywhere from five to twenty minutes. These occur during a persons dreaming time. Dreaming only appears in REM sleep. During dreaming physical movement is not possible. Night terror victims are able to move in REM.

A body is paralyzed during dreaming. For instance, normally you cannot unlock and open the front door of your house and fight off any attackers. In the course of a night terror you are capable of doing all of this and so much more. If you are physically moving while having your terrifying dream, crying, fighting or even yelling you are having a night terror not a nightmare.

People that see someone in the grip of one usually describe the person as appearing awake, but not quite the normal state of awake. They talk and even have their eyes open in some episodes. Although the person appears awake they are actually asleep and unconscious of what they are doing and saying. Even if they are talking they don’t usually communicate effectively with you nor have a regular conversation. Words are generally scattered around various conversations or slurred.

Moving or talking while still asleep is very dangerous in some circumstances. Imagine confronting a swimming pool without being aware or even walking into traffic. Treatment is needed to avoid the dangers which occur.

Why night terrors occur

Professionals believe many people experience these because of a disruption in the central nervous system generally triggered by stress, sleep deprivation, alcohol or drug abuse, some prescription medications also have side effects of night terrors, post-traumatic stress disorders or even a head injury. The underlying emotion tied to all of these is anxiety.

Night terrors are a response to the emotion of fear. Anxiety is one of the highest forms of fear. Rapid heartbeats or palpitations, fast breathing, sweating, crying or even screaming usually transpire during night terrors in response to your mind’s perceived fear. The anxiety level is extremely high in victims affected by this disease during their sleep and awake periods.

Treatment for night terrors

Children usually outgrow the disorder. As they grow older the symptoms fade and eventually vanish. A child's perceived fears or anxieties eventually lessen and leave as they become adults. This explains why they will outgrow it. The prognosis for adults is typically not as good.

Treatment for adults includes the same approach used for sleepwalking adults. These include prescription medications, hypnotherapy, psychotherapy and stress management techniques. Some patients benefit from things as simple as regular massages, regularly scheduled sleep schedules and physical exercise to reduce stress and relax the body.

Some sufferers go years without a sound night's sleep. A combination of drugs and therapy are useful tools for more than a few to bring it under control enough to function on a daily basis.

How to Diagnose

Medical professionals customarily diagnose a person has the condition using several processes. Sleep observation or sleep studies are performed along with information a patient shares with the physician. This is generally describing what they are experiencing during these episodes. Other questions are related to stress, anxiety and factors in this area.

There are laboratory tests performed to rule out a medication issue before starting treatment and making a diagnosis.After confirming your diagnosis a plan of treatment will be determined to help eliminate or alleviate the symptoms.

In conclusion

Someone sleeping cannot prevent a night terror from happening. Treatment must occur before the night terror strikes. Different ones work for various patients and some need a combination of more than one. Therefore, it’s necessary to seek professional advice from a medical physician for this condition. They are equipped with the expertise to help.

The ultimate goal is to help patients achieve a relaxed or calm state of sleep. If you happen to be with someone experiencing a night terror, turn on the lights and talk calmly to the person until they fully wake up.

Night terrors are frightening for the person experiencing them. These episodes negatively affect a person's life or the lives of their loved ones if not handled properly. Anyone experiencing night terrors, seek professional medical advice immediately.

This video depicts more than a few sleep disorders affecting millions of people every day

Another night time illness is sleepwalking. This is an explanation into why countless people sleep walk

© 2011 smcopywrite


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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I experience these frequently and I am 17. Sometimes just like a couple nights ago they are very bad. I get up out of bed, run out of my room screaming. And anyone who tries to help I think is an enemy and I attack. It's very scary for me and I am scared to sleep a lot of the time.

    • smcopywrite profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from all over the web

      precription drug medication along with psychotherapy has been the most successful for a lot of people. I hope you are able to find the right combo and doctor to help you. Until you have lived with this disabling disease, no one can understand. Most people look forward to sleeping at night and cannot imagine anyone that dreads it.

      glad i could help

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I have experienced night terrors for as long as I can remember. When I was little, the night terrors usually consisted of me bolting upright in bed, screaming bloody murder, and then taking about 5 minutes to be talked out of my sleeping state. Now that I am 25, I usually see things in the room that aren't really there, like I'm seeing my room but it's filled with my dream. I am always in a state of panic and my heart generally feels like it is about to pound right out of my chest. I appreciate this article because it is nice to have more information on this sleep disorder and possible treatments.

    • feenix profile image


      6 years ago

      Hello, smcopywrite,

      Personally, I hardly every have dreams but because I have been receiving psychiatric treatment for a number of years, I clearly see the value of this post.

      It is well-written, very informative and packed with useful facts.

    • smcopywrite profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from all over the web

      september girl

      you could be experiencing night terrors. if they are disrupting your sleep along with your life, speak with your physician about them in order to find a solution specific for your needs.

    • profile image

      september girl 

      6 years ago

      Useful and interesting. So, if an adult cries out in their sleep or makes frightened sounds, is this the result of a nightterror? I have these dreams that cause me to cry out in fear when I am too stressed. I thought they were just nightmeres. Good hub! Voted up! : )

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I haven't had night terrors but do have the occasional nightmare, where I end up sleeping on the couch with the TV on.

      During these nightmares, I can hear myself say get up and turn the light on.

      Voted up and interesting.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Interesting topic, you have answered my queries that were bothering me for a while.


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