14 November 2014
The sleeping disorder of night terrors is a frightening occurrence of screaming and flailing during sleep that affect a small percentage of children. During nonREM sleep an over arousal of the nervous system can cause an episode. Age, genetics and a small influence of gender are determining factors of those who have the condition. Night terrors are closely related to sleepwalking. Although mistakenly associated with nightmares, there are little similarities between the two.
Sleep is categorized into REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and nonREM sleep, and nonREM sleep is additionally sectioned into four stages. Night terror episodes occur when the brain shifts in the deep sleep of nonREM stage three and stage four. The transition which is typically smooth, causes the person to become scared and act out in fright. Night terrors are triggered by the overarousal of the central nervous system as the brain goes through the stages of sleep. The central nervous system is responsible for the regulation of sleep and brain waking activity. The maturing of the CNS may cause the overarousal, explaining why night terrors are more common in children.
Night terrors are rare and primarily affect children ages 3 to 12, most of the children grow out of them when reaching adolescence. Adults can also have the condition, although it is much less likely. Gender has small determination of those affected, boys are slightly more likely to suffer from the affliction. Race hasn’t shown significant indications to influencing who have experiences. There have been studies that have shown there are genetic impacts; about
80% of those who have night terrors have a relative with a past of night terrors or sleepwalking, which is a similar sleep disorder.
Sleepwalking shares aspects of night terrors that make them alike, although seeming like very separate conditions. Sleepwalking is more common than night terrors, but similarly, children under 12 are affected the most. In addition, it is generally more probable for boys to sleepwalk than girls. As previously stated, sleepwalking has links to genetics, often being passed down from previous generations. Upon waking in the morning, the person with the experience will have no memory of the episode. Furthermore, the disorder takes place in the same stages of sleep that sleep terrors do.
While night terrors are more closely related to sleepwalking, they are most commonly confused with nightmares. In reality, the two are very much different from one another.
Nightmares happen throughout one’s life, there is no way to grow out of them. Both gender are equally affected, neither has a dominance in occurrences. Nightmares happen in REM sleep, the fifth stage, as opposed to nonREM stage three and four sleep that night terrors occur during. When a person has a sleep terror, it is extremely hard, if not impossible, to wake them. Contrastly, one can be woken from a nightmare and when they do, they can remember the dream took place along with details of it.
Experiences of night terrors happen about 90 minutes after the person fall asleep.
During an episode, the person may sit upright, open their eyes, and say incoherent things.
Sweating, crying, quickened heart rate, screaming and thrashing are all common symptoms as well. The person will be confused and inconsolable until the incident passes which can take between one and 20 minutes. In the morning, the person will most likely not remember the night terror and if they do, no elaborate details or images can be recalled.
Currently, there are few prevention and treatment options available for those with