Sleep terrors are a type of sleep disorder that can cause severe fear and anxiety. They usually happen during the first few hours of sleep, and episodes can last for several minutes. During a sleep terror episode, the person may feel like they are paralysed and unable to move. They may also have a racing heartbeat and feel like they can’t breathe.
What is sleep terror?
Sleep terror is a parasomnia disorder that usually affects children between four. It is also known as sleep terror disorder, pavor nocturnus, or night terrors. Sleep terrors are characterised by screaming, thrashing and panicky behaviour. The child may also sweat, have a rapid heartbeat and breathing heavily. They may appear to be awake but are unresponsive to attempts at comforting them. Sleep terrors typically last for a few minutes but can occasionally last up to half an hour.
Sleep terrors differ from nightmares because the child is not fully awake during a sleep terror episode and does not remember the event afterwards. Monsters tend to occur later in the night when a person is in a lighter stage of sleep, and they can recall the event afterwards. Adults who experience sleep terrors may remember specific fragments of their episodes.
The exact cause of sleep terrors is unknown, but stress, fatigue or changes in sleep schedule can trigger it. Treatment is typically not necessary as most children will outgrow sleep terrors. However, doctors and psychotherapists recommend treatment if the episodes are frequent or cause distress. Some treatment options include behavioural therapy and medications.
The reasons behind sleep terrors
There are many reasons why people may experience sleep terrors. Some of the most common reasons include the following:
1) Stress: One of the most common causes of sleep terror is stress. When stressed, our bodies go into fight or flight mode, which means our nervous system is on high alert. It can lead to several different symptoms, including sleep terrors.
2) Anxiety: This is another common cause of sleep terrors. Like stress, anxiety can cause the nervous system to be on high alert, leading to sleep terrors.
3) Sleep deprivation: Not getting adequate sleep is another common cause of sleep terrors. When we are sleep deprived, our bodies cannot get the rest they need, leading to many problems, including sleep terrors.
4) Medications: Some drugs can cause side effects such as sleep terrors. If you are taking medications and experiencing sleep terrors, you must talk to your doctor about what’s happening.
5) Medical conditions: Several conditions can cause sleep terrors, such as epilepsy. If you have a medical condition that you think may be causing your sleep terrors, it is essential to discuss this with your doctor.
Symptoms of sleep terrors
Sleep terrors are a type of sleep disorder that can cause you to wake up in a panic. You may feel like someone is suffocating you or trying to hurt you. You may also have trouble breathing, and your heart may race. Sleep terrors are most common in children but can also occur in adults. If you have a sleep terror, you may not remember what happened when you woke up. You may also feel tired and confused.
Tips to overcome sleep terrors
Here are some tips to overcome sleep terrors:
1. Address stress by practising yoga or meditation. Since stress is one of the significant underlying conditions leading to sleep terrors, stress management is crucial.
2. For adults with extreme sleep terrors, doctors may prescribe benzodiazepines or antidepressants to relieve the symptoms.
3. Anticipatory awakening helps overcome sleep terrors in children. The sleep terror episodes will likely happen simultaneously (sleep terror occurs in the non-REM stage of the sleep cycle, which is usually within the first three hours of sleep). In such instances, waking the child up a few minutes before the sleep terror can help prevent it.
Risk factors of sleep terrors
- If you’re feeling particularly stressed or anxious before bed, you’ll likely experience a sleep terror episode. Creating a comforting bedtime routine can help, and reading books, meditating and listening to calm music can help to have a regular night’s sleep.
- Certain medications can also trigger sleep terror episodes. Some antidepressants and sedatives pose an increase in the risk of night terrors. If you’re taking any medication that could cause sleep disturbance, speak with your doctor about the risks involved.
- Finally, underlying medical conditions can also lead to an increased risk of sleep terror episodes. A higher incidence of night terrors can be because of underlying disorders such as narcolepsy or restless leg syndrome. You must speak with your doctor about the potential risks involved if you have any condition that disrupts standard sleeping patterns.
Risks involved for those with sleep terrors
There are some risks involved for those who experience sleep terrors.
- If you have a sleep terror and fall out of bed, you could injure yourself. Things get pretty dangerous when sleep terrors occur along with sleepwalking. You can seriously hurt yourself when you subconsciously lash out or make rapid movements in a confined location such as your bedroom.
- Although rare, there have been instances where the person experiencing sleep terrors opens the door, walks out of the house, or jumps out of a window. In such cases, it is crucial to create a safe environment by locking all the doors and windows before sleep.
- Additionally, if you live alone and experience regular sleep terrors, getting the proper rest and recovery your body needs may be difficult. If you have general concerns about your sleep patterns or health, speak with your doctor.
There’s nothing worse than a sleep terror to put a damper on your beauty sleep. But don’t worry; there are ways to combat these nocturnal terrors. By following the tips in this article, you can help reduce the frequency and intensity of your sleep terrors and finally get the restful night’s sleep you deserve. Contact United We Care for further guidance today.