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Sleep Disorders

Sleep Terror Disorder

The sleep terror disorder impacts people as they sleep. Typically, people will experience episodes of this disorder within the initial several hours of a sleep period. These episodes tend to occur more frequently during evening sleeping hours but it is not irregular for an episode to occur during the day. Eye movement during the sleep is usually the largest difference between this disorder and a typical nightmare.

Statistics suggest that less than five per cent of children experience an episode and less than two per cent of adults experience one of these episodes. Oftentimes, people do not even realize they have experienced an episode, which can sometimes lead to erroneous conclusions.


As previously mentioned, sleep terror episodes frequently occur in the first several hours of sleep and are easily determined by a person’s eyes moving in a specific manner during sleep. Typically, a person will awaken from an episode in a very frantic mood with distorted vital signs, perspiration and a wide range of other emotions.

However, in other situations there can be a greater deal of activity such as sleep-walking and violent gesticulation. It is common for those who are slightly older children, adolescents and young adults to be able to recall more vivid details from their dreams than some other age groups that will tend to experience periods of amnesia following an episode of the disorder.


The aforementioned and distorted vital sign pattern is almost always present during an episode of this condition, but it is not necessarily the cause, which is more difficult to pinpoint. Research suggests that there is a hereditary link, but more work needs to transpire.

It has also been recently discovered that sleep tends to become more episodic when a person is extremely tired or suffering from increased body temperature as a result of an illness. In essence, homeostasis not transpiring properly seems to be linked to increased risk of one experiencing sleep terror episodes.

Additionally, there are no known links to mental illnesses, but researchers believe episodes are more likely if a person is tired, malnourished or enduring significant volumes of stress. Children and adults can both be impacted by this disorder.


If you are dealing with children it is important to manage their fears and frustrations about the condition and that they will get past the issues. There should always be a consolidated effort to ensure that a person is exposed to the optimal conditions for a restful sleep.

Recent research suggests that it is sometimes helpful to awaken a person prior to the typical time of an episode in extreme cases. Also, it can be of some benefit to seek a therapist to discuss the episodes.


Fortunately, the academic and research community advise that this condition passes from children as they transition into adulthood. It is very uncommon for a child older than the age of ten to experience chronic episodes of this volition.

Lastly, some experts remind people that if the episodes are thought to be a symptom of an underlying or undiagnosed disorder than any form of treatment should be focused on that disorder instead. Medications are almost never used to intervene in the treatment trajectory of sleep terror disorder episodes.


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