Screaming, thrashing, frantically pacing — night terrors earn their name, both for the person experiencing one and for anyone around during the event.
Unlike nightmares, which arise during REM sleep, night terrors happen during non-REM sleep, usually early in the night. They’re most common in children. The person in the midst of a terror may suddenly sit upright, eyes open, though they aren’t actually taking in the sights. The person often yells or screams, and can’t be awakened or comforted. In some cases, night terrors mix with sleepwalking. Parents have reported children wandering the house in a state of panic. After 10 or 15 minutes, the person usually settles back into sleep, according to the National Institutes of Health. Most don’t remember anything about their episode the next morning.
The cause of night terrors is a mystery, but fever, irregular sleep and stress can trigger them. Fortunately, according to the ASA, terrors usually fade after age.