Night Terrors: Overview

What are night terrors?

Night terrors are an inherited disorder in which a child tends to have dreams during deep sleep from which it is difficult to awaken. These dreams can cause a child to shout, thrash and get out of bed. Night terrors can sometimes be disturbing to parents and caregivers, even though they are harmless to the child.

Unlike nightmares, after a night terror a child is not able to remember the dream when he or she awakens in the morning. Night terrors usually occur within two hours after bedtime. Each episode ends on its own during sleep. 

What causes night terrors?

Night terrors are inherited, meaning a child gets the disorder from his or her parents and the condition runs in families. They occur in 2% of children and usually are not caused by psychological stress. Being overtired can trigger night terrors. Sometimes, recurring night terrors are a symptom of other sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea

Who gets night terrors?

About 2% of children have night terrors. The problem usually disappears by age 12 or sooner. The condition often runs in families, so children of parents who had night terrors may be more likely to develop them.

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