Treatment

Treatment for infrequent sleep terrors isn't usually necessary.

If the sleep terrors lead to the potential for injury, are disruptive to family members, or result in embarrassment or sleep disruption for the person who has sleep terrors, treatment may be needed. Treatment generally focuses on promoting safety and eliminating causes or triggers.

Treatment options may include:

  • Treating any underlying condition. If the sleep terrors are associated with an underlying medical or mental health condition or another sleep disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea, treatment is aimed at the underlying problem.
  • Addressing stress. If stress or anxiety seems to be contributing to the sleep terrors, your doctor may suggest meeting with a therapist or counselor. Cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnosis, biofeedback or relaxation therapy may help.
  • Anticipatory awakening. This involves waking the person who has sleep terrors about 15 minutes before he or she usually experiences the event. Then the person stays awake for a few minutes before falling asleep again.
  • Medication. Medication is rarely used to treat sleep terrors, particularly for children. If necessary, however, use of benzodiazepines or certain antidepressants may be effective.
July 21, 2017
References
  1. Sateia M. Sleep terrors. In: International Classification of Sleep Disorders. 3rd ed. Darien, Ill.: American Academy of Sleep Medicine; 2014. http://www.aasmnet.org/EBooks/ICSD3. Accessed May 11, 2017.
  2. Parasomnias. Merck Manual Professional Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic-disorders/sleep-and-wakefulness-disorders/parasomnias. Accessed May 10, 2017.
  3. Non-rapid eye movement sleep arousal disorders. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013. http://dsm.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed May 9, 2017.
  4. AskMayoExpert. Parasomnias. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2016.
  5. Kotagal S. Sleepwalking and other parasomnias in children. https://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 10, 2017.
  6. Foldvary-Schaefer N. Disorders of arousal from non-rapid eye movement sleep in adults. https://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 10, 2017.
  7. Fleetham JA, et al. Parasomnias. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2014;186:E273.
  8. Olson EJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. May 18, 2017.