Overview

Sleep terrors are episodes of screaming, intense fear and flailing while still asleep. Also known as night terrors, sleep terrors often are paired with sleepwalking. Like sleepwalking, sleep terrors are considered a parasomnia — an undesired occurrence during sleep. A sleep terror episode usually lasts from seconds to a few minutes, but episodes may last longer.

Sleep terrors affect almost 40 percent of children and a much smaller percentage of adults. However frightening, sleep terrors aren't usually a cause for concern. Most children outgrow sleep terrors by their teenage years.

Sleep terrors may require treatment if they cause problems getting enough sleep or they pose a safety risk.

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.