yes, therapy helps!
Night terrors: panic during sleep

Night terrors: panic during sleep

May 8, 2023

The night terrors , along with sleepwalking, are among the most shocking sleep disorders. Very probably, in addition, we know some outstanding cases of nocturnal terror or have even been the protagonists of one of these episodes at some point in our lives. They are experiences that are not easily forgotten: they are lived as moments of great disturbance and confusion, and those who suffer them can seem eternal (although in reality they last a few minutes).

We are talking about a state of paralysis in a situation where Consciousness and unconsciousness are confused and everything we perceive is marred by the fear : episodes of night terror have everything to be frightening. However, beyond the emotional charge that night terror brings each time it is experienced, it is difficult to know much more about this phenomenon. Why is it produced? What is the origin of these terrors? There are some c organic or psychological ausa ? What does science say about this?

Night terrors and sleep disorders

Speaking of night terrors is talking about sleep disorders, a group in which the former are included. Within the classification of sleep disorders is the group of parasomnias, which is divided into three groups:

  • Parasomnia of awakening
  • Paransomnias associated with REM sleep
  • Other parasomnias

Night terrors are found in the first group. Unlike somnambulism (which is also an alteration of the awakening), night terrors are usually characterized by fear and extreme terror associated with the paralysis of the person who suffers it, keeping it in an important state of tension . They usually appear between the first 2 or 3 hours after the person begins to sleep.

What is the difference between night terrors and nightmares?

The main difference with the nightmares is that the latter occur entirely within the REM sleep phase and produce a complete awakening. The night terror, however, is a half-awake: we are aware of certain things in the world of wakefulness, but we are not able to become independent of the dream and, most likely, when the episode ends we will continue to sleep to the point of forgetting what happened.

Velayos (2009) explains that night terrors are episodes of crying and screaming that appear suddenly during the phrases of deep sleep, in the middle of the night. In addition, they are also expressed on the face by a facial expression of strong terror. As in sleepwalking, this disorder usually occurs in childhood , between the age of 4 to 7 years, and are less common after this age. In the adult stage they can appear at any time, and sometimes it is possible to repeat several episodes during the same night. Sáez Pérez says that during an episode of nocturnal terror in childhood, symptoms like abundant sweating usually occur. high heart rate, confusion and crying. This symptomatology does not change in adolescence or adulthood.

Causes of night terrors

Little is known about the neurological and physiological aspects of what night terrors produce. However, some mental health specialists believe that there are some factors that can trigger this disorder, among which are:

  • The absence of sleep
  • States of emotional tension
  • Consumption of drugs or some type of drug
  • Organic problems


To obtain a diagnosis it is advisable to go to a mental health professional so that you can evaluate the problem thoroughly. It should be noted that there are other disorders with symptoms very similar to those of night terrors and that only the qualified professional will be able to differentiate them and give a final diagnosis. Among the disorders with similar symptoms are:

  • The nigthmares
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Sleep paralysis

Treatment for night terrors

Science progresses, but as regards the origins of sleep disorders it has not been possible to offer explanations about its logic and functioning. It is an enigma yet to be studied, and night terror is no exception to this norm. Today there is no specific treatment for night terrors. As with somnambulism, certain professionals recommend alternative techniques such as meditation, hypnosis, yoga, etc. As long as they serve as a complement to a psychological or psychiatric intervention.

Waking up from a nocturnal panic attack and can't breathe - what to do (May 2023).

Similar Articles