Night terrors: panic during sleep

the The terrors of a nightAlong with sleepwalking, they are among the most shocking sleep disorders. Most likely, in addition, we know of notable cases of nocturnal fear or have even been the protagonists of one of these episodes at some point in our lives. These are experiences that are not easy to forget: they are experienced as times of great disruption and confusion, and to those who go through them can seem eternal (even if they actually 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 clouded by the through: Episodes of night terror have everything to be frightening. However, beyond the emotional burden that night terror carries whenever it is experienced, it is difficult to know much more about this phenomenon. Why is this happening? What is the origin of these terrors? Is there organic or psychological c **** ausa? What does science say about this?

Night terrors and sleep disturbances

To speak of night terrors is to speak of sleep disorders, a group in which the former are included. In the classification of sleep disorders is the group of parasomnias, which is divided into three groups:

  • Parasomnias awakening

  • Paransomnias associated with REM sleep
  • other parasomnias

Night terrors are part of the first group. Unlike sleepwalking (which is also an impairment of wakefulness), night terrors are often characterized by extreme fear and dread associated with paralysis of the person suffering from it, keeping them in an important position. state of tension. They usually occur within the first 2 to 3 hours after a 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 in the REM phase of sleep and produce a complete awakening. The Night Terror, however, is a half wake-up call: we are aware of some things in the waking world, but we are not quite able to become independent from sleep, and most likely when the episode is over we will continue. to sleep to the point of forgetting what had happened.

Velayos (2009) explains that night terrors are episodes of crying and screaming that suddenly appear during deep sleep sentences in the middle of the night. Moreover, they also express themselves on the face through a facial expression of strong terror. As in sleepwalking, this disorder usually occurs in childhood, Between the ages of 4 to 7 years, and are less common after this age. In adulthood, they can appear at any time and it is sometimes possible for several episodes to repeat during the same night. Sáez Pérez says that during an episode of night terror in childhood, symptoms such as profuse sweating are common. high heart rate, confusion, and crying. This symptomatology does not vary during adolescence or adulthood.

Causes of night terrors

We don’t know much on the neurological and physiological aspects of what night terrors produce. However, some mental health experts believe that certain factors can trigger this disorder, including:

  • Lack of sleep
  • States of emotional tension
  • Use of drugs or certain types of drugs

  • organic problems


To obtain a diagnosis, it is advisable to consult a mental health professional so that the problem can be thoroughly assessed. It should be noted that there are other disorders with symptoms very similar to those of night terrors and that only a qualified professional will be able to differentiate them and give a definitive diagnosis. Some disorders with similar symptoms include:

  • nightmares
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Sleep paralysis

Treatment of night terrors

Science is advancing, but as to the origins of sleep disorders, it has not been possible to provide an explanation of its logic and operation. It’s an enigma yet to be investigated, and night terror is no exception to this rule.

Today There is no specific treatment for night terrors. As with sleepwalking, some professionals recommend alternative techniques such as meditation, hypnosis, yoga, etc. As long as they complete a psychological or psychiatric intervention.

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