Causes & Treatment of Night Terrors (Pavor Nocturnus)

Causes of Night Terrors (Sleep Terror)

Night terrors are a sleep disorder categorized as parasomnia, affecting non-REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. There are no definitive causes of a night terror although some contributing factors may be responsible for night terrors.

  • Teething in children (infants, babies, toddlers)
  • Fevers
  • Pain or discomfort
  • Abuse, trauma or stress (physical, emotional, verbal or sexual)

  • Overexertion and extreme fatigue
  • Prolonged sleeplessness, persistent insomnia or sleep deprivation.
  • Drugs / medication acting on the central nervous system (CNS) like benzodiazepines and barbituates.
  • Use of narcotic drugs and alcohol abuse. Drug or alcohol withdrawal may also be a cause of night terrors.
  • Family history may be a predisposing factor.

Treatment & Management of Night Terrors (Sleep Terror)

There is no clearly established therapeutic protocol for the treatment of night children. Treatment should be targeted at possible causes and contributing factors.

  • Establishing a proper sleep routine may be useful especially in children experiencing night terrors.
  • Avoid factors that may disturb sleep especially in the initial stages of sleep.
  • Certain classes of antidepressants may provide temporary relief for night terrors. Antidepressants for the treatment of night terrors should be prescribed by a medical doctor after careful assessment and investigation of the condition.
  • Sleeping tablets‘ used for the treatment of insomnia should be avoided as they can aggravate the condition.
  • Night terrors in children usually resolves spontaneously with age and should be conservatively managed rather than treated.

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