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)
- 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.