Getting Down To Basics: The Definition Of Sleep Terror Disorder

August 16, 2014 by  
Filed under Sleep Terror Disorder

Have you ever heard of Sleep Terror Disorder? Most people haven’t. Unless you’ve been around someone who suffers from it, you probably haven’t ever been exposed to it, and it just sounds like a horrible thing, using the word “terror” like that.

So what is “Sleep Terror Disorder?” Is there a definition the experts agree on? How can you avoid it – is it contagious? Can you catch it from your neighbor? Will your children bring it home from school and the whole family get it? Will it ruin your plans for the weekend?

Sleep Terror Disorder – as awful as it sounds – isn’t something to worry about and be afraid of. You’re not going to catch it from anyone else, or be a silent carrier, either. And it isn’t even all that horrible, usually, except it will interrupt your sleep on the nights when it occurs. What’s a definition of Sleep Terror Disorder? Let’s take a look.

Finding A Definition

If you’re looking for a definition of Sleep Terror Disorder, you can check with your pediatrician or in any comprehensive parenting book or medical dictionary. Though it only affects three percent of all children, the condition is distressing enough that many parenting books at least mention it in passing, if not giving a thorough description and suggestions for it.

What’s In A Name?

Sleep Terror Disorder affects primarily children. It is a condition that results in “night terrors” or “pavor nocturnes.” It occurs during the stages 3 or 4 of the non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. It is a sleep disorder that is recognizable by extreme terror and an inability to (for a short time) be unable to wake up.

The person – usually a child between two years and six or eight years, seldom an adolescent or adult – wakes up (sort of) with a panicky scream or maybe a gasp or moan. They have anxiety, confusion, unresponsiveness, odd motor movements, disorientation, and agitation. They cannot usually be completely woken up, or even comforted, and usually after a short while of the screaming or crying (often up to ten or fifteen minutes), they will fall back asleep into a deeper sleep again and will awake usually in the morning with no memory of the episode at all.

Another bit to the definition of sleep terror disorder is that night terrors usually occur one half hour to three and one half hours after the child falls asleep.

The definition of Sleep Terror Disorder is clear – while it is a disturbing situation to have a child who suffer from Sleep Terror Disorder, it is hardly an emergency. You won’t catch it, and you won’t die from it. Neither will your child. Just wait it out, and in a week or so, the symptoms will be gone, never to return.

Why Some Adults Have Sleep Terror Disorder

August 16, 2014 by  
Filed under Sleep Terror Disorder

You may be familiar with sleep terror disorder in children, but did you know that adults can also have sleep terror disorder? It’s usually got a very different cause and treatment from the childhood kind, but the symptoms are similar. Let’s take a look.

Symptoms Of Sleep Terror Disorder – Whatever The Age

Whether a child or adult, a person with sleep terror disorder has symptoms that are distressing to anyone seeing them. They will usually awake in the night – generally within a few hours of falling asleep – with a feeling of sheer terror. They are waking abruptly from stage 3 or 4 of non-rapid eye movement sleep cycle, and it would seem to the onlooker that they are stuck between sleep and wake. When they wake, they’ll usually scream, or gasp, or moan, and they have a very hard time awaking. It is much more effective to gently help the person fall back into a deep sleep, which they usually do within fifteen minutes. With a child, this role is usually performed by a parent. For an adult, if their spouse or roommate can help them back to sleep, it is ideal.

Other symptoms are physical ones that are to be expected when the person is feeling terror. They will tend to be sweating, with large pupils. Their pulse will usually be racing, and they are likely to be breathing very fast and have a look of fear or panic on their face. They can also look very confused. Reassurance by a person near them can help them relax and fall back into a deep sleep more easily.

Adults And Sleep Terror Disorder

Sleep Terror Disorder is usually a children’s disease. Usually only children between two and eight get it, though occasionally a bit older. When adults have sleep terror disorder, look for other causes. There are many avenues to check and methods to try to alleviate the symptoms, since (unlike children) they are unlikely to get better within a few weeks’ time.

Things for adults with sleep terror disorder to check include: getting a proper diet and enough sleep, and managing stressful events in life. Sometimes adults with sleep terror disorder have additional triggering factors, like trauma-based situations (post tramatic stress syndrome, for example) and genetic or chronic factors. If this is the case, the adult with sleep terror disorder should be in therapy. Psychotherapy and antidepressant medicine can often help immensely.

The adult with sleep terror disorder should also be checked for other physical factors, as there is some evidence that adults with hypoglycemia can have night terrors, as well as other symptoms.

Is There A Treatment For Sleep Terror Disorder?

August 16, 2014 by  
Filed under Sleep Terror Disorder

If your child suffers from sleep terror disorder, you want a treatment to deal with the scary episodes the sleep terror disorder causes. Is there such a thing? What can help?

Who Gets Sleep Terror Disorder?

Sleep Terror Disorder is most common among children from ages two to six. However, they can actually happen at any age. Adult who have sleep terror disorder are in the category of “unusual.” About three percent of children get them. They are most apt to happen during the fires few hours of sleep at night, and they can happen again any night over the course of a few weeks. Fortunately, after that time, they generally disappear entirely, and never recur. After age ten, they are unlikely to occur at all.

What About A Treatment?

Sleep Terror Disorder is different from nightmares. Nightmares are easy to awake a child from, and after they forget about the nightmare, they can go back to sleep. Sleep terror disorder treatment varies because with sleep terror disorder, there is no nightmare to wake from or forget. In fact, due to the complexity of what is going on in their brain at the time of the episode, no one should (or, usually, even can) awake someone from an episode. They usually are out of touch with reality, and unresponsive to outside influence. Instead, during a sleep terror disorder the best treatment is to hold the child or comfort it in another way, while reassuring the child that you are there by them. Rocking can also help. After a few minutes (usually – but it can be longer) the child will fall back into a deeper sleep and be through the sleep terror disorder episode. Treatment, for the moment, was successful, and Mom can go back to sleep.

Long Term Treatment Options

For almost all children, these subside as the child ages. There is usually no long-term medical treatment for the Sudden Terror Disorder needed. If you see a doctor, they will usually suggest that you help the child get more sleep, and lessen the stress that the child is subjected to.

Another option is for the parents to figure out which time period the episodes are most likely to occur and wake the child about 15 minutes prior to that time. After keeping the child fully awake for 4 or 5 minutes, the child can go back to sleep. This usually helps with persistent cases, and within a week can usually be discontinued.

In very severe cases, there are drugs that can be prescribed, but these are usually reserved for adults with ongoing conditions. Also, psychotherapy can be beneficial.