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Night Terrors

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 7, 2024.

What are night terrors?

Night terrors are part of a sleep disorder that causes your child to wake up suddenly in fear. Your child does not remember the terror the next day. Night terrors are not the same as nightmares. Nightmares happen when your child is dreaming. Night terrors happen when your child is between being awake and asleep.

What increases my child's risk for night terrors?

Night terrors are most common in children 4 to 7 years old. The exact cause of night terrors is not known. The following may increase your child's risk:

What are the signs and symptoms of night terrors?

A night terror may last less than 1 minute or up to 30 minutes. The terror may happen while your child is in bed. Your child may walk or run during the terror. Your child may have any of the following during a terror:

How are night terrors diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will ask about your child's health history, night terrors, and sleep patterns. The provider may order a sleep study for your child. A sleep study gives information about your child's brain, heart, and breathing during sleep. Other tests may be used to rule out possible causes of your child's symptoms.

How are night terrors treated?

No treatment is needed for night terrors. Most children outgrow night terrors as they get older. Healthcare providers will help you learn to prevent or manage your child's night terrors.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

What can I do to help my child prevent or manage night terrors?

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

When should I call my child's doctor?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.