What is Sleep Terror Disorder?
Sleep terror disorder is a type of sleep disorder characterized by frequent, sudden and partial arousal of a patient from his sleep, screaming or crying in fear. The patient usually jolts up from lying down, and acts in a scared and frightened manner. Sometimes, those suffering from sleep terror disorders would suddenly stand up from bed, and unconsciously goes around, and this is when accidents happen. There have been cases reported where patients have fallen out of windows or down the stairs while in episode attacks of sleep terror disorders. People experiencing sleep terror disorders are not fully awake and are not aware of their actions. Oftentimes, they would react violently if someone tries to restrain or console them. The patient normally does not remember his night terrors once awake. Episodes of terror attacks usually last for about 15 minutes or so. While these episodes are commonly known as night terrors, the term sleep terror disorder is deemed more appropriate as these types of sleep disorders can also happen during the day.
While sleep terror disorder is associated with emotional distress, the definite causes of sleep terror disorders are largely unknown. It is observed to happen to those who have undergone severe emotional trauma, but not for all cases. Sleep terror disorders are more commonly seen among children than among adults. There seems to be no clear pattern as to whether more boys are girls are affected; so gender is not a factor in the disorder’s dynamics. In most cases, children’s sleep terrors are said to be resolved before or during the time children enter into adolescence, without any special medical intervention. Cycles of sleep terror disorders are believed to go down with age as the amount of slow-wave sleep, where the terror episodes usually happen during sleep, also goes down as a person ages.
Diagnosis of Sleep Terror Disorder
Diagnosis, especially among children, usually starts with parents approaching their children’s pediatrician about these abnormal sleep terror attacks. Currently, there are not much available laboratory tests to directly diagnose sleep terror disorders. Detection of this particular sleep problem usually comes from the description of the parent or the guardian of the episode attacks. Parents are encouraged to consult pediatricians or sleep specialists if children experience terror attacks several times a week, and if the sleep disruption is already affecting the child’s activities at daytime.
If the sleep terror episodes occur infrequently, or if it they do not seem to interfere significantly on a person’s activities during the day, sleep terror disorders may not necessarily require active intervention and medication. The person can go on with his or her normal activities, granted that the sleep terror attacks do not largely affect his or her other normal daily functions. Some households take precautions for children experiencing sleep terror disorder by rearranging furniture, such that children will not hurt themselves should they bolt up suddenly from their bed and move around at night. For some cases, especially for those who have gone through some traumatic experience, sessions of psychotherapy have also proven helpful in dealing with sleep terror disorders.