Sleep Disorder

Managing Sleep Terrors (STs)

Sleep terrors (STs) or night terrors are a form of sleep disorder that is marked by sudden arousal during sleep, as a result of feeling extremely terrorized that makes the person literally scream or cry they usually occur in the first third to first half of the night, and rarely during naps. A sleep terror may lead to sleepwalking also. Sleep terrors last from seconds to a few minutes. However, even though sleep terrors are dreadful and frightening they aren’t usually harmful to health, most children with this problem overcome STs as they grow.

Symptoms of sleep terrors

The person affected with sleep terror disorder may show the following symptoms:-

  • Scream
  • Cry
  • Frightened
  • Sit up on bed
  • Breathe heavily
  • Kick
  • Sweat profusely
  • Confused
  • Behave aggressively
  • Partially or fully awake from sleep very suddenly
  • High blood pressure
  • Dilated pupils
  • Gasping
  • Not remember the happenings
  • Inconsolable
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Moaning

If you feel that you are often terrorized by nightmares and constantly struggling to sleep and cope with sleep terrors, and it is causing excessive daytime sleepiness, then it’s time to consult your doctor or a sleep specialist.

Causes of sleep terrors –Sleep terrors are more common in children. It also affects both men and women equally. Sleep terrors often affect the children between the ages of four to 12 years old. Those affected also tend to talk in their sleep or sleepwalk. There are a number of factors that may contribute to night terrors that include –

  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Sleep disorders
  • Sleep interruptions
  • Fever
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Certain medications
  • Breathing problems
  • Thyroid problems
  • Brain swelling
  • Bloating
  • Consumption of excess alcohol
  • Light or noise
  • Genetic factors
  • Migraine headaches
  • Physical stress
  • Emotionally weak
  • An overfull bladder
  • Head injuries
  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
  • Stroke
  • Premenstrual period

Risk factors that contribute to sleep terrors

  • Sleep terrors are linked to genetic, a person is at risk for sleep terrors if it runs in the family.
  • Age of a patient also plays an important role in sleep terrors. Most children affected with this condition outgrow the problem. But sometimes it stays with the person If not controlled or resolved with age.
  • Stress also contributes to sleep terrors. If you are extremely stressed your brain functions are disturbed and you may be attacked by night terrors combined with sleepwalking, but it could end if you manage your stress.
  • Certain strong medications are also likely to cause night terrors and sleepwalking.
  • People who consume excess alcohol and use drugs are also at risk for developing symptoms of sleepwalking, night terrors and other health problems.
  • People suffering from high fever may also get affected by sleepwalking and night terrors.
  • Sometimes when you visit a new place you may find difficult sleeping in an unfamiliar environment, which can also put you at risk for sleep terrors, but this could be temporary, and you’ll be fine once you start sleeping in the place you are used to.
  • Strong lights or loud noises in the middle of the night can also be risky for you to develop sleep terrors symptoms.

Ways to manage sleep terrors

Sleep or night terrors are usually not harmful to your health, but it can affect your quality of life. If you experiencing night terrors, you will undergo a lot of behavioural, psychological and emotional changes that make you do unwanted things that may not be dangerous but can pose a threat to your well being. If you experience sleep terrors, there are many ways that can help manage the symptoms.

  • Get enough sleep – getting the right amount of sleep will not only improve your quality of living but also reduce your sleep terror attacks. Set a sleep-wake routine that will help you sleep better and avoid sleep terrors because once your body gets used to the sleeping pattern you set, nothing can disturb that.
  • Reduce stress – taking stress is the main reason for a person experiencing night terrors. High levels of stress are likely to make your night terrors even worse. Try to reduce stress by diverting your mind in other creative works or talk with someone close to you and try to find ways to reduce stress or else you can also consider taking counselling from professionals who will help reduce your stress levels.
  • Meditation – take up meditation or any relaxing techniques that will help you cope with night terrors efficiently. Nowadays there is a number of professional relaxing techniques specially designed to overcome night fears or terrors that can be practised before going to bed, which can help you relax and get good sleep.
  • Exercise – take up exercises that suit your body, exercise is a great stress buster and also very helpful to improve the quality of your sleep. If you sleep well it will also reduce the frequency and intensity of sleep terrors.

Conclusion: If you are unable to manage your sleep terrors symptoms and if you are at the verge of harming yourself in your sleep due to unusual behaviour it becomes necessary to seek professional help to overcome night terrors.

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