What Causes Night Terrors?

My grandsons, who are 3 and 4 years old, have been having night terrors since they were each 18 months old. What causes these episodes?

Night terrors are somewhat mysterious. It might seem as though they're the same as a bad dream, but they aren't. Dreams occur during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, a stage of sleep when the eyes move quickly and heart rate and breathing may be erratic. Night terrors happen during the transition between deep sleep and another level of sleep, and kids don’t remember them in the morning.

The good news is that night terrors don't seem to have any harmful effects on kids who have them, and they usually outgrow them. Sometimes night terrors are more common in kids who are going through stressful life events, on certain medications, not getting enough sleep, or having too much caffeine.

For more information, check out these articles:
Night Terrors

Reviewed by: Mary Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: April 2010

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