The disorder that causes night terrors features periods of intense fear and dread during sleep. Experts classify the disorder as a type of parasomnia, and refer to the disorder with many names, including sleep terror and pavor nocturnus, though most people use the plural night terrors. Parasomnia encompasses any undesired occurrence before, during, or just after sleep that causes abnormal movements, emotions, perceptions, or dreams. Most people eventually stop experiencing sleep terrors, but some individuals may require treatment to prevent them.
Night terrors often affect different individuals in unique ways. Similar to a panic attack, individuals experiencing night terrors are inconsolable, and onlookers must simply wait for the attack to end. Descriptions of night terror episodes include bolting upright with eyes wide open. Sweating, rapid breathing, and elevated heart rates are also common. People might begin thrashing in an attempt to defend themselves from an unknown threat. In some instances, the individual seems to be awake during the event, but exhibit signs of confusion and be unresponsive. Those who can respond may not recognize people familiar to them.
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