What is night terror disease?

By | 13 May 2021

Healthy sleep consists of two different periods as REM sleep and non-REM sleep. REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement. As the name suggests, the pupil moves very quickly in REM sleep, and dreams seen in this period are often remembered. In REM sleep, the body of the individual is immobile and the breathing and heart rate is very fast. REM occurs 4-6 times during asleep and increases in duration and frequency towards the end of sleep. Non-REM sleep is divided into deep non-REM sleep and superficial non-REM sleep. Deep non-REM sleep is the deepest phase of sleep. At this stage, breathing and heart rate are slow and regular, and eye movement is almost absent. It is very difficult to wake up from sleep at this stage. It is easy to wake up from superficial non-REM sleep, after this period at the beginning of sleep, deep sleep begins. Night terrors occur during deep non-REM sleep. Unlike dreams, night terrors occur with sudden fear or awakening from one period to another. So what is night terror disease?

What is night terror disease?

Although sleep disorders are divided into many sub-categories, night terror disease is one of them. Night terror disease also called parasomnia, that disrupts the sleep pattern of the individual; It includes abnormal movements, behaviors, perceptions, emotions, and dreams that can occur while falling asleep, during sleep, during sleep stages, and during waking. Many people face night terrors at some stage in their lives. Studies by experts have found that 88% of children between the ages of five months and six years have parasomnia at least once. Night terror disease tends to decrease after puberty. It has been found that most of the individuals who developed parasomnia in adolescence and afterward also had this disease in childhood. Night terrors can be observed in several different ways. Parasomnia, which is observed outside of REM sleep, occurs with sleepwalking (sleepwalking), while in REM sleep it manifests itself as nightmares and sleeps paralysis.

What are the symptoms of night terror disease?

The symptoms of night terror disease are characteristic and each attack occurs similarly. The person who is asleep during the night terror attack wakes up suddenly from his sleep and can sit on the bed in a frightened state and scream. As a continuation of this, yelling leaves its place to groans, breathing becomes more frequent due to fear, and sweating may be seen. Because of fear, the individual may want to take off their clothes and tend to leave their environment. Since the patient is not fully conscious, involuntary muscle movements are possible. Attacks caused by the disease are seen in the first 2 or 4 hours of sleep. Symptoms, which can last for a short time depending on the severity of the attack, can last for minutes if the patient cannot recover from the attack. Often, the individual goes back to sleep and falls asleep unaware of what he or she has done. Most of the time, the patient is not fully awake during these symptoms. When the sleep is completed, the individual is unaware of the attack he has had in his sleep. Speaking, deep sighing and moaning can also be seen during sleep, which is different and lighter.

What are the causes of night terror disease?

One of the most important underlying causes of night terror disease is psychological problems. In fact, very few other causes cause parasomnia. The rush of modern life, people’s ability to spare less time for themselves, unbalanced nutrition and lack of socialization cause many psychological and physiological diseases as well as sleep disorders. Events that will not please the individual during the day take place in the subconscious. These events may be unrest in the workplace, any problem in public transportation, and family troubles. Events that take place in the subconscious usually occur during sleep. In addition to these, the noise of cities, too much light, and irregular sleep are the most important factors in the emergence of parasomnia. Personality disorders, relationship problems, stress, some medications, fever, insomnia, antidepressant drugs can also cause parasomnia. Although it is encountered in a few patients, genetic predisposition may also be present. The history of the patient is very important in determining whether the disease has arisen due to genetic reasons. If parents have had sleep problems at some point in their lives, it may be genetically inherited.

How is the diagnosis of night terror disease?

For the diagnosis of night terror disease, it is necessary to make a definite distinction from epilepsy. To make this distinction, polysomnography, or sleep test, called PSG is performed. The patient is tested in a clinical and hygienic environment at the time determined by the doctor. During the test, EEG is used to detect brain waves, EOG for eye movements, and EMG for muscle activities. In addition, the patient’s breathing pattern, the amount of oxygen in the blood, and heart functions are measured. The test is carried out in the time period to be determined according to the expert’s recommendation. To obtain more reliable results from the test, stimulant substances such as coffee, alcohol, cigarettes should not be used throughout the day. It is also important not to use any medication because of its side effects. During the entire sleep period, the sleep of the patient is examined in certain periods. This is because sleep has many stages. Any abnormality that occurs is decisive in the diagnosis, about which segment of sleep it occurs. If no epilepsy attacks occur in the patient whose sleep pattern is examined, a diagnosis of night terrors can be made.

What are the treatment methods for night terror disease?

Night terrors usually disappear after puberty. Attacks are also very rare during illness periods. If this situation recurs every day or every few days, it is necessary to consult a psychiatrist or neurologist. Normally, daytime sleep is not recommended to make night sleeps more efficient, but daytime sleep can be recommended for young patients. Regardless of the age of the patient, care should be taken to ensure that the air of the environment is clean and the bed to sleep in is hygienic. It is useful to awaken the individual before the seizure if the seizure occurs at similar times in individuals who have night terror disease day by day. However, it is not recommended to awaken the patient during the attack. Apart from all these, the underlying cause of the disease must be eliminated. A problem that a school-age patient has with his friends or teachers at school can lead to the development of night terrors. If the child’s problems are detected and eliminated, it will be seen that the attacks will decrease and end. Adults may also have problems in their business life, social environment, or family life. In these cases, it will be useful to get support from a psychological counselor. Ensuring regular sleep times for individuals of all ages helps to reduce attacks.

If you or those around you are experiencing the above-mentioned sleep problems and you suspect night terror disease, it is useful to see a neurologist or psychiatrist. Although night terror disease does not cause permanent or serious problems, it should not be forgotten that it may arise from the stress of daily life or psychological problems. The underlying cause of the disease should be diagnosed and treatment should be started before it causes other serious diseases. It is important to remember how important it is to have a healthy sleep and to see a specialist for all kinds of sleep problems for a more peaceful life. We wish you healthy days.



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