Most people are surprised to learn night terrors — or often called sleep terrors — impact a surprising number of adults. While the condition is most commonly associated with children between the ages of three and twelve, it is also known to affect adults. The exact causes of night terrors are relatively unknown, though adults that experience them often find that there is a genetic predisposition to do so. Sometimes they are attributed to post traumatic stress — especially when night terrors impact soldiers coming home from war and victims of violence. According to the Mayo Clinic, most night terrors in children will cease by the time the child is in his or her adolescence.
Symptoms of Night Terrors
Night terrors are so much more than simple nightmares. Nightmares, no matter how vivid, fade over time once you’ve awakened if you even remember the main points of the dream to begin with. When it comes to night terrors however, there is a lingering sense of foreboding, terror, sweating, accelerated heartbeat, screaming, and confusion. Some people will have physical reactions while remaining in a sleep-like state and yet have no recollection of the dream or the terrors the following morning.
Possible Consequences of Night Terrors
Night terrors are a type of parasomnia sleep disorder. While the condition itself is more startling to witness than it is damaging in and of itself, there remain quite a few potentially negative health consequences that can arise from prolonged, unchecked night terrors. Chief among the potential consequences is severe sleep deprivation.
Sleep is one of the most important things you can do for the sake of your body and your health. It’s vitally important that you get an adequate amount of deep sleep on a regular basis. Night terrors, unfortunately, interrupt the continuity and quality of your sleep (as well as the sleep of the person sleeping beside you). The long-term health consequences of inadequate sleep include: obesity, heart disease, anxiety attacks, emotional instability, and depression. If you’re having consistent episodes of night terrors, it might be in your best interests to discuss treatment options and possibilities with your physician or a sleep specialist.
Treatments for Night Terrors in Adults
The good news for adults suffering from night terrors is that adults typically respond well to medical efforts to reduce the frequency and severity of these episodes.
Behavioral change is one of the first things your physician is likely to recommend. According to WebMD: “Behavioral changes have proven effective for 70 percent of all adults who suffer from nightmares, including those caused by anxiety, depression, and PTSD.” Other treatment options may include changing medications, guided imagery for sleep treatment, treating physical conditions that may contribute to night terrors (these conditions include restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea), exercising, and even changing bedroom furniture, including your mattress.
Little things can make a huge difference when it comes to night terrors in adults and how well you can count on getting a good night’s sleep. Keep these things in mind as you explore your treatment options if you’re one of the adults suffering from this condition.
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