Many are known to awaken suddenly in the middle of the night screaming and shouting due to night terrors. This may in turn affect their day-to-day life.
Riya’s 10-year-old daughter had woken up in the night screaming and shouting. She was inconsolable. On the first night Riya ignored it thinking that it was just another nightmare that was troubling her daughter but then it happened again. Riya’s daughter was suffering from night terrors which differs from the regular nightmares.
According to Dr Kalyan Chakravarthy, psychiatrist, Mediciti, “There are two main stages of the sleep cycle- from the REM sleep phase to the NonREM Sleep phase. When this transition does not take place properly it causes night terrors (also known as pava nocturnal). Rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep) refers to the normal stage which is characterised by rapid and random movement of the eyes. REM is classified into two categories: tonic and phasic. On the other hand, in Non REM there is usually little or no eye movement during this stage. Dreaming is rare during NREM sleep.
Night Terrors and Nightmares
Dr Kalyan Chakravarty says, “Nightmares are not nasty or acute. The person tends to remember the nightmare the next time. On the other hand when it comes to night terrors, the person or child is agitated and has a sudden outburst. They do not remember the terror the next day. In case of night terrors it is usually the people around them who notice rather than the person who is experiencing the night terror. They may observe that the person wakes up startled, shouting loudly and cannot be consoled.”
Talking about handling the situation Dr Kalyan mentions that while comforting the person who is experiencing night terrors the consoler must remember that during night terrors the skin sensitivity is the highest so only slight soothing must be provided as touching them with too much force may actually aggravate the problem. The night terrors make the person groggy during the daytime.
There could be various causes for night terrors. Dr Kalyan says, “Night terrors could be due to genetic reasons. When it occurs in adults it could because of depression, stress, anxiety, depression or even middle insomnia. In children, it is generally due to the developing brain hence they usually outgrow the problem.”
Dr Kalyan says, “If the incidents are occurring once a week or even once or twice a week it could be a cause for concern. The problem needs treatments if is disturbs the patients family and affects the patients professional or academic life. Treatment involves sleep modification therapy in which they help make the patient relaxed before they go to sleep, stress relieveing techniques and also medicines which help reduce the REM time.
Dr Kalyan mentions that they are more common among children. Around two in 100 children are affected by night terrors while when it comes to adults it is around 1 in 100.