Symptoms of night terrors may vary in adults and children, but the most prominent symptom among all ages are insomnia or irregular sleeping patterns. It's also common to experience terrifying dreams when affected by night terrors. Other signs of night terrors are screaming upon awakening in the middle of the night. Children who suffer from night terrors may be afraid of the dark and insist on sleeping with the light on. Younger children may want to sleep in a parent's bed.
Night terrors affect both males and females. Many adults suffer from symptoms of night terrors that can disrupt a person's life. Adults may awaken in the middle of the night with a feeling of impending doom. In severe cases, the person may be sweating profusely, or his heart may be racing. He may also feel dizzy or light-headed.
Some people with this disorder also experience sleepwalking episodes. During this phase, the individual will be in a state of semi-awareness, although still asleep. Both children and adults who enter a sleepwalking phase during an episode of night terrors may become very confused upon awakening. Therefore, it is important to approach the person with caution, to avoid a potentially harmful accident.
Children who exhibit symptoms of night terrors often complain of nightmares. Dreams may be very vivid and frightening, especially for a young child. In many cases, the frightening dream may recur nightly. Some children may not be able to recall the experience in the morning, although they may feel extremely tired or drowsy.
Doctors have a difficult time diagnosing night terrors, as symptoms are very similar to that of nightmares. The symptoms of night terrors, however, are more diverse. Most everyone who experiences night terrors will have a fear of the night and be hesitant to fall asleep. Identifying the cause of night terrors can be as difficult as diagnosing the disorder. Many experts believe some individuals who suffer from night terrors may have experienced a traumatic event in the past, while others believe there is a genetic factor involved.
Preventing night terrors can be done with medical treatment or in some cases, self-help programs. Some patients take prescription medications to control symptoms of night terrors. A physician may prescribe anti-depressants for an adult, although these drugs are generally used with caution when prescribed for children. Sedatives may also be prescribed for patients with symptoms of night terrors.