Night Terrors

Definition - What does Night Terrors mean?

Night terrors are brief episodes of sleep arousals marked by a state of intense fear or panic during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) deep sleep cycles without regaining full consciousness. Also called sleep terror disorder, common symptoms of night terrors include heart palpitations, fits of screaming/crying, hyperventilation, perspiration, and frantic motor activity (i.e., limb movement). Because night terrors generally occur during NREM deep sleep, random occurrences do not interfere with the transition to rapid eye movement (REM) cycles.

WorkplaceTesting explains Night Terrors

The cause for night terrors is largely idiopathic (unknown). However, medical evidence suggests that psychological disturbances including anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and sleep deprivation are underpinning factors that may contribute to ongoing night terrors. Because individuals are not fully awake, attempts to calm or pacify a person experiencing night terrors can result in injuries to other parties. A person may be a candidate for a diagnosis of sleep terror disorder if existing symptoms are independent of substance abuse or a primary medical disorder.

A doctor will examine a patient to determine if night terrors are secondary to a concurrent psychological condition where treatment methods can entail medication or psychotherapy. While night terrors affect a relatively small demographic of adults, repetitive disturbances can interfere with daily obligations. In the workplace, sleep deprivation can decrease alertness, disrupt concentration, and slow motor responses, adversely influencing personal and public safety standards.

Since no definitive testing exists to target night terrors, current symptoms and family history are clear determinants of a sleep terror disorder. Healthy sleep patterns lend to sound cognition and fluid reflexes that diminish the risks of a hazardous work environment. Incidentally, frequent night terrors can undermine job performance where work-related accidents and injuries can become a financial constraint to employers.

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