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Video

Dr Dawn:

A topic that’s come up over and over again on the Embarrassing Bodies website is night terrors and what’s the difference between night terrors and nightmares. Well, to understand that we need to understand a little bit about normal sleep patterns and when we sleep we go through two very distinct phases. Rapid eye movement sleep which is when we dream and non rapid eye movement sleep which is a deeper sleep and it’s in the deepest parts of that non rapid eye movement sleep that we might develop night terrors. And because they occur in our deepest sleep, often individuals will have absolutely no recollection of what’s happened whereas because we dream in our lighter sleep we often recall dreams and nightmares.

Question here from a 23 year old girl who says that she’s often woken up outside of bed talking to people that aren’t there and that often this is worse when she’s just started a new job, is that significant? Yes, it is and actually night terrors are relatively common in children but they’re not common in adults and if they start a fresh in adulthood it’s usually a sign that that individual is in distress.

And a few of you have commented that when you’re very angry about things your night terrors seem to get worse and that fits with the idea when we’re stressed night terrors are often worse. Maybe granny knew a thing or two when she said don’t go to sleep on an argument.

We’ve had some suggestion on the website that sleeping on your back could make night terrors worse. In fact we all move around during a night’s sleep so don’t get too hung up on which position you go to sleep in, it’s much better that your just comfortable.

And we have lots of questions from parents of young children who suffer with night terrors wondering about how you should manage these. The first thing to say is that most kids will just grow out of this. But in the meantime if your child is tending to walk whilst they’re having a night terror make sure that the environment is safe so they don’t injure themselves.

And a question here from someone who says is it true that it’s dangerous to wake someone up if you find them sleepwalking? It’s not dangerous but remember your sleepwalking in your deepest sleep so if you wake someone rapidly you’re going to find that they’re likely to be very panicky and disorientated. It’s much better if you just guide them back to their room and let them continue sleeping.

Another common question is that people finding that they jerk their legs just as they are falling off to sleep. Actually its normal and very common, it’s called hypnogogic movements and its nothing to worry about.

Read the video transcript

Doctor Responses: Night Terrors

Loads of you have asked questions about night terrors and sleepwalking, so Dr Dawn has taken time out to answer some of your most pressing queries.

The majority of these questions were submitted on our condition guide to night terrors and sleepwalking.

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Comments and Questions

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It's really sobering to read this and to see how many people are struggling with night terrors without much help. My son, now 20, has had extreme night terrors since birth. It's very distressing. It's horrible for him because sleeping at friends' places and with his girlfriend means everyone witnesses it. The doctor says 'he will grow out of it'. It seems amazing that in this day and age that's all anyone can say. My son is afraid to go to university; afraid to go camping etc. because he transforms at night.





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My son has suffered night terrors for a few years he is now 22. These have now escalated and in the past month 2 serious episodes 1st was He tried to smother his partner both hands over her face she eventually woke him. 2nd was his partner woke to find him on all fours screaming at her and bulging eyes she ran in fear but he chased her round the house he woke just as she was escaping the front door. GP not interested/ helpful where can we get help for the safety of my son and his partner





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Hi, I've been suffering from insomnia for months now and the very few times I do sleep I end up with what I assume is night terrors because I wake up with scratch marks on my arms and tears that seemed to have streamed at least a few hours before. I was also diagnosed with mild aspergers syndrome when I was seven and that may or may not have something to do with it.





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Hi, I've been suffering from insomnia for months now and the very few times I do sleep I end up with what I assume is night terrors because I wake up with scratch marks on my arms and tears that seemed to have streamed at least a few hours before. I was also diagnosed with mild aspergers syndrome when I was seven and that may or may not have something to do with it.





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How do i stop kicking and throwing myself around in my sleep? It is to the point that im hurting my parter.





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Good Day Please I need assistance - i am newly wed and its happened before once in 4yrs and happened again this morning. My husband dreamt that i had cheated on him with a family friend and I was woken up with being hit on my head but extremely hard. When i asked him what in the world was that for he told me to F off - he eventually got out of bed and went to the lounge - i got up and went to find out what was going on and he told me his dream He has looked on the internet and found a story where a guy killed his wife and now my husband is worried that it could get to that - any help on treating this please or what to do Worried Wife





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My 6year old grandson is getting very servere night terrors, He has been having then at least 6 nights out of 7 my daughter has taken him to the G.P as they are getting extremly dangerous for him, as he is trying to climb out of the bedroom window, climbing the wall,shouting out and screaming for his mum and dad to help him .this has been going on for three years and the doctor has told them that he will grow out of it. My daughter has done everything she has been told to do with regards to giving him a lavender bath, as well as giving him calamine tea, she also asked for him to be reffered to a sleep clinic. she has video tape of what is happening and it is extremaly distressing to watch. can you reccommend a sleep clinic that we could take him to as my daughter is also expecting another baby and is so distressed and is finding it more difficult to try and cope with everything that is happening to her son. please please can you help we are so desperate.





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Hi can someone please help I am 34 and have suffered from insomnia what seems like forever now but it comes in patterns. For a week or so I find that I can't sleep then for a few weeks I sleep fine but even then I wake up tired. Also I can be sat in my front room falling asleep but when I go bed I am wide awake and I have to have my tv on to go sleep ( radio doesn't work )





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I have Night Terrors almost every night... My husband tells me I Swear & say very Crude things to him, I Hit him & 99% of the time I don't Remember. I sometimes wake up from the Load Screaming. Needing some advice on how to stop. My ex husband of 31 years tells me I've done this for Many years. I suffer from depression & also a victim of Molestation as a child. I have dealt with that issue & now 48 so I don't understand why I have these battles in my sleep... Any Advice on what is going on with me? It's making me feel Crazy.





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You are not crazy. Night terrors are your body's way of telling you that you are stressed and feeling "unsafe" in your bed. I have had night terrors for years. Your childhood issues may not be as resolved as you thought, and talking to a friend, helpline, doctor or therapist may help. I also suggest you get a blood test to see if your iron levels are low. Part of your depression may be that you are over-tired and not just from lack of good sleep. Iron tablets will help. If possible sleep in a room by yourself for a while, without much furniture other than a bed. That will take away the worry that you may hurt your husband or keep him from sleeping properly, and you can also not do yourself much harm that way. I find it gets worse when I am overheating so I have the bedroom cool, wear only a long cotton T-shirt and have the minimum by way of duvet/blanket. When it happens and you wake up screaming, try to calm yourself down and tell yourself it will pass and that you will still sleep normally for the rest of that night. If necessary, turn on a dim light (I usually have night terrors involving spiders or snakes falling on or crawling over me, so having a light on makes me feel safe). Because certain medications can trigger night terrors, if you are on any medication visit your doctor to see if it can be changed, lowered in dosage, or done away with (but don't change or stop taking medicines without speaking to your doctor). There is no magic solution, but all of the above may help at least a little bit. Best of luck.

hi doctors please someone help me... hi, i have this condition where i cannot sleep with anyone else in the room i have to have 4 walls and a door and the door has to be shut and no one in the room, i also cant be in the same room as someone who is sleeping i get so anxious and nervous start sweeting and everything ive been like this for as long as i can remember and it affects my relationship with my gf and i dont know what to do how to fix it.. i just want answers its really bad i cant stay at my gfs cause i cant sleep with her, because when shes asleep all i do is lay their start to sweet and freak out and leave the room i dunno what to do someone please help!! theres alot more to it aswell.





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