Night terror, also known as sleep terror, is a sleep disorder, causing feelings of terror or dread, and typically occurs during the first hours of stage 3–4 non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. Sleep terrors begin in children between the ages of 3 and 12, and usually stop during adolescence. In adults, they most commonly occur between the ages of 20 to 30. Though the frequency and severity vary between individuals, the episodes can occur in intervals of days or weeks, but can also occur over consecutive nights or multiple times in one night. This has created a situation in which any type of nocturnal attack or nightmare may be confused with and reported as a night terror.Night terrors tend to happen during periods of arousal from delta sleep, also known as slow-wave sleep. Delta sleep occurs most often during the first half of a sleep cycle, which indicates that people with more delta sleep activity are more prone to night terrors. However, they can also occur during daytime naps. Night terrors can often be mistaken for confusional arousal.While nightmares (bad dreams that cause feelings of horror or fear) are relatively common during childhood, night terrors occur less frequently. Sleep terror episodes are estimated to occur in 1–6% of children, and in less than 1% of adults. Night terrors have been known since ancient times, although it was impossible to differentiate them from nightmares until rapid eye movement was discovered.
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