Adult Night Terrors
Sleep Disorder Nov 16, 2023


Night terrors, often associated with children, can also manifest in adults. Night terrors present a perplexing and distressing phenomenon. Night terrors involve intense episodes of fear, panic, and a sense of imminent danger during sleep. Although less common in adults than children. These episodes can impact an individual’s well-being and daily functioning.

Why Do Night Terrors Happen?

Night terrors, akin to mysterious crests in the dark corners of sleep, cast an enigmatic shadow on the tranquility of the night. These episodes often occur during the non-REM (rapid eye movement) stages of sleep. It shrouds individuals in a web of fear without rousing them from their slumber. While associated with children, night terrors can invade the nocturnal landscape of adults. This leaves both age groups vulnerable to the haunting grip of these unsettling experiences.

The non-REM stages of sleep, characterized by deep, restorative slumber, become the stage for night terrors to unfold. Nightmares tend to occur during REM sleep and often involve vivid, anxiety-inducing dreams. Night terrors emerge from a more profound realm, plunging the individual into intense fear. This unique characteristic distinguishes night terrors from other sleep disturbances. It adds to the mystique that surrounds their occurrence.

Children are more susceptible to night terrors, with the episodes often peaking during the early years of life. Yet, the transition into adulthood does not provide immunity. Adults can find themselves entangled in the same nocturnal frights. These factors contribute to these episodes are as diverse as the individuals who experience them.

Stress, a formidable specter in the waking world, extends its influence into the realm of dreams and sleep. Elevated stress levels, whether from work pressures, relationship strains, or life challenges, can act as a catalyst for night terrors. The subconscious mind, a delicate balance of emotions and memories, may manifest these stressors in the night terror episode.

Irregular sleep patterns are another culprit lurking in the shadows. It can disturb the delicate choreography of the sleep cycle. Changes in bedtime routines, erratic sleep schedules, or disruptions in the sleep environment can act as triggers. This paves the way for night terrors to emerge. Consistency in sleep patterns may compromise the body’s ability to transition through the different sleep stages. It creates fertile ground for these nocturnal frights.

Certain medications, designed to bring relief to the waking world, may unlock the gates to the realm of night terrors. Drugs that influence the central nervous system alter neurotransmitter levels. Their impact on sleep architecture can contribute to the occurrence of these episodes. The delicate balance between wakefulness and slumber becomes precarious under the influence of such substances. It casts a shadow on the serenity of the night.

Night terrors remain a mysterious and complex phenomenon. At the same time, dreams interweave with the subconscious. Understanding the multifaceted nature of their causes—from physiological to psychological—provides a glimpse into the enigma that unfolds when the lights dim and the mind surrenders to the night’s embrace. Night terrors, like elusive specters, beckon further exploration, inviting us to decipher the cryptic language of the sleeping mind.

Complications of Night Terrors

Night terrors, while unsettling on their own, can lead to various complications that impact the individual experiencing them and those around them. Some of the difficulties associated with night terrors include:

  1. Disruption of Daily Functioning:

Night terrors can disrupt sleep patterns. It leads to daytime fatigue and impaired cognitive functioning. The individual may struggle with concentration, memory, and productivity, affecting their ability to perform daily tasks.

  1. Impaired Quality of Life:

Persistent night terrors can diminish a person’s quality of life. The fear and anxiety associated with these episodes may lead to heightened stress levels. It impacts emotional well-being and life satisfaction.

  1. Strained Relationships:

The sudden and intense nature of night terrors can be alarming to bed partners or family members, especially those who witness or are awakened by the individual experiencing the episode. This can strain relationships and contribute to a sense of helplessness in those trying to support the person affected.

  1. Sleep Disruption for Others:

Night terrors can disrupt the sleep of household members, especially if the episodes involve vocalizations, movements, or other disruptive behaviors. This can lead to a cycle of sleep deprivation for both the individual with night terrors and those sharing the living space.

  1. Increased Risk of Injury:

Individuals experiencing night terrors may sometimes engage in sleep-related activities, such as sleepwalking or thrashing about during an episode. This can increase the risk of injury to the person experiencing the night terror or others nearby.

  1. Development of Sleep Disorders:

Persistent night terrors may contribute to the development or exacerbation of other sleep disorders, such as insomnia or anxiety-related sleep disorders. The fear of experiencing a night terror can create a cycle of sleep anxiety, further disrupting the sleep-wake process.

  1. Psychological Impact:

Repeated night terrors can have a psychological impact, leading to increased anxiety and fear surrounding sleep. This may contribute to the development of insomnia or other anxiety disorders related to sleep.

  1. Negative Impact on Mental Health:

The emotional toll of night terrors, coupled with the potential for sleep disruption, can contribute to mental health issues such as depression or heightened levels of stress and anxiety.

Living with Night Terrors:

Dealing with night terrors can be like navigating a haunted house in your sleep. If you or someone you know is experiencing these spooky episodes, there are some strategies to make the journey a little less frightening.

  1. Create a Soothing Bedtime Routine:

Think of your bedtime routine as a magic spell to ward off night terrors. Create a calm and relaxing atmosphere before sleep. Avoid scary movies or intense activities close to bedtime. A soothing routine can be a shield against the monsters under the bed.

  1. Stick to a Sleep Schedule:

Imagine sleeping as a wise wizard who needs a regular schedule to work magic. Going to bed and waking up at the same time daily helps regulate your body’s internal clock, making it less likely for night terrors to sneak in.

  1. Make the Bedroom a Safe Haven:

Transform your bedroom into a fortress of comfort. Keep it calm, dark, and quiet. Remove any potential sleep disruptors, like electronics or caffeine. A haven is like a shield protecting you from the night’s dragons.

  1. Consider Seeking Professional Help:

If night terrors become regular visitors, it might be time to consult a sleep expert or a healthcare professional. They can guide you in navigating the mysterious realm of sleep and help you uncover the root of the terrors.


Night terrors may be like shadowy figures at night, but with understanding and helpful strategies, you can turn on the light and face them with courage. Remember, you’re not alone in this journey; there are ways to make the night a more peaceful and restful experience. Sweet dreams await those who confront the night terrors lurking in the dark.

About author

Karuna Kaul is psycho socio clinical psychologist, who works with all age group people. Her profession motivates her to serve people who are facing behavioral issues. She has over 8 years of experience and has successfully established credibility in the areas of counselling and wellness. Assessment and behavioral analysis and training and coaching. She has been an active advocate of mental health awareness. And all her endeavors in the field are primarily focused on educating more and more people about Mental Health concerns and promoting Holistic Wellbeing. She has done master in clinical psychology PG Diploma in counselling and guidance and certified in drug addiction counselling Also she has done neuro medicine psychology from London University, Kent College of United Kingdom. With an experience of six years, she had worked with various organization which provides mental health services.