The Difference Between Nightmares and Night Terrors


If there are times that you wake up to the sounds of your child screaming, then your child may be experiencing night terrors. There may be many questions you have about this phenomenon as these can be stressful to witness as a parent. Here we will learn more about night terrors and how they differ from nightmares. 

All about night terrors 

Often referred to as sleep terrors, night terrors are a type of parasomnia. This is an arousal disorder that happens in the non-REM portion of sleep (NREM) which is during the first 3-4 hours of the night. 

Some signs of night terror include factors such as screaming, kicking, or flailing. There are also other symptoms such as rapid heart rate and breathing, sweating and more. These usually last around 10 minutes but can last for 30-40 minutes. After the episode, your child can fall back asleep, often with no memory of what transpired during their night terror. Its frequency is hard to predict, with some experiencing it rarely while some may have a few episodes each month.


Nightmares on the other hand are unpleasant and sometimes frightening dreams that cause distress on the person. This occurs during REM sleep and doesn’t involve any physical or vocal behaviors. Remembering what transpired and the feelings involved in nightmares are more common, also with the possibility of it being recurring for some. 

Causes and treatment of night terrors 

Evidence shows that night terrors have a genetic component that makes it more likely to occur among a family with a history of parasomnia. People with existing sleep disorders are increasingly recognized in those with night terrors such as restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, and the like. However, there is no correlation between night terrors and psychological disorders as compared to the other types of parasomnias. 

There are some factors that are known to trigger someone for parasomnias and that includes:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Separation anxiety (in children)
  • Disruption of sleep schedule
  • Certain medications
  • Migraine headaches
  • Head injury
  • Fever
  • Periods of emotional distress

It is best to consult a doctor or sleep about night terrors to be able to tailor it to your needs if you’re an adolescent or adults experiencing night terrors. It is important to know how to respond in times of night terrors to be safe. 

When a child is experiencing night terror, staying close by their side just to ensure they do not fall or hurt themselves is good. Knowing that night terrors are a more-than-one occurrence, it is important to ensure that your child’s room is safe without any possibly dangerous items nearby.

Whether it’s a night terror or nightmare, getting good sleeping habits and practicing the right self-care before going to sleep is just as important. Letting yourself comfortable be part of your sleep routine, whether it’s sleeping on schedule or getting yourself the right mattress, head over to Comfort Living PH for sleep essentials like single bed foam, premium memory foam topper, and orthopedic cooling pillow for the best sleep experience.

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