1.5 million children each year in the US will develop night terrors (also known as sleep terrors). A baby or toddler who is deep in sleep can suddenly act extremely scared and frightened as if they're in a hallucination.
Night terrors are a recurring condition that can last from a few minutes up to 30 minutes and can occur nightly or less frequently. Night terrors can be chronic over years. Night terrors usually occur in the first 2 to 3 hours after a child initially falls asleep, while the nightmares that most people are familiar with normally happen throughout the night.
Other characteristic behaviors of a child undergoing night terrors are that he or she could:
- Yell or scream after being deep asleep
- Bolt upright in bed
- Move around in bed, often uncontrollably or violently as if having a seizure
- Appear agitated, with a rapid pulse
- Be very difficult to wake up
- Be impossible to calm or console during the night terror
- Be confused if awoken
- Get out of bed completely as if sleepwalking, possibly getting hurt
Children generally will be unable to remember the incident in the morning while adults might have impressions or fragments of dreams occurring during the episode.