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Night Terrors in Children

child with night terrors

My son is 3 1/2 yrs old and some nights he wakes up screaming and crying to the point where he is inconsolable. He seems to be awake but I know he's still in a sleep. Finally, he settles down and falls back to sleep. Does that sound like night terrors and at what age are they common? 

This certainly could be night terrors. Night terrors are fairly common occurring in 2 to 5% of children. Night terrors usually do begin at his age (the preschool years) and occur more common in boys. Children with night terrors often have a family history of night terrors. Did you or your husband have a history of night terrors? During a night terror children often appear “frightened” and “confused” with large dilated pupils, increased heart rate and respiratory rate. I had night terrors as a child. My parents often tell stories of me screaming and thrashing in the middle of the night. Unlike nightmares, night terrors occur in non-REM sleep and children are unable to recall the event. Fortunately, night terrors self resolve and no specific treatment is needed.


Written December 2013 by
Gregory Gordon MD, Orlando Pediatrician





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