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Sleep Terror Symptoms

Sleep terror disorder is also known as night terrors. Sleep terror is characterized by the following symptoms that a professional looks for when making a diagnosis for this condition:

  • Recurrent episodes of abrupt awakening from sleep, usually occurring during the first third of the major sleep episode and beginning with a panicky scream.
  • Intense fear and signs of autonomic arousal, such as tachycardia, rapid breathing, and sweating, during each episode.
  • Relative unresponsiveness to efforts of others to comfort the person during the episode.
  • No detailed dream is recalled and there is amnesia for the episode.
  • The episodes cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
  • The disturbance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition.

More about Night Terrors


Note: this disorder has been subsumed under Non-Rapid Eye Movement Sleep Arousal Disorders in the updated DSM-5. See updated sleepwalking (non-REM sleep arousal) disorder symptoms criteria.

Steve Bressert, Ph.D.

Steve Bressert, Ph.D. is an author and retired as a professional in clinical practice. He has been writing about psychology and mental health issues since 1998.

APA Reference
Bressert, S. (2019). Sleep Terror Symptoms. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 10, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 11 Oct 2019 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 11 Oct 2019
Published on Psych All rights reserved.