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Night terrors, frequent recurrent episodes of intense crying and fear during a child's sleep, typically occur in children aged 3 to 12 years old, with a peak onset in children aged 3 1/2 years old.
Children who experience night terrors experience an increased heart rate and breathing rate and sweating during episodes. An estimated 1 to 6 percent of children experience night terrors. Boys and girls are equally affected. Children of all races also seem to be affected equally. The disorder usually resolves during adolescence.
The typical night terror episode usually begins approximately 90 minutes after falling asleep. The child sits up in bed and screams, appearing awake but is confused, disoriented, and unresponsive to parents or caregivers. Most episodes last 1 to 2 minutes, but they may last up to 30 minutes before the child relaxes and returns to normal sleep.