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Difference Between Night Terrors and Nightmares

nightmare-pdNight Terrors vs Nightmares

There is no denying that both are unpleasant, but there is a difference between night terrors and nightmares. The biggest difference between the two is related to the stage of wakefulness or sleep that the sufferer is in when these dreams occur.

A night terror can be very frightening to witness, as the sufferer seems to be fully awake. Walking, screaming, crying, and even carrying out conversations, can occur while the victim is actually still in a deep state of sleep.

Nightmares generally happen in a lighter stage of sleep, and while they might induce some sleep talking, they often wake up the victim without much incident.

Night terrors are usually limited to children and young teenagers. Very few adults have them, and if they do, they tend to be rare. Children can have them at night and have no recollection of the events in the morning.

Nightmares are experienced by anyone who dreams. Adults, children, and even babies, have been shown to have difficult dreams. These dreams are usually memorable for the individual, and can be discussed during the waking hours.

The instinct to wake someone during a nightmare is generally helpful. Waking someone during a nightmare is often quite easy, since the victim is usually in REM sleep, and is heading toward wakening anyway. The drive to wake someone during a night terror can actually be detrimental. Since there is no memory of the event, and there is no understanding for being abruptly woken, a child can actually find themselves suddenly distressed if you are successful.

Night terrors are thought to stem from different causes, including a lack of development of the nervous system. Nightmares are thought to have various causes, but most can be related to stress that the brain is trying to work through.

Nightmares are a normal part of life, especially during certain periods of stress, change, medication consumption, or pregnancy. Night terrors should be brought to the attention of a pediatrician or doctor if they are becoming frequent, or if they show up later in the teen or adult years.

A night terror can last for more than an hour, which can be very distressing for anyone who is witnessing the event. A nightmare is not long lived, and is usually over in a period of minutes once the victim starts to wake from the dream.


1. A night terror has no wakefulness.

2. Nightmares occur during a lighter sleep.

3. There is no memory of a night terror.

4. Nightmares can be remembered and recounted.

5. Night terrors are generally experienced by children.

6. Nightmares are experienced by anyone.

7. There is no comforting, or waking someone from a night terror.

8. Nightmares can be comforted.

9. Night terrors can last more than an hour.

10. Nightmares are usually short, and wake the individual from sleep.

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