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Difference Between Night Terrors and Nightmares

Night Terrors vs Nightmares

People normally have dreams. These dreams are usually the pleasant aspirations that they would love to experience. On the other hand, if one dreams of something dark and awful while he sleeps, then most likely he is having some nightmares or night terrors. However, how can one tell that one had a nightmare and not a night terror?

Nightmare is a more familiar term than night terrors. Hence, it became the standard term for anything unpleasant in one’s dream. That’s why when one experiences such then jumps out of his bed; he will most likely claim that he had a nightmare when in fact this is not always the case. The reason for such is that, perhaps only about 5% of children experience night terrors throughout their childhood age. The majority of the experiences are nightmares.

The time of occurrence is different with nightmares and night terrors. For the former, these can happen after one has slept for several hours. In this situation, the dreams experienced are usually complex and intense in nature. After the nightmare, the victim can quickly recall how intense the experience was, if not immediately after waking up then perhaps a little time afterwards. Moreover, nightmares are characterized with almost no bodily movements involved. The person experiencing nightmares only groans and whimpers while he sleeps.

Night terror is a different phenomenon. It usually happens during the first couple of hours during sleep. It is not surprising to see someone shouting and screaming a lot when having night terrors. Even with this outburst, the person is much more difficult to awaken. He will not be able to recall the entire experience other than a suffocating dreadful feeling that may or may not be coupled with a memory of what has happened. Even if you can see that they have their eyes open, there’s a big possibility that they are still asleep

Because of the graver nature of night terrors, the victim can sleepwalk at night. The worse part is that he will also urinate in bed. This scenario is much common among children especially during the toddler and preschool years.

Even with today’s technology, the exact cause for night terrors is not completely known. In adults however, this event is likely attributed to extreme stress. Among children, night terrors usually resolve when they reach the age of puberty.


1. Nightmares are less intense than night terrors.

2. Nightmares happen at the later stage of sleeping whereas night terrors can occur during the first two hours of sleep.

3. The victim can easily recall what transpired in his nightmares but recalling the events in a night terror seems more difficult to do.

4. Nightmares involve more moaning and groaning while night terrors may be manifested by shouting and other strong body movements.

5. Nightmares are more common in children unlike night terrors that rarely occur.

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