Night Terrors vs. Nightmares: What is the Difference?

January 30, 2021

Occasionally, a bad dream happens to all of us. A bad dream can be scary and ruin sleep. Sleeping is the body’s opportunity to relax, but nightmares and night terrors are incredibly disruptive, worsen sleep quality, and can have a negative impact on health.

In this article, we discuss the difference between night terrors and nightmares.

Difference Night Terrors Difference Nightmares

Both nightmares and night terrors are bad dreams, but with varying intensities. These are two distinct sleep conditions with some pretty considerable differences, which are vital to know.

So, let us go.


Night terrors are a type of parasomnia, categorized as an arousal disorder. They are not dreams, as the people are unaware of what is happening to them and will not remember the episode in the morning. Most night terrors occur in non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep between stages 3 and 4, known as deep sleep or slow-wave. The episode of night terror usually happens within an hour or two of falling asleep. Also, it is unusual for a person to have more than one night terror in an evening.

On the other hand, nightmares often occur during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep when the brain is most likely to have lucid dreams. The nightmares can easily be recalled, like other dreams during REM. Sleepers can recall nightmares, but they have no recollection of night terrors.


Night terrors are middle-of-the-night occurrences characterized by intense screaming, thrashing, crying, flailing, or kicking during sleep. Sleepers often tend to sleepwalk or sit up, though they remain unconscious.

Nightmares are intense, unpleasant, and frightening dreams that can happen to sleepers of all age groups. The content of nightmares are usually drawn from daily life incidents, but other common themes include a threatening source, feelings of helplessness, and unresolvable events.

Age Group

Studies have found that children are mostly affected by night terrors, with nearly 40% of children having the occasional episode. Children who encounter episodes of night terrors are between the ages of 4 to 8. These kids are too young to properly handle stressors like stress, anxiety, or a lack of sleep. It is less common for older kids, teens, and grown-ups to get night terrors, though not impossible.

The AASM (American Academy of Sleep Medicine) estimates that approximately 50% to 85% of adults encountered an occasional nightmare, while 7% to 8% experience recurring nightmares. Also, one in four kids between the ages of 5-12 encounter occasional nightmares.


During a night terror, a person enters a state of distress and panic while asleep. Even if the person appears conscious, they are ignorant of what is happening. The person may sit upright, stand up, and even open their eyes, and sleepwalk. Also, in the midst of a night terror episode, a sleeper may have a fast pulse, sweat, hyperventilate, mumble incoherently, have a flushed face, dilated pupils, thrash about, shout, kick, or cry out.

Unlike night terrors, it is common to remember the feelings or details of the nightmare. Even some of the nightmares become recurring dreams. Sometimes, people can sleep through nightmares, while other times, they may jolt awake. After waking up, the sleeper may struggle to return to slumber. Also, they may have heightened blood pressure or heart rate.

Final Words

Night terrors and nightmares can occur to anyone and for no reason at all. But, do not let night terrors or nightmares plague your slumber, as it can lead to fatigue, sleep apnea, problem concentrating during the day, insomnia, or Restless Legs Syndrome. By taking the right step towards the potential causes of sleep disturbances, people can improve their sleep quality.

Also, you can achieve sweet dreams again by buying a Durfi mattress, as it provides a cleaner and comfortable sleep environment. The Cotton Candy Memory Foam mattress is made up of antimicrobial fabric that prevents the growth of odor and stain-causing bacteria. The 7-layers medium-firm structure of the mattress presents proper support and optimum push-back to the body.

So, get a Durfi mattress and enjoy sleeping.

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