A patient tells Medical Daily about her personal experience with night terrors and shares some of the science behind the sleep disorder.

Occasionally as an adult, for days on end, months at a time, I wake to find myself in a state of panic, clutching my chest, gasping for air, drenched in sweat. This is typical of those who suffer night terrors; most report some or all of the following: tachycardia (increased heart rate), tachypnea (increased breathing rate), and sweating during episodes.

Night terrors are rare but are more common in kids, especially those who are overtired or ill, stressed, or fatigued, taking a new medication, or sleeping in a new environment or away from home. “Three to six percent of children, between the ages of 4 to 11 years old, get night terrors,” says Donna Housman, a clinical psychologist in Weston, Mass. “It’s a scary thing for parents.” About 80 percent of kids who have night terrors have a family member who also experienced them, or sleep walking, indicating there might be a genetic component.