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Sleep Terrors Workup

  • Author: Eve G Spratt, MD, MSc; Chief Editor: Caroly Pataki, MD  more...
 
Updated: Jul 06, 2016
 

Approach Considerations

No consistent irregularities in laboratory evaluation have been identified, and no additional workup is required in a classic sleep terror presentation. No specific imaging is indicated with normal development and no focal neurologic abnormalities. If trauma during an episode has been sustained, appropriate imaging should be sought to evaluate the injury.

A sleep diary may help families identify particular triggers for sleep terror events. Comorbidities should be investigated independently of their association with sleep terrors.

Further evaluation and intervention may be required for individuals with significant daytime somnolence, for those who exhibit violent behavior during the episodes that threatens harm to self or others, or in situations where the sleep terrors generate severe distress to family members. Polysomnography is useful if a respiratory disturbance is suspected.

Physicians should also ask about specific symptoms that might suggest nocturnal seizures, including repetitive stereotypic behaviors or abnormal posturing during the episodes.[18] When nocturnal seizures are a possibility, routine electroencephalography (EEG) or sleep-deprived EEG may be helpful.[19, 20] EEG findings are often similar with sleep terrors and nocturnal seizures, especially nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy (NFLE), making diagnosis difficult. Additionally, a normal awake EEG or interictal sleep EEG may not rule out a seizure disorder.[21] Findings on EEG that suggest parasomnias rather than NFLE include the presence of vertex waves, sleep spindles, nonrhythmic theta activity, or evidence of EEG state dissociation with a posterior dominant alpha rhythm. Additionally, NFLE most often presents in stages 1 and 2 of sleep as opposed to parasomnias, which most often present in stages 3 and 4.[22]

 
 
Contributor Information and Disclosures
Author

Eve G Spratt, MD, MSc Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry, Division of Developmental Pediatrics, Medical University of South Carolina; Director, Pediatric Consultation Liaison Psychiatry, Medical University of South Carolina Children's Hospital at Charleston

Eve G Spratt, MD, MSc is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Coauthor(s)

Katherine Harris, MD Medical University of South Carolina College of Medicine

Katherine Harris, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Caroly Pataki, MD Health Sciences Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine

Caroly Pataki, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, New York Academy of Sciences, Physicians for Social Responsibility

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Martha Karlstad, MD Chief Resident, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Medical University of South Carolina College of Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Acknowledgements

Mark Anderson, MD Lt Col, United States Air Force, 75th Medical Squadron

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Kevin P Connelly, DO Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Division of General Pediatrics and Emergency Care, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine; Medical Director, Paws for Health Pet Visitation Program of the Richmond SPCA; Pediatric Emergency Physician, Emergency Consultants Inc, Chippenham Medical Center

Kevin P Connelly, DO is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians, and American Osteopathic Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chet Johnson, MD Professor and Chair of Pediatrics, Associate Director, Developmental Pediatrician, Center for Child Health and Development, Shiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies, University of Kansas School of Medicine; LEND Director, University of Kansas Medical Center

Chet Johnson, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Mary L Windle, PharmD Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose

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