Unlike nightmares that occur during REM sleep, night terrors occur during non-REM sleep, usually in the first cycle of the deepest phase of sleep (within the first hour or two of going to bed). Night terrors can last anywhere from five to 20 minutes. People having a night terror are still asleep but may look like they are awake. For example, they may sit up in bed screaming with their eyes wide open. When they actually do wake up, they usually have no memory of the episode (although some people do remember them). Night terrors occur most frequently in children, but adults can also experience them.
Recurring Dreams and Nightmares
Many people have the same or a similar dream many times, over either a short period of time or their lifetime. Recurring dreams usually mean there is something in your life you've not acknowledged that is causing stress of some sort. The dream repeats because you have not corrected the problem. Another theory is that people who experience recurring dreams have some sort of trauma in their past they are trying to deal with. In this case, the dreams tend to lessen with time.
Nightmares are dreams that are so distressing they usually wake us up, at least partially. Nightmares can occur at any age but are seen in children with the most frequency. Nightmares usually cause strong feelings of fear, sadness or anxiety. Their causes are varied. Some medications cause nightmares (or cause them if you discontinue the medication abruptly). Traumatic events also cause nightmares.
Treatment for recurring nightmares usually starts with interpreting what is going on in the dream and comparing that with what is happening in the person's life. Then, the person undergoes counseling to address the problems that are presumably causing the nightmare. Some sleep centers offer nightmare therapy and counseling. Another method of treating nightmares is through lucid dreaming. Through lucid dreaming, the dreamer can confront his or her attacker and, in some cases, end the nightmares.