Nightmare disorder

2021-08-03 10:16 PM

Most nightmares occur during rapid eye movement (REM). A night usually goes through 4-6 sleep cycles, the sleep stages passing in about 90 minutes.


Nightmares are disturbing dreams that involve fear, anxiety, or terror. Nightmares are common, it begins in childhood and tends to decrease after about the age of 10. However, some people have nightmares as teenagers or adults, or throughout life.

Nightmare disorder vs Healthy control

Nightmare disorder vs Healthy control

Until the age of 13, boys and girls had nightmares in equal numbers. At age 13, nightmares become more common in girls than boys.

It seems that the daily nightmare has really become disturbing. But nightmares are usually nothing to worry about. It can become a problem if it happens frequently and causes sleep terrors.

Nightmare disorder symptoms 

Nightmares are sleep disorders, unwanted experiences that occur during sleep. People have a nightmare in cases:

  • Dream wake up.
  • Feeling scared, worried, angry, sad, or disgusted as a result of the dream.
  • Can think clearly upon awakening, and can recall details of dreams.
  • Dreams occur near the end of sleep time.
  • Dreams don't make getting back to sleep easy.
  • Occasional nightmares, not a concern.

Talk to your doctor if nightmares

More often.

Frequent interruption of sleep.

It is the cause of the fear of going to sleep.


Most nightmares occur during rapid eye movement (REM). A night usually goes through 4-6 sleep cycles, the sleep stages passing in about 90 minutes. The REM phase lasts with each cycle, from a few seconds in the first cycle up to an hour in the last cycle. It's more likely to have a third nightmare of the night.

Other disturbances may be associated with nightmares. Many other factors can cause nightmares, including:

  • Stress: Sometimes the usual pressures of everyday life, like a problem at home or school, cause nightmares. A major change, such as a move or the death of a relative, can have a similar effect.
  • Traumatic events: Nightmares are common after an accident, injury, or another traumatic event. Nightmares are prominent in post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Horror books and movies: Reading scary books or watching movies, especially before bed, can trigger nightmares.
  • Food before going to bed: Certain foods before bed, resulting in increased metabolism and brain activity, lead to nightmares.
  • Diseases: Sometimes an illness causes nightmares, especially if it's accompanied by a fever.
  • Certain medications: Some antidepressants, narcotics, and tranquilizers can cause nightmares.


Occasional nightmares are usually not a concern, but frequent sleep disruptions can be. It can cause too much daytime sleepiness. This can lead to difficulties at school or work or problems with everyday tasks such as driving.

Testing and diagnosis

There is no specific test done for nightmares. But if your sleep is severely disturbed, your doctor may recommend an overnight sleep study. It helps to determine if the nightmares are connected to sleep disturbance. During the study, technicians monitored brain waves, breathing, heart rate, and movement during sleep.

Nightmare disorder treatments

Treatment of nightmares is usually not necessary. If nightmares are associated with underlying health or mental condition, treatment is aimed at the underlying problem. If stress or anxiety seems to be contributing to nightmares, your doctor may recommend stress reduction techniques, counseling, or treatment.

Medicines are rarely used to treat nightmares. However, medication to reduce nightmares that occur rapidly during sleep. Wakefulness reduction during sleep may be recommended if severe sleep disturbance is present.

Lifestyle and remedies

If you have nightmares, try some relaxation techniques before bed. Take a warm bath, meditate or practice deep breathing. If you're struggling with nightmares, be patient, calm, and reassuring. Sometimes a little creativity can help.

Talk about dreams: Please describe the nightmare. What happens? Who in the dream? What did scary? Then remind your child that nightmares aren't real and can't hurt.

Reduce stress: If the child seems anxious or stressed, talk about what is bothering you. Practice some relief with simple activities, such as deep breathing.

Rewrite: Help your child visualize a happy ending to the nightmare. Encourage your child to draw a picture of the nightmare, talk to the characters in the nightmare, or write about the nightmare.

Sleepy supplies: You may feel safer sleeping with a stuffed animal, blanket, or another comfort.

Need protection: If the child is very young, a doll or stuffed animal can be used all night to protect against nightmares.

Brighten: Use a night light in your child's room. If he or she wakes up at night, light can be reassuring.

Open the entrance door: Leaving the door open at night won't feel lonely.

Security: If you have frequent nightmares, make sure your bedroom is safe. Skip the cot, and consider blocking doors or stairs in case of an attempt to run after the person wakes up.

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