Nightmare Disorder

Night Lamp


Nightmare disorder is an anxiety disorder that produces a sense of fear while asleep and is manifested as nightmares. Individuals suffering from nightmares may sense immense danger to his or her life repeatedly in dreams. As the person goes deep into his sleep, the dream gets more intense and waking up is generally a reaction to an extreme climactic situation. The person can clearly remember the threat upon waking up and continue to think about the situation even after waking up. It is hard for the person to go back to sleep after the occurrence of a nightmare.

Nightmare disorder is also known as the dream anxiety disorder. As the name suggests, it is a sleep ailment with proven polysomnographic detailed reasons and can be described by the happenings of threatening dreams to a person while asleep. This perceived threat to the person while dreaming may lead to disruption of sleep and the individual may be jarred awake.

Some examples of other sleep disorders are insomnia, hypersomnia, sleep walking, sleep talking, sleep terror etc. Sleep terror was included in nightmare until the concept of rapid eye movement was discovered. Both diseases differ as in nightmare patient remembers all the intricate details of the nightmares and wakes up from sleep, whereas in sleep terror attach, patient remains asleep.

Signs and Symptoms of Nightmare Disorder

  • Movement during sleep
  • Moaning or screaming while asleep
  • Extreme sweating during sleep
  • Waking up with a sudden shudder or jerk
  • Restlessness while sleeping
  • Non refreshing sleep
  • Body pain and laziness in the morning
  • Rise in body heat while asleep
  • Recalling of your last night’s dream the next day
  • Fear of dreams becoming real
  • Refusal of the brain to stop thinking about nightmares in sleep
  • Social withdrawal

Causes and Risk Factors

There are no specific known causes for dream anxiety disorder. However, it is clear that the cause is highly psychiatric in nature. People with nightmare disorder have a special ability to imagine and form a dream world in their brain. It has been observed that people, who work in creative fields, are more open to this sleep disorder. This problem can also occur as a result of a childhood fear or accident.

Usually, the person is afraid to go back to sleep due to the fear of another nightmare or a continuance of the previous one. This causes anxiety in the brain and it can’t stop thinking about the threat even when one is fully awake and aware of the real surroundings. The more a person’s brain imagines the setup during the day, the more likely it is to experience dream anxiety disorder at night. Sometimes a person is not able to calm down after the nightmare and continues to think about it all the time. This kind of situation invites huge risks to a person’s well-being. These risk factors may include:

  • Problems in focusing at work
  • Low energy levels during the day
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Reduced ability to solve problems
  • Increasingly irritable behavior

People with nightmare disorder are vulnerable to possibly life threatening health risks, which may include:

  • Problems with mental health
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Traumatic stress
  • Death


Nightmare disorder is a sleep disorder that can affect every day functioning. If it is not taken seriously it can lead to serious mental issues leading to fatal consequences. If one experiences nightmares on a frequent basis, he or she must speak about it with a professional at a rehabilitation center. Counseling can suppress this sleep disease and free one’s mind of stress and anxiety throughout the day. For many, nightmare disorder is an ongoing process. Many people complain that they occasionally experience similar nightmares. This problem should be subjected to proper treatments. Today, there is ample amount of psychiatric help available to treat this condition.


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