This article is a detailed guidance about nightmare disorder and it discusses some pertinent aspects related to this disorder.

Also, this article shows possible causes, diagnostic aspects and treatment options that offers insight into this problem.


A nightmare is a dream which contains bad and horrifying things that makes the person dreaming get anxious and wake up all of a sudden.

A nightmare can cause fear, sweating, anxiety, and sleeplessness. Most kids under the age of 6 get nightmares more commonly than adults and teenagers.

This might be due to their brain getting mature as they grow up and having the ability to get over a certain bad memory or thought that is causing the nightmares. 

When nightmares happen more frequently, then it is called a nightmare disorder.

This causes the same things like distress, sleeplessness, or being terrified of sleeping, tiredness due to sleeplessness, not being able to function properly, etc.

It often transfers the person having a nightmare to a situation that jeopardizes their safety. 

A nightmare can cause fear, it can awaken the person having it, increase heart rate, make the person having it anxious, etc but it can only be called a disorder if it has symptoms like severe misery, having fear going back to sleep at night, issues with memory like focusing on things because you cannot stop thinking about the images from your nightmare, being scared of darkness, low energy throughout the day. 

A nightmare disorder mostly occurs during the REM stage of sleep.

A nightmare disorder might be caused by several reasons like having stress, changing your timing of sleep, using certain medicines or drugs that give one nightmare, watching horror movies or even by reading creepy stories. 


A mental disorder is a kind of behavioral disorder that makes the person suffering do unusual things like making them feel miserable, having stress or anxiety or depression, It may even affect the functioning of the person suffering like sleeplessness, hopelessness feeling tired all the time, having negative thoughts, not being able to concentrate on anything.

A mental disorder can affect a person very badly in many ways and can completely change how the person works in their normal life. 

A nightmare disorder is a kind of mental disorder. This is because they have common symptoms.

A nightmare disorder can cause sleeplessness as the person gets scared of sleeping at night, which causes the person suffering to feel tired all day as they cannot get enough sleep at night. 

All the frequent nightmares make them so terrified that they think if they sleep for even one second they will have the same nightmare again.

Due to not getting enough sleep, they are not able to remember things throughout the day. In conclusion, a nightmare disorder can make a person suffer mentally, resulting in making them have a mental disorder because a nightmare disorder is a mental disorder.


Having a nightmare can get scary sometimes. People who get frequent nightmares feel devastated because of them.

The reason is that if you are constant nightmares, then you get scared of even getting the tiniest bit of sleep.

Your sleep becomes a nightmare for you. Going to bed becomes such a hard thing to do that you consider not doing it at all.

Every person needs at least 8 hours of sleep every day to function properly, but if you do not get enough sleep, you suffer throughout the day. 

Getting the right amount of sleep is necessary; it makes you feel active and helps you in concentrating stuff.

On top of all that, it plays a great role in one’s health. If a person does not get enough sleep their brain gets weak day by day which results in them having a problem concentrating on their daily work that requires creativity and exploring.

Not getting enough sleep makes one dull and mentally weak. They are always in a bad mood, and nothing makes them pleased anymore. 

Not getting enough sleep can cause headaches, migraines, etc too.

This even gets worse as time passes. People complain that they feel tired almost all the time because the moment they close their eyes they are devastated by the horrifying image of their nightmare.

Having nightmares causes sleeplessness and due to lack of sleep, one can suffer from a lot of health issues like headaches and can even affect one’s mental health. 

This shows that a nightmare disorder is bad for health as it can affect one’s health badly in many different ways.

People suffering feel a lot of pain in their bodies too as they are not able to get proper rest, which causes a lot of aching in the shoulder, legs or even the whole body too.

Hence, nightmare disorder is injurious to one’s health.


Having one or two nightmares every week is normal in a way but having frequent nightmares more than once every day is not normal at all.

If someone is having that many nightmares then they have a problem for sure.

This might be happening due to some kind of incident that had happened in the past, a myth in their mind of a certain monster, any sort of phobia.

A nightmare can be a reason for anything terrifying that can make you stay up all night, which is not good in any way. 

Even if you are constantly watching a horror movie that makes you scared to the core constantly then you can keep on having nightmares about that for days and can even have a nightmare disorder.

So if you keep on having nightmares about a certain scary movie you saw a few times and cannot go to sleep because of it then you have a nightmare disorder.

So, if you have frequent nightmares and because of these nightmares you cannot go to sleep peacefully at night then you should take this seriously because you might have a nightmare disorder. 

This is why we should never take anything unusual easy and just ignore it and wait for it to pass or only try to fix it when it gets worse.

So, one should not ignore any sort of frequent nightmares that happen often and makes the person suffer which answers the question if often having nightmares is normal or not.

These can have very severe consequences, too, and you can even end up in the hospital in some cases. 


Research of medical experts has shown that there is no certain test that can be done to find out if a person is going through a nightmare disorder or not.

If you feel miserable while sleeping due to constant nightmares every day then you have nightmare disorder.

There are no certain tests for the diagnosis, but the doctor can look through your medical history and look at the symptoms of your situation and diagnose a nightmare disorder.

The doctor can find out about your disorder by doing the following evaluations:

Physical Evaluation: The doctor may test your body physically to see if you have the symptoms of anxiety or distress.

If the doctor sees the symptoms of anxiety or distress in your body then he/she might recommend seeing a mental health expert. 

Discussion of Symptoms: A doctor can usually diagnose a nightmare disorder by discussing the symptoms of the patient.

If they describe having stress, tiredness, and sleeplessness then the doctor may diagnose nightmare disorder.

The doctor may even ask the patient’s partner or roommate to describe the experiences of the patient. 

Polysomnography: If you face severe troubles while sleeping at night then your doctor may recommend a Nocturnal sleep study.

This is to monitor the working of your body and the parts of your body while you are having a nightmare.

The doctor will place sensors on your body which will examine the level of oxygen in your blood, the movement of your eyes and legs, the rate of your heart, and your breathing.

All of this is done while you are sleeping and having a nightmare.

They may even film you while sleeping to examine your behavior while you are asleep.


Studies have shown that children between the ages of 3 and 6 tend to have the most nightmares.

Then children between 8 to 14 years of age have reported that they had approximately 11 dreams in a year.

People above that age till college students reported having an average of 9 dreams a year.

People above that age reported that they only one nightmare a year. 

The reason why little kids get nightmares the most is that mostly nightmares occur in between the REM sleep.

Little kids do not tend to wake up and keep on sleeping, which is the reason why they have the most nightmares.

As you grow older, your tendency to have nightmares decreases with it. 

This happens because as you grow older and older your brain starts to mature, and you get rid of some fears you had when you were younger.

Nightmares mostly happen due to some phobia we have or if we are scared of something.

Most people get past their fears and phobias as they grow older which can be a reason for the decreasing of nightmares as you grow old. 

After a survey, it has been found out that there is almost 40 percent of kids have nightmares every once in a while, and there is a 30 percent of kids who have nightmares frequently, which can cause nightmare disorder.

In conclusion, two to eight percent of people have complained to have frequent nightmares, which results in them having a nightmare disorder and facing all the symptoms of it.


  1. Nightmare Syndrome (A Yellowthread Street Mystery Book 15)
  2. Working with Dreams and PTSD Nightmares: 14 Approaches for Psychotherapists and Counselors
  3. Treating Post-Trauma Nightmares: A Cognitive Behavioral Approach
  4. Dream Therapy for PTSD: The Proven System for Ending Your Nightmares and Recovering from Trauma
  5. Nightmareland: Travels at the Borders of Sleep, Dreams, and Wakefulness


PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder is a traumatic disorder that causes due to trauma or fear of something.

It is a condition of mental health. Mostly a horrifying event or some scary situation can cause one to have PTSD.

The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder are having thoughts about the bad event continuously, having intense sort of anxiety, continuous flashing of the terrifying images in one’s brain and nightmares. 

Now, the question is that if nightmares can give you PTSD, the answer to this is that nightmares are caused by post-traumatic stress disorder.

This means that the statement saying if nightmares can cause PTSD is false. PTSD, as mentioned earlier gives one stress and makes them keep thinking about the negative thoughts.

For the people having PTSD, having a nightmare is not only about having a scary dream. 

The nightmare shows the person that traumatic incident all over again every time they go to sleep at night.

Watching the traumatic incident, again and again, can even make their condition worse.

For example, if someone has witnessed someone dying then seeing that all over again continuously makes them devastated and full of stress.

Some people get nightmares right after the incident, and some have them a few years later.

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These can be cured by Cognitive therapy, meditation, and medications. 

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Frequently Asked Questions:

Q1. What are the symptoms of nightmare disorder?

There are various symptoms that cluster around anxiety and generalized distress in people suffering from nightmare disorder.

The person may experience cognitive impairment or major distress during daytime, including profound anxiety or fear (the may also have anxiety related to bedtime).

Sufferers may also experience memory or concentration issues and may also have generalized fatigue throughout the day. 

Q2. What causes nightmare disorder?

In adults, the nightmare disorder may be caused because of depression or anxiety related problems.

PTSD or other stress related issues may also lead to chronic nightmares that may recur.

Moreover, other sleep disorders, including restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea, may also lead to emergence of nightmare disorder pathology.

Q3. Is Nightmare disorder hereditary?

There is a likelihood of heritability in nightmare disorders.

According to research about 7% of kids with nightmare disorders have a family member who suffered from the same disorder. 

Q4. What is a lucid nightmare?

Lucid nightmare is a state where the person who is dreaming, happens to be aware that he/she is dreaming a nightmare.

It’s a mixed state where the person is neither awake or asleep. 

Q5. What age do night terrors start?

Generally, night terrors or related disorders start in the age of 3 to 12 year old and have a peak onset time of around 3.5 years of age. 

Q6. Are night terrors a sign of autism?

Children who are suffering from autism may experience nightmare disorder, however, it is not a signifying attribute of autistic spectrum disorder. 


  1. Nightmare disorder – Symptoms and Causes
  2. Nightmare in Adults
  3. Nightmare disorder symptoms
  4. Background of nightmare disorder
  5. Recurring frightening dreams and nightmare disorder
  6. Treatment of nightmare disorder 
  7. Risk factors involved in nightmare disorder