How Does Nightmare Disorder Affect The Body & What Triggers It?

Nightmare disorder is a sleep disorder which constitutes frequent nightmares. In their nightmares, the person often visualizes situations which put their life or safety in jeopardy. The nightmares usually take place in the REM stage of the sleep.

Almost all of us experience nightmares at least once in our lifetime. However, those who experience them quite frequently are said to be suffering from a nightmare disorder. Nightmare disorders are a type of parasomnias. Parasomnia include all the unusual behaviors happening during sleep.(1)

How Does Nightmare Disorder Affect The Body?

How Does Nightmare Disorder Affect The Body?

A nightmare disorder may significantly affect your sleep and daytime activities. It may cause a host of other health problems like heart problems, depression, obesity, etc. other complications that may result due to nightmare disorder are-

Extreme Sleepiness During Daytime– Due to lack of sleep at night, you may feel extremely tired and sleepy during the daytime. This can cause a significant impact on your daytime activities. You may face problems at school or work and while performing tasks like driving, handling machinery, concentrating on studies, etc.(2)

Mood Disorders– There may be a problem with your mood and behavior, and you may face problems like stress, depression, anxiety, mood swings, etc.(2)

Fear Of Going To Bed At Night- You may resist going to sleep at night for the fear of getting another nightmare if you fall asleep.(2)

Suicide Attempts– You may start getting suicidal thoughts or attempt suicide due to the mental disturbance resulting from a nightmare disorder. It may seem that ending life is the only way to stop nightmares from occurring.(2)

What Triggers Nightmare Disorder?

Some factors may trigger nightmares or nightmare disorder, like-

Stress-

  • Any kind of stress can lead to nightmares.
  • The normal problems at school or work can be the triggers, as can be family problems.
  • A sudden change in life like moving to another place or unexpected death of a loved one can be responsible for the beginning of nightmares.
  • If you experience anxiety, you are at an increased risk of getting nightmares or nightmare disorder.(2)

Injury-

  • You may experience nightmares after you have gone through some trauma like accident, injury, physical abuse, sexual abuse, etc.
  • Nightmares and nightmare disorder are commonly seen in people with post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD(2)

Loss Of Sleep-

If you changed your sleep schedule and as a result, you are now getting irregular or incomplete sleep, you may be at an increased risk of getting nightmares or nightmare disorder.(2)

Effect Of Medicines-

  • Some medications may be responsible for triggering nightmares.
  • These medicines may include blood pressure medicines, antidepressants, beta-blockers, medicines used to treat Parkinson’s, etc.(2)

Addiction-

Abuse of alcohol and other illegal drugs, or their withdrawal, may give you nightmares and can lead to nightmare disorder.(2)

Other Conditions-

Other mental disorders like depression may be associated with nightmare disorder.

There may also be nightmares due to some other health conditions like heart problems, cancer, etc.

  • Sleep disorders that cause a significant disturbance during sleep and make you get an inadequate sleep may be related to getting nightmare disorders.(2)
  • Creepy Or Frightening Movies And Books- Reading frightening or creepy books and watching such movies and that too, before bedtime may lead you to nightmares and nightmare disorder.(2)
  • Risk Factors For Nightmare Disorder- If any of your family members suffer from nightmares or any other types of parasomnias, like talking in sleep, there is an increased risk of developing nightmares.(2)

Conclusion

A nightmare disorder may affect the body in multiple ways. It may cause mental disturbances, mood swings, behavioral changes, and many other health-related problems. There are many triggers for nightmare disorder. The common ones are stress, anxiety, depression, injury, sleep deprivation, medications, substance abuse, creepy movies, and books, etc.

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