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How Long Will It Take To Recover From Nightmare Disorder & How Long Does The Symptoms Last?

Nightmare disorder is a sleep disorder associated with frequent nightmares that interfere with their day-to-day life. Nightmares are common among young children between the ages of 3 and 5 years. With age, nightmares usually decrease for most people, but there are those who continue experiencing them even in adulthood. While occasional nightmares are not a cause of alarm, the same cannot be said for frequent nightmares that distort one’s life. Nightmare disorder is most common among people who have had past negative experiences or events in their life. For example, the trauma that causes PTSD, abusive childhood including sexual and physical abuse. Other than that, stress and anxiety, sleep deprivation, underlying medical or mental issues, as well as side effects of drug use such as antidepressants, beta-blockers and blood pressure meds, and substance abuse can trigger the onset of nightmare disorder.[1][2]

How Long Will It Take To Recover From Nightmare Disorder?

How Long Will It Take To Recover From Nightmare Disorder?

The aim for treatment for nightmare disorder is to reduce the incidences of nightmares one is experiencing and enabling them to get the rest and quality of sleep they need. In cases where an individual has an underlying clinical disorder, be it mental or physical health, it helps to treat the condition so as to improve nightmare disorder. For such patients, we can say that their recovery period is dependent on the effectiveness of the treatment for the particular underlying condition. Medication is rarely used to treat nightmare disorder as a condition, but if the doctor thinks it will help reduce the number of times one wakes up during the night, then medication may be prescribed.

When nightmare disorder is tackled as a disorder itself, recovery can be faster compared to when another condition is causing the occurrence of nightmare disorder. Imagery rehearsal therapy can also be used to treat nightmare disorder, especially when associated with PTSD. Talking through the nightmare and rewriting the ending while awake can help reduce the incidences of nightmare occurrence while sleeping. The more effective imagery rehearsal therapy is, the shorter the recovery period will be. Also, stress management techniques including relaxation techniques can be used to help a patient get better sleep at night with lesser nightmare occurrences.[1]

How Long Does The Symptoms Last?

Having occasional nightmares does not mean that you have nightmare disorder. Nightmares are only considered a condition if and only if;

  • They are frequent and occur several times a night, awakening one thus making it difficult to get back to sleep.
  • Interfere with one’s ability to perform during the day, and causes concentration problems as well as daytime sleepiness and fatigue.
  • Behavioral problems associated with bedtime or fear of the dark that may be as a result of anxiety about having another nightmare.

If you are having a nightmare disorder, then it is likely that you will have the following symptoms. They may or may not include;

  • The dreams seem vivid and real and usually very upsetting. As the bad dream occurs, it becomes more and more disturbing jostling one awake.
  • The storyline of the nightmare is usually related to threats on safety and survival or other disturbing themes.
  • The nightmare causes you to feel scared, anxious, sad, angry or even disgusted.
  • On awakening from the dream, you are sweaty and your heartbeat is pounding.
  • Difficulties falling back to sleep due to distress from the nightmare
  • You are unable to think clearly on waking up but you can clearly recall the details of your nightmare.[2]

Nightmare disorder symptoms may last for as long as you are experiencing bad dreams or there is a triggering factor that is causing the nightmares to occur. Adding to that, not seeking treatment or help as soon as possible will mean that you will continue having nightmares until you get the help you need.


Nightmare disorder is a condition that causes one to have upsetting dreams that can interfere with one’s daytime and nighttime practices. If you are having frequent nightmares that cause you to wake up in the dead of night scared and anxious, you should get help immediately. If you have experienced traumatic experiences that may cause PTSD or any stressful events, it is likely that you may develop nightmare disorder. It is therefore crucial that you seek help as early as possible to reduce the risk of getting nightmares at night.


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 11, 2019

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