Is Nightmare Disorder A Progressive Problem & Alternative Treatments For It

Nightmares are part of life and once in a while, you may have a bad dream. Despite the scare and distressing feeling you may feel after being woken up by a nightmare, they are usually not debilitating. But then again, if the nightmares become frequent, long in duration and are interfering with your normal life, then they become a problem. Nightmare disorder is a sleep disorder condition that results in poor sleep, which in turn can lead to aggravated stress levels and deterioration in mental and physical health.[1] Nightmares often occur during childhood and normally stop with time, but for some individuals, they extend into adulthood. Although they are not pathological, nightmares are considered a disorder associated with underlying psychopathological ailments.[2]

Is Nightmare Disorder A Progressive Problem?

Is Nightmare Disorder A Progressive Problem?

Occasional nightmares are common and there is not much to worry about in such cases. However, nightmares that occur frequently, and especially in adults are rare and often an indication of an underlying problem. Not to mean that frequent nightmares in children aren’t a problem, but in adults, it is a rather rare thing. Nightmares are prevalent during periods of stress, depression, trauma including stressful events and post-traumatic stress disorder, and also anxiety. Certain medications are also known to cause nightmares as a side effect such as those that interfere with serotonin, norepinephrine, acetylcholine, dopamine, or gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) signaling.

Nightmare disorder can be considered a progressive problem in the sense that, the more often you experience nightmares, the more they interfere with your day-to-day life. It may start out with inability to perform well, say at home or work, and that may later on attribute to more stress and even poor physical and mental health if you don’t seek help or treatment. Needless say, nightmares interfere with the quality of sleep you get, and over time, with frequent nightmares the more sleep deprived you are and that could interfere with mood, cognitive abilities, behavior and even the social relations one has with those around them.[2]

Alternative Treatment For Nightmare Disorder

Nightmares that are associated with an underlying problem such as PTSD, treatment can either involve medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, image rehearsal therapy, or, exposure, relaxation, and re-scripting therapy. Some of the drugs used to treat nightmare disorder are; prazosin and triazolam, atypical antipsychotics such as olanzapine and risperidone, fluvoxamine, clonidine, trazodone, gabapentin, and tricyclic antidepressants. Psychological approaches that can be used to manage nightmare disorder that’s not associated with PTSD include; hypnosis, lucid dreaming therapy, sleep dynamic therapy, progressive muscle relaxation, systematic desensitization, and self-exposure therapy.[3]

Alternative treatments for nightmare disorder can include lifestyle modifications that will work in reducing incidences of nightmares and improve sleep. Some of the good practices you can adopt to enhance sleep hygiene and improve nightmare disorder altogether are;

  • Creating a schedule for daytime function and nighttime sleep routine that you should follow to the letter.
  • Sleeping In a comfortable, sleep conducive environment with minimal distractions.
  • Exercising regularly, but not four hours prior to your sleeping time. Adding to that, to enhance body and mind relaxation, you can take a warm shower, and also empty your bladder before bed.
  • Avoid greasy foods before sleeping and don’t sleep on a hungry stomach either. Also, keep off from alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine before bedtime.
  • It is also advisable that you don’t watch television, or use your computer or phone/tablet, for at least an hour prior to your bedtime.
  • Finally, use your bed only for sleeping and intimacy.[2]

For children, it can help to talk with them about the dream and what made it scary. Assure them that nightmares aren’t real and for them to sleep comfortably, let them sleep with the lights on and a stuffed animal by their side.[4]

Conclusion

Nightmare disorder can be considered a progressive condition in the sense that if not treated accordingly, it worsens over time and can result in other health complications. So, if you have nightmare disorder, it is important that you seek help as soon as possible to help you manage your nightmares. You can also adopt healthy lifestyle changes that will help with reduction of nightmare occurrence.

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