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What Happens To Untreated Nightmare Disorder & When To Go To Doctor For It?

Nightmare disorder is a condition characterized by frequent nightmares that keep you from getting enough sleep and thus interfere with your day-to-day life. Nightmares can be attributed to by various factors, however, the exact cause for nightmare occurrence is unclear. Some of these factors include; stress, irregular sleep routine, stress, or even being extremely exhausted. Generally speaking, anyone can experience nightmares, but nightmare disorder itself is rare. It is estimated that about 2-8% of the population have nightmares that result in disturbed sleep. Nightmares are most common among children and over time, they usually cease. However, there are some individuals who experience nightmares even when they’re older. In such cases, then it might be a lifelong problem.[1]

What Happens To Untreated Nightmare Disorder?

What Happens To Untreated Nightmare Disorder?

Nightmare disorder falls under a class of sleep disorders known as parasomnias. It is important to get treatment for persistent nightmares that cause sleep problems. This is because it may be a symptom of an underlying medical or mental condition that could worsen over time if treatment is not administered. Nightmare disorder can be treated with certain types of medication as well as making lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of the condition. Due to poor sleeping and not getting quality sleep from nightmares, you are likely to have issues with work performance and inability to perform daily activities as normal.

There are no routine tests for diagnosis of nightmare disorder, but your doctor is likely to perform a physical exam or genetic test to identify any underlying conditions that may be causing the nightmares. Other than that, polysomnography, which is a nocturnal sleep study that evaluates oxygen levels, brain waves, and body movements during sleep can be done to determine how they affect your sleep. Nightmare disorder is treated by treating the underlying condition. if stress or anxiety is the cause for nightmares, then a patient can be prescribed with antianxiety drugs, or treated with stress-reduction technique, or therapy. For patients who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), imagery rehearsal therapy or medication can be considered for nightmare disorder management.[2][3]

Some of the health effects nightmare disorder may have on an individual if not treated include sleep deprivation, which can further lead to heart diseases, depression, and even obesity, as well as negative effects on one’s physical and mental health. Other than that, an individual can experience intense anxiety, become more stressed due to the nightmares they have which can lead to even more psychological ill effects.[4]

When To Go To The Doctor Because Of Nightmares?

The frequency of nightmares should be a warning sign for individuals developing nightmare disorder. The severity of the nightmares and their effect on the quality of life should also be considered in determining how bad they are. Generally speaking, nightmares are unpleasant and regardless of how often, or rarely, the occur, if they start to bother you in a life-altering way, then it may be the high time to seek medical attention. Some of the signs that should make you go to the doctor include; the feel on not being well-rested, lack of concentration during the day, sleep deprivation and not being able to fall asleep either after waking up from the nightmare or during normal sleeping time. Elevated stress levels, thinking so much about your nightmares, and anxiousness during the day should also push you towards going to see a doctor for help.

Also, it is crucial that if you’ve had terrifying past experiences, say from childhood abuse or exposure to traumatic experiences – physical or mental – you should see a doctor early enough to prevent any consequential nightmares.[5]


Nightmare disorder can be a life-altering condition if it interferes with your day-to-day life and ability to do daily activities and perform accordingly. Leaving this condition untreated can lead to adverse effects on both your physical and mental health. It is important that you visit a doctor as soon as you start having symptoms of nightmare disorder, or you’re having terrifying nightmares that wake you at night all anxious, sad and angered and are interfering with the quality of life you’re living.


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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 14, 2019

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