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What Leads To Nightmare Disorder & Can It Be Cured?

Nightmare disorder is a disorder characterized by the appearance of repeated threatening and frightening dreams that awakens the dreamer. It is a rare disorder. It affects about 8 % of adults. It commonly affects children and teenagers. It leads to distress, disturbances in sleep and daily routine. Management of stress, psychological counseling and psychotherapy may cure this disorder if an underlying cause is managed well.

What Leads To Nightmare Disorder & Can It Be Cured?

What Leads To Nightmare Disorder & Can It Be Cured?

Nightmare disorder is a sleep disorder marked by awakening from sleep after a threatening and frightening experience from repeated dreams. It can happen at any age. But, it is more common in children of age 3 to 6 years. Women are four times more affected than men.(1)

According to doctors, nightmare disorder is a type of sleep disorder that appears in the latter portion of the sleep. It usually appears during the REM sleep (rapid eye movement). Its exact causes are not clear.(2) The factors that may lead to the nightmares are-

Stress- Stress and anxiety experienced in the school or home may trigger nightmares. It usually renders ordinary stress that can have a disturbing effect on your sleep. Major incidences in life such as someone’s death or move to different place may induce nightmares. When someone feels anxiety again and again with any reason may have nightmares.(2)

Trauma- nightmares can also be experienced by the people who have been to an accident, injury, physical or sexual abuse or any disturbing event in recent past. It is also commonly seen in people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).(2)

Sleep Deprivation- if sleep pattern is changed or waking times are changed frequently or amount of sleep is reduced, then, the risk of developing nightmares increases. Insomnia is also associated with a high risk of nightmare disorder.(2)

Medications- medicines that are used to treat Parkinson’s disease or control.(2)

Substance Abuse- those who consume alcohol and recreational drugs are likely to develop nightmares. Even during the time of quitting these drugs, nightmares may appear.(2)

Scary Books And Movies- if scary movies or books are watched or read before going to bed, as a regular habit, then nightmares may appear.(2)

Other Disorders- some people who suffer from mental disorders such as depression are more likely to develop nightmares. Certain medical disease such as cancer or heart disease may induce nightmares. Sleep disorders are also linked with nightmares as inadequate sleep may also induce nightmares.(2)

Nightmares may develop in people who have a family history of nightmares or sleep disorders.

Can Nightmare Disorder Be Cured?

Nightmare disorders can be managed successfully if its underlying causes are explored and treated. It can be cured accordingly. If the underlying cause is psychiatric problems, recurring psychological counseling help in treating nightmares. Children do not need any special treatment for nightmares unless there is any significant distress is present. Most of the nightmares resolve in children as they age.(3)

If stress is found to be the cause of nightmares, then stress reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation or exercise can help to reduce stress effectively. Psychotherapy can help to identify the stress in one’s life and help to reduce or eliminate them. However, this disorder can become a lifelong disorder. General improvement is observed in the patient in this disorder is seen as the age increases.(3)


Nightmare disorder is a rare disorder whereas nightmares are common. Stress, medications, trauma, lack of sleep, substance abuse, scary stories or movies and other disorders mentioned above may lead to this disorder. It can be cured when its underlying causes are detected and treated.


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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 16, 2019

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