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Sleep Disorders

Nightmare Disorder

Nightmare disorder is classified as a sleep disorder. The main characteristic of this disorder is nightmares. They occur quite frequently compared to those of an average sleeper. In the nightmares, the individual’s personal safety or their life is at risk. This disorder is known to co-occur with psychiatric disorders, such as post traumatic stress disorder, dissociative disorder and borderline personality disorder.


The signs and symptoms associated with nightmare disorder are quite similar to those of anyone who is having a nightmare. Again, it’s the frequency and quantity of the nightmares which makes the difference and can affect the individual’s waking life. For instance, tossing and turning while the person is asleep is common. They will generally groan, or call out when this is occurring. The nightmare will usually wake them. Upon awakening, the individual will be oriented with their surroundings and alert. Usually, they will be suffering symptoms similar to a panic attack, with their heart beating very quickly.


Psychiatric disorders are known to cause nightmares. One of the mental conditions that is known to cause a significant amount of nightmares is post-traumatic stress disorder. If no mental health disorders are discovered there are other things that can cause the nightmares, such as anxiety, stress or even medications. Nightmare disorder is also known to co-occur with dissociative disorder, as well as with borderline personality disorder.

Much like many other mental health illnesses, anxiety and stress can play a large role in its onset. A very stressful life event, such as a death in the family, can cause a person to start having nightmares.

Drugs such as Effexor and Prozac (SSRIs) are known to cause nightmares. As are levodopa (a blood pressure medication) and drugs for Parkinson’s disease. Antidepressants, cocaine and amphetamines are also contributors to nightmares.

Low cholesterol is also known to cause nightmares. It is uncertain as to why this is the case, but for some reason the two seem to be linked with one another.


There are drugs and therapies that can be used to help with nightmare disorder. However, there are a lot of ways to deal with it without resorting to these measures, if one was so inclined.

Relaxation therapy and psychotherapy have been known to be quite effective in dealing with nightmare disorder. Individuals with post traumatic stress disorders co-occurring with their nightmares can use prazosin.

For the most part, dealing with nightmare disorder involves controlling one’s stress. Things like meditation and yoga can work wonders when dealing with the disorder. Individuals can also try to lessen the amount of stress they are subjected to at work and at home. Exercise has also been known to be quite effective in lowering stress and therefore lessening nightmares.

Hypnosis has also become a quite popular tool when working with nightmares. Its popularity has increased over the past few years. It is used to help alleviate the individuals stress.


The prognosis for nightmare disorder is very good. Living with nightmares can be quite difficult however, there is no real concern with the health and safety of the individual who is suffering. Mostly, the nightmares just effect the individual’s sleep which, in turn, can affect their daily life. Lack of sleep can affect their energy level, as well as their ability to concentrate. As the individual gets older, the nightmares generally become less and less. However, as mentioned earlier there are easy day-to-day things you can do to help lessen the stress that helps cause the nightmares. As well, the therapies and medications mentioned earlier are very effective.


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