What are Nightmares: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

What Are Nightmares - Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

What causes nightmares? How can I treat them? Are they dangerous?

Nightmares are often associated with stress, anxiety or depression. They are also common during childhood and adolescence and can persist into adulthood.

Nightmares are vivid dreams that occur during sleep. They usually involve frightening situations, such as being chased by a monster or falling from a great height. The dream may seem real at the time, but later, you realize that it was only a nightmare.

In this blog post, we will discuss what causes nightmares, how to recognize them, and how to treat them.

What Causes Nightmares?

There is no single cause of nightmares. Most people have recurring nightmares for many reasons.

Some people experience nightmares because of an  underlying medical condition (such as epilepsy), while others have psychological disorders such as PTSD, OCD or bipolar disorder.

  • People who have experienced trauma in their lives often develop nightmares. These include victims of abuse, war veterans, and those who have survived natural disasters like earthquakes or tsunamis.
  • People exposed to traumatic events such as these may be more likely to experience nightmares.
  • Some people would experience nightmares after witnessing violence, especially if they were close to the event. It includes children who witness domestic violence between parents or adults who see someone die in front of them.
  • Some people experience nightmares when they are  stressed out or anxious about something. For example, some people have nightmares before taking exams or giving speeches.
What causes nightmares

    How Do I Know If I Am Having A Nightmare?

    The first thing to remember is that your nightmare is not absolute. It's just a bad dream. You don't need to worry about anything happening in your nightmare – it doesn't mean that there is any danger around you.

    The next thing to remember is that you are safe. Your body is lying down, so you won't fall over or hurt yourself. If you wake up screaming, then you probably have a nightmare.

    Try  closing your eyes and counting slowly backwards from ten if you think you might be dreaming. When you reach one, open your eyes again. If you still feel awake, then you are most likely dreaming.

    It would help if you never tried to wake anyone else up during a nightmare. Even if you think they are asleep, they could be injured or worse.

    Recognizing Nightmares

    Once you realize that you are having a nightmare, you should take steps to stop it. First, make sure that you are safe. Then, try to relax. Try breathing deeply and count backwards from ten. This helps you  calm down.

    It's essential to stay aware of your surroundings. If you notice that you are moving through dark places, you may be experiencing a flashback. A flashback occurs when you relive memories of a past event.

    Flashbacks happen when you are very emotionally aroused, making you vulnerable to experiencing flashbacks. Flashbacks are common after a traumatic event and can last for hours or days.

    Most people who experience flashbacks don’t want to talk about them. However, it’s important to let other people know that you are okay.

    What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Nightmares?

    After the first half of your night, you're more likely to have a nightmare. Nightmares can rarely happen or even multiple times each night.

    Episodes are generally quick, but they wake you up and  returning to sleep may be difficult. A nightmare may involve these features:

    • Your dream is vivid and convincing, yet it is incredibly distressing, growing more nightmarish as the scenario progresses.
    • Your nightmarish scenario is typically linked to your safety or survival threats, although it might have other frightening themes.
    • You awake due to your dreams.
    • As a result of your dream, you may feel nervous, anxious, angry, sad, or disgusted.
    • You're sweaty or have a pounding heart when you go to sleep.
    • You can think clearly after waking up and recall the specifics of your dream.
    • Your goal causes anxiety that prevents you from promptly  falling asleep.

    Nightmares are only considered a disorder if you experience:

    • Frequent occurrences
    • Bedtime anxiety about having another nightmare, accompanied by a lot of distress or impairment during the day
    • If you're having trouble concentrating or remembering things, or if you can't seem to stop thinking about your dreams,
    • Sleepiness, tiredness, or lack of energy during the day
    • Difficulties in school, at work, or in social situations
    • Fear of the dark or  bedtime difficulties

    Parents and caregivers of children who suffer from nightmare disorders may experience significant sleep deprivation and anxiety.

    symptoms of Nightmares

    What Are The Causes Of Nightmares?

    Why do we have bad dreams? There are several different answers. The good news is that most of what causes nightmares may be controlled by you or with the aid of a medical expert.

    Stress Or Anxiety

    According to Deirdre Barrett, PhD, assistant professor of psychology and psychiatry at  Harvard and author of Pandemic Dreams, any degree of worry is linked to nightmares. Nightmares are also associated with anxiety.

    It's still unclear how the two are related, but there appears to be a bidirectional connection between them.


    Nightmares are common among people who have been through a traumatic event. "These dreams tend to be more realistic, and they're also quite close to waking-life events," Barrett says.

    According to Barrett, post-traumatic nightmares happen simultaneously with other types of nightmares.


    28% of those who had severe depressive symptoms in a study of nearly 14,000 people reported having terrible nightmares. More research is needed to determine whether this link exists.

    Lack Of Sleep

    Nightmares are related to  poor sleep. Inadequate sleep, on the other hand, has been linked to nightmares. If you're not getting enough sleep, your body will prioritize non-REM rest.

    As a result, your body tries to restore itself. If you are  sleep-deprived, it will lead to more REM sleep leading to more dreaming.

    "You may have lovely, amazing dreams, but if you are a nightmare-prone person, you're more likely to have terrifying or more realistic dreams," says psychologist Terri Fisher.

    Sleep Disorders

    Nightmares can be caused by untreated  sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and Restless Legs Syndrome, which can affect sleep quality and cause disturbing dreams.


    Nightmares can be caused by various prescription and non-prescription drugs, such as blood pressure medications, narcotics, and antidepressants.

    While some people claim that melatonin makes them have more nightmares, there is just one case study on this topic, so it isn't true.

    Melatonin aids in the maintenance of a  regular sleep cycle, and Barrett postulates that having an appropriate ratio of REM and non-REM sleep would most likely reduce the incidence of nightmares.

    Alcohol Abuse

    Alcohol disrupts the sleep cycle and inhibits REM sleep. While a couple of drinks might help you  fall asleep faster, you're more likely to have more vivid dreams in the early morning, and if you suffer from nightmares, they may become even more vivid."

    Furthermore, if you quit drinking and go through alcohol withdrawal, your REM sleep will improve. You may initially experience "rebound sleep," followed by increased nightmares.

    Scary Movies Or Books

    Yes, seeing Psycho or reading the latest Stephen King novel may result in frightening dreams.

    “Any visual you observe during the day, especially  before bedtime, has a chance of appearing in your dreams," Barrett adds. So if you want to have calm, pleasant dreams, select your evening TV shows with care.

    Risk Factors

    When family members have a history of  night terrors or other sleep disorders, such as talking in one's sleep, dreams are more prevalent.

    Other risk factors include:

    1.  A lack of sleep
    2. Stressful life events
    3. Use of certain drugs or medications
    4. Mental health disorders, such as anxiety or depression
    5. Use of alcohol or recreational drugs
    6. Having a medical condition that  disrupts sleep, such as sleep apnea
    7. Pregnancy
    8. Menopause

    As you can see, there are many potential risk factors for dreams. If you're experiencing recurrent or bothersome dreaming, talk to your doctor to rule out any underlying medical causes.

     Risk factors


    Nightmare disorder may cause:

    • Excessive daytime drowsiness, which can cause problems at school or work and difficulties  executing simple activities like driving and focusing, is a relatively common condition.
    • Diverse types of problems with mood, such as sadness or worry about recurring dreams,
    • Fear of going to bed or falling asleep because you're afraid you'll have another terrible dream
    • Thoughts of suicide or attempts at suicide


    There are no specific tests to determine if you have nightmare disorder. Nightmare conditions are only considered an issue if bad dreams cause you distress or prevent you from  getting enough sleep.

    To establish whether or not you have a nightmare illness, your doctor will examine your medical history and symptoms. Your case may be examined for the following factors:

    • Exam. If you have recurring dreams, your doctor may perform a physical examination to determine any issues causing them. If your recurring bad dreams indicate underlying anxiety, the doctor may recommend you see a psychiatrist.
    • Symptoms discussion. Your doctor will rely on your account of the events to diagnose a nightmare disorder. Your medical professional may ask you or your spouse about your  sleep habits and whether other sleep disorders should be considered.
    • A nocturnal sleep study (polysomnography). If your sleep is severely disrupted, your doctor may recommend an overnight sleep study to see whether the night terrors are related to another  sleeping disorder. While you sleep, sensors attached to your body will record and analyze your brain waves, blood oxygen level, heart rate and breathing, and eye and  leg motions. You might be videoed while sleeping to document your actions throughout sleep cycles.


    Nightmares are rarely treated. However, if your night terrors are causing you stress or  sleeplessness and interfering with your day-to-day activities, therapy may be required.

    The root cause of the nightmare condition influences treatment. Treatment choices include:

    • Medical treatment. If a physical condition causes terrible dreams, therapy is directed at the underlying issue.
    • Stress or anxiety treatment. If your child's nightmares are associated with negative emotions, such as fear or sadness, they may be caused by a mental health issue. Your doctor can suggest stress-reduction methods, counselling, or therapy with a mental health professional if the source of the nightmares appears to be a psychological problem like tension or anxiety.
    • Imagery rehearsal therapy. Imagery rehearsal therapy is a type of dream analysis that uses the imagery from your nightmare to help you rehearse different outcomes. While awake, after the end of your remembered nightmare so that it no longer terrifies you. Then, while asleep, rehearse the new ending in your head. This method may help decrease the frequency of nightmares.
    • Medication.  Medication is seldom used to treat nightmares. However, severe nightmares brought on by PTSD may be treated with drugs.

    What Are The Suggested Home Remedies For Nightmares?

    Home remedies for nightmares are usually ineffective. However, there are some things you can do to reduce the intensity of your nightmares. Some of these suggestions include:

    • Sleep hygiene Sleep hygiene includes maintaining good sleep habits, avoiding caffeine after noon and napping during the day. It also means getting enough restful sleep.
    • Avoid alcohol. Alcohol interferes with your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
    • Relaxation techniques. Relaxation exercises, including deep breathing, meditation, and  yoga, have improved sleep quality and reduced nightmares.
    • Exercise. Exercise helps maintain a healthy weight and reduces stress levels. A  regular exercise routine may help you relax and get better sleep.
    • Reduce stress. Stress increases cortisol levels, which affects sleep patterns. Try to keep yourself calm and relaxed.
    • Reduce caffeine intake. Caffeine keeps you alert and prevents you from falling asleep. Limit coffee consumption to one cup per day before bedtime.
    • Use light blankets. Light blankets make it easier to fall asleep. Avoid heavy blankets.
    • Take a warm bath. Warm baths help induce relaxation and promote sleep.
    • Use a humidifier. Humidifiers increase air moisture, helping you breathe more easily.
    • Keep your room cool. Cool rooms encourage sleepiness. Additionally,  dark bedrooms provide a calming environment.
    • Get plenty of rest. Make sure you're sleeping seven to eight hours each night.
    • Try a sleep mask Sleeping masks block out bright lights and noise. They may help you feel sleepy.

    If none of these tips works, talk to your doctor about medication.


    Now that you know all about nightmares, let’s take a look at a few frequently asked questions.

    Do Nightmares Have A Meaning?

    No. Most people who experience nightmares don't know why they happen. For others, however, nightmares often have a specific meaning. Nightmares can occur when someone has an unpleasant memory, such as seeing something scary. Nightmares can also occur when someone feels anxious or depressed.

    What Are The Most Common Nightmares?

    Nightmares tend to be associated with fear. Common fears include death, loss, illness, injury, violence, abuse, abandonment, rejection, separation, and other upsetting events.

    How Long Does A Typical Nightmare Last?

    Most nightmares last less than five minutes. However, some people report having nightmares that last up to two hours.

    Is Food Related To Nightmares?

    Food may have a variety of effects on our sleep. It isn't likely to increase your risk of having a nightmare on any specific night, but it might make it more likely to recall the dreams you were having, making it appear as if you're experiencing more frequent night terrors.

    Wrap Up!

    To sum up, the causes of nightmares aren't well understood. Many factors contribute to nightmares, including genetics, past experiences, current emotional state, and environmental influences.

    The best way to deal with nightmares is to learn how to control them through proper sleep hygiene. In addition, therapy may be helpful for those who suffer from recurring nightmares.

    Furthermore, it has been found out that comfortable and  soft mattresses are a proven way to promote feelings of comfort and safety during sleep. This also helps reduce anxiety while sleeping. If you’re looking for such soft and durable mattresses, then you have come to the right place.  Crafted Beds has a wide range of all different types of mattresses that are best for all kinds of sleepers. So whether you’re a side or a back sleeper, we’ve got something for everyone.Wanna learn more visit here!


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