Nightmares can arise for a number of reasons—stress, anxiety, irregular sleep, medications, mental health disorders—but perhaps the most studied cause is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
In particular, nightmares can be an indicator of mental health problems, such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
Nightmares are associated with disturbed sleep, low well-being and affect daytime mood and behavior. Nightmare disorder is a very common comorbidity in nearly all psychiatric conditions.
Are nightmares a psychiatric illness? While nightmares are associated with certain mental health conditions, such as PTSD, anxiety and depression, nightmares aren't considered a psychiatric illness. They're a type of parasomnias, which are behavioral sleep abnormalities.
Nightmares, dreams and other sleep disturbances are a common symptom of complex trauma with nightmares recognised as a principal feature of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The treatment of nightmares not only alleviates those symptoms but is shown to help reduce PTSD symptoms in general.
Nightmares are complex, because they're not only caused by anxiety - they can also cause anxiety in themselves. Those that have nightmares may often find themselves losing sleep and experiencing stress and anxiety throughout the day. They may feel scared to go to sleep or worry that they are going “mad”.
Night terrors and nightmares are different and happen at different stages of sleep. During a night terror you may talk and move about but are asleep. It's rare to remember having a night terror. Nightmares are bad dreams you wake up from and can remember.
It's normal for both children and adults to have bad dreams and nightmares every now and again.
Because nightmares may have a significant impact on your quality of life, it's important to consult a medical professional if you experience them regularly. Sleep deprivation, which can be caused by nightmares, can cause a host of medical conditions, including heart disease, depression, and obesity.
This lost sleep has “massive” implications for a person's health, he says. Chronic poor sleep can cause a whole range of mental and physical health issues, including depression and heart disease. Nadorff has also published research linking nightmares to suicidal thoughts and attempts.
Don't Wake Them Up
However, it's important not to wake them up and allow them to work through the episode. They're more likely to forget the dream if they can sleep through it. Waking them up in the middle of a nightmare can be jarring, making it difficult for them to forget the imagery or get back to sleep.
On your side.
Sleeping laterally is the most common sleep position. Studies have found that right-side sleepers experienced more positive dreams and fewer nightmares than left-side sleepers. For people with heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), doctors say the left side is best.
Contents. Occasional bouts of nightmares do not require treatment. However, when nightmares become frequent to the point of causing dysfunction in someone's work, school, and/or home life, the individual may be experiencing nightmare disorder (formerly called dream anxiety disorder) and should seek help.
If you're having nightmares, you might want to turn down the air conditioning. Researchers warn that sleeping in a warm room causes your dreams to become more vivid, and that could lead to more intense nightmares.
"For many people, the adrenaline and excitement experienced upon realizing that they are dreaming is enough to wake them," Backe said. "However, if this is not the case and you are 'stuck' in a bad dream, doing something particularly jarring — for example, jumping off of a cliff in your dream should do the trick."
Vivid dreams are dreams that feel like they're happening IRL. They can be good dreams (even sex dreams!) or nightmares. Sometimes they just happen, but other times they're caused by stress, anxiety, sleep disorders, medications, or pregnancy.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects many people, especially military veterans. Symptoms can be severe and interfere with normal life. One of those disruptive symptoms is night terrors. They cause a person to thrash and scream in terror in the middle of the night.
Treatment modalities for nightmare disorder include medications, most prominently prazosin, and several behavioral therapies, of which the nightmare-focused cognitive behavioral therapy variants, especially image rehearsal therapy, are effective.
Night terrors are episodes that can cause you to shout, flail or do other things in your sleep. Even though they're more common in children, adults get them, too. No one knows for sure what causes night terrors, but underlying stress, anxiety, or other mental health conditions could play a role.
Depression causes bad dreams for many people. One study found that 28.4% of participants with severe depression reported frequent nightmares and that depression was one of the strongest indicators of frequent nightmares. These depression nightmares can range from just plain scary to downright weird.
Can anxiety cause nightmares? “Yes, anxiety and stress can cause nightmares and anxiety dreams,” says Dr. Roberta Ballard, a clinical psychologist from Marietta, Georgia. “If you are under more stress than usual or there is a big change going on in your life, you might notice more themes of anxiety in your dreams.”
What are stress dreams? Stress dreams are distressing or anxiety-provoking dreams or nightmares that occur during your REM cycle, which is the stage of sleep when scientists think most dreaming occurs. They can be particularly vivid or recurrent.