Verified by Psychology Today. Sometimes a nightmare is just a bad dream—isolated and disagreeable imagery with little emotional response from the dreamer. Fever, ill health, or poor diet can also bring on nightmares.
See related patient information handout on nightmares and night terrors in childrenwritten by the author of this article. Dreams occur during all stages of sleep. Nightmares are common.
A nightmare is a disturbing dream associated with negative feelings, such as anxiety or fear that awakens you. Nightmares are common in children, but can happen at any age, and occasional nightmares usually are nothing to worry about. Nightmares may begin in children between 3 and 6 years old and tend to decrease after the age of
Sometimes dreams are a long way from sweet. They can, in fact, be quite the opposite—haunting, distressing, or worse. Let this insider's guide on how to tell the difference come to your rescue.
Nightmares are dreams that are upsetting or disturbing. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, over 50 percent of adults report having occasional nightmares. However, some people have nightmares that occur more frequently.
Nightmare disorderalso known as dream anxiety disorderis a sleep disorder characterized by frequent nightmares. The nightmares, which often portray the individual in a situation that jeopardizes their life or personal safety, usually occur during the REM stages of sleep. Though most people have experienced at least one nightmare during their life, subjects with nightmare disorder experience them with a greater frequency.
Although adults can suffer from nightmares, they are more typical in children, especially those between the ages of 3 and 6. Nightmares may partially reflect this vulnerability. Dreams are understood to be recent autobiographical episodes that become woven with past memories to create a new memory that can be referenced later, but nightmares are simply dreams that cause a strong but unpleasant emotional response.
Night terrors is another disorder that is very different from a standard nightmare. Night terrors occur during the first few hours of sleep, causing a person to scream loudly and thrash around violently in his or her sleep. Unlike standard nightmares, it can be difficult to wake up a person who is experiencing night terrors. When they do wake up, typically they will not remember much about their dream.
Nightmares can happen to anyone, and in most cases the reasons why the nightmares occur are unclear. Stress, anxiety, an irregular sleep routine or being overtired can increase your risk for nightmares. Nightmares that cause sleep problems may also be associated with factors such as:.