Nightmares: Normal or Disorder?

By: Sanjita Ekhelikar

We all know the horrible sensation of waking up in the middle of the night after a nightmare, a terrifying dream that occurs during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep. These dreams are a normal response to stressors in our life, and occur both during childhood and in adulthood. However, when nightmares occur regularly and lead to impairment of one’s cognitive and social functioning, they can develop into Nightmare disorder.

Nightmare disorder is characterized by frequent occurrences of fearful dreams which can interfere with development, functioning, and sleep. People with the disorder are constantly woken up with the detailed recall of dreams that feel like a threat to their survival or security. In addition, such individuals tend to awaken very easily, and have difficulty functioning throughout the day. They are not taking any substances which could lead to the increase in nightmares and, therefore, show signs of the disorder.

Many of the likely causes of Nightmare disorder include mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression, which cause people to stress throughout the day which can interfere with their sleep. In addition, any major life trauma can result in this growing distress. Finally, any sleeping disorder, such as narcolepsy, sleep apnea, or sleep terror, can cause increased nightmares.

If you are experiencing extreme, recurrent nightmares, do not hesitate to reach out for help and seek treatment. You can speak to a psychologist or take anti-depressant medication to address the issues behind these dreams and to better reduce the unpleasant symptoms. Aside from this, setting a routine during bedtime, making oneself comfortable, exercising during the day, doing meditation before bed, and sleeping until sunrise are ways to better relax and try to prevent nightmares. It is important to take care of yourself and your health, both when you are awake and alert AND when you are asleep.

If you or someone you know is suffering from nightmares, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

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