Nightmare disorder is a pattern of repeated frightening and vivid dreams that affects your quality of life. It ranges from mild to severe and can be short-term or chronic. Nightmare disorder is treatable with various psychotherapies and medications. It commonly affects people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Nightmare disorder is one type of parasomnias, which are behavioral sleep abnormalities.
Nightmare disorder ranges in severity based on the occurrence of nightmares:
- Mild: Less than one nightmare per week on average.
- Moderate: One or more nightmares per week, but less than nightly.
- Severe: Nightmares every night.
It can also vary in duration:
- Acute nightmare disorder lasts one month or less.
- Subacute nightmare disorder lasts at least one month but less than six months.
- Chronic nightmare disorder lasts for six months or longer.
Nightmares typically occur during the second half of your sleep period during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. With nightmare disorder, you remember them upon awakening (unlike sleep terrors).
This condition can significantly disrupt your sleep and affect your quality of life. It can also make underlying mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, worse.
Who does nightmare disorder affect?
Nightmare disorder can affect anyone, including children and adults.
It’s more likely to affect people who have any of the following conditions:
- REM behavior disorder (RBD).
- Sleep apnea.
- Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD).
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Generalized anxiety disorder.
- Social anxiety disorder.
Nightmare disorder occurs in people who have social anxiety disorder or generalized anxiety disorder at approximately three times the rate of the general population. It affects 50% to 90% of people with PTSD. more