Sleep Centers of Middle Tennessee

Disorders

Nightmare Disorder

Nightmare disorder is a phenomenon occurring during REM (or dreaming) sleep in which the patient has frequent, recurrent disturbing dreams. These nightmares are sometimes violent in nature, may involve “survival” type themes (i.e., escaping death or physical harm), and often elicit strong emotions. Nightmare disorder is characterized by regular episodes of screaming, yelling, or crying during sleep. This disorder can often be confused with other disorders such as sleeptalking or sleepwalking. The key features of nightmare disorder are: 1) it occurs out of REM (or dreaming) sleep, 2) it involves manifestation of extreme fear (i.e., screaming, crying), 3) the patient is usually easily aroused from this state,  4) the patient can readily recall the content of the nightmares upon being awakened, and 5) the patient is relatively easily consoled upon awakening. Nightmare disorder usually occurs more during the second half of the night, since dreaming sleep occupies a higher percentage of that portion of the sleep phase. Nightmare disorder occurs more frequently in children, and in some cases carries over into adulthood. It can be diagnosed by a sleep study, and is treated in many cases using medication.
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Symptoms