Have you ever experienced the feeling when you’re sound asleep and you’re suddenly woken up by a terrible nightmare? You might just brush it off as a one-time occurrence, however, there’s something more to it. This could be a nightmare disorder and you might need treatment from a sleep center Damascus MD.

Nightmare Disorder

Nightmare disorder is a repetitive string or pattern of frightening dreams that startle you awake is the gist of nightmare disorder. It can be really hard to deal with, especially because it affects your sleep and once you’ve been awake by a terrible and horrifying dream, it’s really hard to fall back asleep, unless you take your time to talk your brain out of the dream.

Nightmare disorder can also cause impairment during sleep. You can feel yourself being trapped in the dream and will feel like you’re unable to move your body at all. There are several categories of nightmare disorder and it can vary from acute to chronic.

  • Mild nightmare disorder is a condition in which you get one nightmare per week.
  • Moderate nightmare disorder is a condition in which you’ll get nightmares every other night or twice a week.
  • Severe nightmare disorder is a condition in which you experience a nightmare almost every single night and you’re unable to fall asleep.

Nightmare disorder usually throttles into action during the REM stage of sleep. Also known as the rapid eye movement stage, this is the time when your brain is in that weird stage of reality and dreamland. If you get a nightmare at that exact moment, then you’ll be awake and all of the events will occur to you.

Some people can confuse nightmare disorder for night terrors. The prime difference between the two is the remembrance of the events. In night terrors, you’re living the dream and seeing it in real-time. In nightmare disorder, however, the dream comes and goes, you wake up from your sleep and then you remember everything.

Regardless, nightmare disorder can be a very unpleasant thing to go through, especially if you already have problems falling asleep.

Causes Of Nightmare Disorder

Different things could trigger a nightmare disorder. Some of them are:

  • Hyper-arousal of the brain. If you’ve been up all day, stressing over things, and at the end of the night, you try to fall asleep, your brain will create fearful scenarios that can morph into nightmares.
  • If you already suffer from sleep disorders like sleep apnea, RBD (REM behavior disorder), etc., then your brain might be stimulated and it will slip into a dream state where you will only experience nightmares.
  • If you’ve recently gone through something that has triggered PTSD, then you might get withdrawals in the form of nightmares.
  • Stress, anxiety, and depression are also the main causes of nightmare disorder.

Sleep and dreams are a vast umbrella and there is still a lot we don’t know about them. The above-mentioned cases might be triggering nightmare disorder, but this is only scratching the surface.

Further studies and research are needed to fully understand the dynamic of nightmare disorder and other sleep-induced traumatic experiences. Your brain is a complex organ that is capable of cooking up scenarios that can lead to things like nightmare disorder. However, there is still much to be studied to understand and prove why the brain does what it does.

Symptoms Of Nightmare Disorder

Here are some symptoms of nightmare disorder:

  • You’ll wake up in the middle of the night.
  • You’ll feel tired and lethargic.
  • You won’t be able to go back to sleep, no matter how much you try.
  • You can wake up catching your breath.
  • You can wake up sweaty and very disorientated.
  • Your heart might be racing as if you’ve just run a marathon.
  • If this is something you’re feeling regularly, then you’ll also feel anger bubbling inside you. The sheer frustration of not being able to sleep can take a toll on your physical and mental well-being.
  • In some cases, people don’t have control over their urges and they might even wake up to a wet bed.
  • Your emotions will be all over the place. You will experience fear, but there also might be lingering anxiety, shame, disgust, frustration, and overall confusion.
  • You might doze off in the middle of the day, because of not getting enough sleep the night before.
  • You will remember the dream after you wake up.
  • If you’re not getting a peaceful night’s rest, then you might get constant headaches and migraines.

How Is Nightmare Disorder Diagnosed?

If you’re feeling any of the above symptoms and there is a regular pattern to them, then it’s a good idea to visit your doctor to get a rundown on what exactly you’re suffering from.

There isn’t a particular diagnosis of nightmare disorder. The doctor usually relies on the history of the nightmares, the associated symptoms as well as your history with mental illnesses.

The doctor might also ask if you’re taking any medication for your stress and anxiety because they can also lead to nightmare disorder. If you are taking beta blockers or any other medicine, then that will be recorded in the history as well.

If you’re suffering from regular nightmares and are thinking of visiting your doctor, then it’s a good idea to journal all of the times when you’ve had a nightmare and what were your feelings afterward. This log will give the doctor something to start the diagnosis with and it will be really helpful.

What Is The Treatment For Nightmare Disorder?

Nightmare disorder is completely treatable. Here are some treatments that you can consider with your doctor:


The most effective way of alleviating nightmare disorder is through therapy. Different kinds of therapies can be considered. Some of them are as follows:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Imagery reversal therapy
  • Talk therapy
  • Exposure, relaxation, and scripting therapy

The main gist of all these therapies is to tune into your brain and control your emotions of fear with emotions of reason and logic.

It also includes talking with a therapist about your dreams, using images to flush fear out of the system, and using relaxation skills like breath work and meditation to get rid of the fearful thoughts in your head.


Medication can also be used to help alleviate the symptoms of nightmare disorders and completely get rid of the dreams you’re experiencing. This is specifically for people suffering from PTSD. Medicines like Fluvoxamine, Cyproheptadine, Nabilone, Olanzapine, Risperidone, Aripiprazole, etc. are commonly used.

Keep in mind that all medications can have possible side effects that could or could not lead to even more triggering events in dreams. If you’re going to take any medicine, it’s important that you consult your doctor first and never self-medicate. Moreover, these medications can only be bought if you have a prescription so you must visit a sleep doctor first.


Nightmare disorder can disrupt your sleep schedule as well as your overall life and mood. You need to get to the bottom of it before things take a turn for the worse. So, go to a sleep clinic Bethesda to find out the cause of this problem. Then, a specialist will suggest the right treatment.

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