Nightmares are only considered a disorder if disturbing dreams cause you distress or keep you from getting enough sleep. Nightmares can be triggered by many factors, including:

  • Stress. Sometimes the ordinary stresses of daily life, such as a problem at home or school, trigger nightmares. A major change, such as a move or the death of a loved one, can have the same effect.
  • Trauma. Nightmares are common after an accident, injury or other traumatic event. Nightmares are prominent in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Sleep deprivation. Changes in your schedule that cause irregular sleeping and waking times or that interrupt or reduce the amount of sleep can increase your risk of having nightmares.
  • Medications. Some drugs — including certain antidepressants, blood pressure medications, beta blockers, and drugs used to treat Parkinson's disease or to help you stop smoking — can trigger nightmares.
  • Substance abuse. Alcohol and illegal drug use or withdrawal can trigger nightmares.
  • Scary books and movies. Reading scary books or watching scary movies, especially before bed, can be associated with nightmares.
  • Other disorders. Some medical conditions and mental health disorders as well as other sleep disorders can be associated with having nightmares. For instance, anxiety can be associated with a higher likelihood of recurrent nightmares.
Aug. 09, 2014

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