A nightmare is a disturbing dream associated with negative feelings, such as anxiety or fear. Nightmares are common, and occasional nightmares usually are nothing to worry about. However, they may become a problem if you have them often and they disrupt your sleep or cause you to fear going to sleep. A diagnosis of nightmare disorder is only made if nightmares cause ongoing distress or problems with daytime functioning.
Nightmares may begin in children between 3 and 6 years old and tend to decrease after about age 10. Until age 13, boys and girls appear to have nightmares in equal numbers. At age 13, nightmares seem to be more prevalent in girls than boys. Some people have them as teens or adults or throughout their lives.
Aug. 09, 2014
- Nightmares and sleep. National Sleep Foundation. http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/abnormal-sleep-behaviors/nightmares-and-sleep. Accessed May 27, 2014.
- Goldstein CA. Parasomonias. Disease-a-Month. 2011;57:364.
- Augedal AW, et al. Randomized controlled trials of psychological and pharmacological treatments for nightmares: A meta-analysis. Sleep Medicine Reviews. 2013;17:143.
- Sateia M. International Classification of Sleep Disorders. 3rd ed. Darien, Ill.: American Academy of Sleep Medicine; 2014. http://www.aasmnet.org/EBooks/ICSD3. Accessed May 20, 2014.
- Sleep-wake disorders. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013. http://www.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed May 30, 2014.
- Sleep-wake disorders. American Psychiatric Association. http://www.psychiatry.org/dsm5. Accessed May 30, 2014.
- Carter KA, et al. Common sleep disorders in children. American Family Physician. 2014;89:368.
- In-lab sleep study. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. http://www.sleepeducation.com/disease-management/in-lab-sleep-study/overview. Accessed May 30, 2014.
- Haupt M, et al. Just a scary dream? A brief review of sleep terrors, nightmares and rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder. Pediatric Annals. 2013;42:211.
- Nightmares. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. http://www.sleepeducation.com/sleep-disorders/nightmares. Accessed May 30, 2014.
- Brain basics: Understanding sleep. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/brain_basics/understanding_sleep.htm#dreaming. Accessed May 30, 2014.
- Silber MH (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 25, 2014.
- Olson EJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 1, 2014.
- Kotagal S (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 7, 2014.