Treatment

Treatment for nightmares isn't usually necessary. However, treatment may be needed if the nightmares are causing you distress or sleep disturbance and interfering with your daytime functioning.

The cause of the nightmare disorder helps determine treatment. Treatment options may include:

  • Medical treatment. If the nightmares are associated with an underlying medical condition, treatment is aimed at the underlying problem.
  • Stress or anxiety treatment. If a mental health condition, such as stress or anxiety, seems to be contributing to the nightmares, your doctor may suggest stress-reduction techniques, counseling or therapy with a mental health professional.
  • Imagery rehearsal therapy. Often used with people who have nightmares as a result of PTSD, imagery rehearsal therapy involves changing the ending to your remembered nightmare while awake so that it's no longer threatening. You then rehearse the new ending in your mind. This approach may reduce the frequency of nightmares.
  • Medication. Medication is rarely used to treat nightmares. However, medication may be recommended for severe nightmares associated with PTSD.
July 06, 2017
References
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  2. Nightmare disorder. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013. http://dsm.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed May 16, 2017.
  3. Kotagal S. Sleepwalking and other parasomnias in children. https://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 10, 2017.
  4. AskMayoExpert. Parasomnias. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2016.
  5. Parasomnias. Merck Manual Professional Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic-disorders/sleep-and-wakefulness-disorders/parasomnias. Accessed May 10, 2017.
  6. Aurora RN, et al. Best practice guide for treatment of nightmare disorder in adults. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 2010;6:389.
  7. Nadorff MR, et al. Pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments for nightmare disorder. International Review of Psychiatry. 2014;26:225.
  8. Nightmares. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. http://www.sleepeducation.org/sleep-disorders-by-category/parasomnias/nightmares. Accessed May 16, 2017.
  9. Olson EJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. May 26, 2017.