If You Have Bad Dreams, This Could Be Why

Occasional bad dreams, or even nightmares, where you wake up in the middle of the night startled by what you just experienced in an alternate reality, are a normal part of human existence, per the Sleep Foundation. While unpleasant, most of us have bad dreams every once in a while. But if you are having them on a regular basis, it may be a sign that there is an underlying disorder.

According to the Mayo Clinic, frequent nightmares could be a sign of a sleep disorder known as nightmare disorder or parasomnia. Like other sleep disorders, nightmare disorder can interfere with the quality of your sleep and therefore your daily life as well. Besides the unpleasant experience of the bad dreams themselves, those that suffer from the disorder may also experience fatigue and exhaustion, mood problems like anxiety and depression, and even suicidal thoughts (via Mayo Clinic). Fortunately, nightmare disorder can be successfully treated and alleviated most of the time.

Treatments for nightmare disorder

Frequent bad dreams can be caused by a variety of different factors such as stress, PTSD, the use of certain medications, or even the overuse of alcohol or drugs, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you have bad dreams consistently and they are affecting your waking life, you may wish to seek medical guidance from a doctor or psychiatrist for an accurate diagnosis and recommended solutions.

According to a 2018 review published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, PTSD-related nightmares were effectively treated with a form of cognitive behavioral therapy in which a person replaced negative images of their bad dreams with a set of positive images while awake. Other potential therapies for nightmare disorder include: hypnosis, lucid dreaming therapy, and pharmaceutical medications like prazosin, triazolam, and clonidine. According to the Mayo Clinic, lifestyle treatments like relaxation exercises may also help to alleviate ongoing nightmares.