Welcome to the Patient Education Library of Texas Medical Institute
SymptomsNightmares commonly have themes of extreme fear and anxiety. Nightmares in childhood most frequently involve the theme of being chased by animals. In adulthood, nightmares most frequently involve being chased by a person. You may wake up during a nightmare or awaken and remember your dream.
A sleep study may be conducted to learn more about your sleep patterns. A sleep study is helpful for diagnosing sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, that can contribute to nightmares. A sleep study is used to take measurements of basic body functions, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and blood oxygen levels, while you sleep. A sleep study may be conducted at a sleep clinic or in some cases; it may be conducted at your home.
Parents may help their children with nightmares by establishing a regular predictable nighttime routine that makes the child feel safe and comfortable. Avoid scary movies, television shows, news, or stories, especially right before your child’s bedtime. You should gently reassure your child and listen to his or her concerns. It can be helpful to have a night light in the child’s room and have your child sleep with a favorite stuffed animal or doll. Children with frequent intense nightmares may benefit from talking with a therapist if they have experienced a traumatic event.
Am I at Risk
Risk factors for nightmares:
_____ Increased dreams or nightmares can be side effects of some medications or occur shortly after discontinuing some types of medications.
_____ Alcohol and illegal drug use or withdrawal can increase the risk of nightmares.
_____ People with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, stress, or grief have an increased risk of having nightmares.
_____ People that have experienced the death of a loved one, a crime, military combat, abuse, sexual assault, or a major life event, such as divorce, have an increased risk of nightmares.
_____ Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea or narcolepsy, can increase the risk of experiencing nightmares.
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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.
The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.