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Nightmare Disorders

Nightmares: We’ve all had them. But for some people, nightmares are so frequent and overwhelming that they routinely disrupt the major sleep episode at night as well as naps during the day, creating a constant state of drowsiness. It can be difficult to function in day-to-day life when a nightmare disorder is a problem, and when this happens, treatment may be necessary to get back on track.

*Characteristics of Nightmare Disorder

  • Frequent awakening during a sleep period due to nightmares
  • Detailed recall of nightmares
  • In some cases, recurrent nightmares
  • Nightmares that focus on threat to self-esteem, survival or other form of safety
  • Awakenings that happen during the last half of the sleep period

Are You Living With a Nightmare Disorder?

How do you know if you are having nightmares or if what you are experiencing can be classified as a disorder? Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you wake with nightmares almost every time you go to sleep, whether it’s a nap or nighttime?
  • Do you remember vividly the details of your nightmares?
  • Do you often feel as if you are walking through life in a haze because your sleep is so disrupted by nightmares?
  • After awaking due to a nightmare, are you immediately coherent and alert?
  • Do you experience a high level of stress due to the content of the nightmares, so much so that your ability to function in day-to-day life is impaired?

If you answered “yes” to these questions and you are not taking medication or diagnosed with another mental health disorder that is causing the nightmares, then your issues with nightmares may be classified as a disorder. Treatment can help.

*Ideal Sleep Pattern

  • At least 8 hours of sleep at night
  • Regular bedtime each night
  • Regular wakeup time each morning
  • Getting up immediately after the alarm goes off

Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

If you’re having a hard time getting a good night’s sleep, try the following tips to get a natural night’s sleep that allows you to wake rested.

  • Start a bedtime ritual. Take a warm shower or bath. Read a non-taxing, non-stressful book for 10 to 20 minutes. Take deep breaths. Think about what you’re grateful for, and avoid worrying about the next day, rehashing the events of the day or watching TV.
  • Set the mood. Choose a relaxing scent for the room like lavender. Make sure the temperature is comfortable enough for you to use light blankets. Turn off all lights, your phone and the TV. Use white noise like rain or nature sounds that you find relaxing if it helps; if it’s distracting, turn on a fan.
  • Create and keep a sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time every morning. Don’t hit snooze and don’t sleep in on the weekend! Neither will allow your body to benefit from your sleep schedule.
  • Exercise regularly. Make sure to get about 30 minutes of cardio a day to help your body get “tired out.” But avoid exercising in the evening hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid stimulating substances before bed. Cigarettes, coffee and alcohol can all make it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Avoid these substances in the evening hours before bed.