Health Issues

Start Your Free Trial

What are the causes and treatment of nightmares?

Expert Answers info

akasha124 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write127 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Science, and Social Sciences

Adult nightmares are less common than nightmares in children, but they still happen.

Adult nightmares can happen spontaneously, but there are other possible causes of adult nightmares including: medication (ranging from antidepressants to blood pressure medication), withdrawal from medication and narcotics, including alcohol, sleep deprivation, anxiety disorder, depression, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and sleep disorders (such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome).

If after...

(The entire section contains 229 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

giorgiana1976 | Student

Nightmare is a dream that occurs during REM sleep (period of sleep during that occurs  rapid eye movement), which causes intense feelings of not exceeding fear, of terror, distress or extreme anxiety that usually wakes the one who dreams.

Nightmares, unlike night terrors, could be remembered and are accompanied by much less anxiety and movement. These terrible experiences, which tend to emerge in times of uncertainty, emotional disorders, depression or feelings of guilt, can occur at any age.

Nightmares occur only during REM sleep. REM sleep stages last longer in the end of the cycles of sleep and most nightmares occur from the middle of the night to morning.


Particularly among adults, drugs as levodopa, reserpine, beta blockers and antidepressants, as well as the dropping of psychoactive substances can cause nightmares. Alcoholism is also associated in a very great extent with nightmares.Other drugs considered to be determining in causing nightmares could be:

- Medicines for heart diseases

- Antibiotics

- Antihistamines

- Suppressor of appetite, as fenfluramine

- Antidepressants

- Medicines used to treat Parkinson's disease

- Anti ulcer, as Cimetidine

However, many medications can not be stopped abruptly, without major side effects. Medical consultation is required before any changes in their management.

Both at the adults and children, nightmares and night terrors can be caused by unresolved psychological conflicts or traumatic events. They are fairly frequent features of post-traumatic stress syndrome. Emotional traumas that disturb the sleep of children can be neglected in regard to adults, such as loss of favorite toys or hearing of arguments between parents.Although nightmares and night terrors are considered normal in children's development, disappearing during adolescence, frequent episodes at any age require a psychiatric evaluation. Intervention techniques in crisis  may be useful in resolving trauma.


Some people suffer from  important psychological problems which cause nightmares. Psychotherapy is important to emphasize the major stress from person's  life , traumatic events from the past or depression that can cause nightmares.When given a medication, it is important that the doctor inform the patient if prescribed medications can cause nightmares.Chronic nightmares were also treated by the method of desensitisation, which makes use of a nightmare remembering and imagining a different end.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial