Nightmare Disorder

Last Updated: January 2, 2019

Definition - What does Nightmare Disorder mean?

Nightmare disorder, also known as dream anxiety disorder, is a rare medical condition that involves dream sequences comprised of vivid details of frightening images or scenarios independent of side effects from medication, chemical dependency, or pathological disorder(s). Nightmares cause immediate wakings with full recollection of their sensory experience from dreams, triggering anxiety, heart palpitations, and sweating, disrupting otherwise normal sleep patterns.

WorkplaceTesting explains Nightmare Disorder

Nightmares are more prominent during rapid eye movement (REM) deep sleep cycles, but unlike night terrors, motor activity is static in preventing involuntary movement of the limbs as REM cycles extend into early morning hours. Medical experts attribute the cause of nightmares to distinct behavioral or environmental factors including traumatic situations, chronic stressors, and psychiatric disorders. However, nightmares can also be symptomatic of possible sleep disorders including obstructive sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder, and restless legs syndrome.

Because nightmares are generally idiopathic (unknown) in nature, a doctor will examine a patient’s medical history, accounting for prescription medications, sleep patterns, and symptoms that serve as legitimate criteria in diagnosing nightmare disorder. The frequency and severity of nightmare episodes may contribute to the degree of sleep deprivation symptoms including anxiety, excessive daytime sleepiness, concentration difficulties, and irritability. Persistent stress is believed to be a common culprit for nightmares, which is often an incidental factor to job demands in the workplace.

While nightmare disorder affects a small percentage of people, therapeutic strategies are available to potentially minimize the occurrence of nightmares including proper sleep hygiene, stress management, and an exercise/yoga regimen. Although nightmare disorder can naturally improve with age, a consultation with a physician can determine if the source of nightmares stem from a psychological disorder that requires direct intervention techniques.

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