While nightmares occur frequently in children, they can be a problem for adults too. It’s common to have nightmares every once in a while, but if you suffer from nightmare disorder, you may have repeated occurrences of nightmares that cause distress or impairment.
Approximately 4 percent of adults have nightmare disorder, either by itself or as part of other disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Nightmare disorder can significantly disturb your sleep and impair your quality of life. It also can worsen an underlying mental illness, such as depression or anxiety.
Fortunately, there are treatments for nightmare disorder in adults. A position paper from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) outlining treatments was published in the June 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
The position paper reports that image rehearsal therapy is useful for the treatment of nightmare disorder and nightmares associated with PTSD. Image rehearsal therapy is a technique that involves altering the content of a nightmare by creating a new set of positive images and rehearsing the rewritten dream scenario while awake.
The AASM task force found that various methods may be used for treating nightmare disorders, including cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnosis, and some prescription medications. However, the task force concluded that the anti-anxiety medication clonazepam and the antidepressant venlafaxine are not recommended for the treatment of nightmare disorder.
For more information about these recommendations, read the full paper, “Position Paper for the Treatment of Nightmare Disorder in Adults: An American Academy of Sleep Medicine Position Paper.”
If you are struggling with nightmares, talk with a doctor, who may refer you to an accredited sleep center. Effectively treating nightmare disorder can improve your sleep quality and help you feel more alert and less sleepy.