What are dream disorders and how can they affect you?

August 24, 2020 5 mins read
What are dream disorders and how can they affect you?

Are you one of the many people around the world struggling with dream disorders? Having the occasional nightmare is not something you need to worry about, but when it happens on a regular basis, you may be suffering from a dream disorder.

Good sleep and good sleep hygiene are essential for a healthy body and mind. If you have a dream disorder, however, you might not be getting the quality sleep you need. Dream disorders, like nightmare anxiety disorder and dream sleep paralysis, interfere with sleep quality and can affect you even long after you have woken up.

What are the most common dream disorders?

It is time to turn yourself into a sleep expert and to learn as much as you can so that you can improve your sleep quality.

The first step is to increase your awareness and knowledge of dream disorders, such as dream sleep paralysis, night terrors, and nightmare anxiety disorder, as well as understand the various symptoms and causes.

Nightmare anxiety disorder

Also known as nightmare disorder, nightmare anxiety disorder is a condition associated with frequent nightmares. It can continue to cause anxiety throughout the day, as well as difficulty focusing. Children with this disorder will often display behavioral problems before it is time for bed.

Night terrors

Associated with fear, flailing, and sometimes shouting while asleep, night terrors usually occur during deep sleep and last between a few seconds and a few minutes. Night terrors are more common in children and typically decrease in frequency or disappear altogether with age.

REM sleep behavior disorder

This dream disorder is associated with behaviors like kicking, screaming, grabbing, flailing, and punching while you are asleep. If you have REM sleep behavior disorder, then at times, you do not experience the paralysis associated with REM sleep and can even obtain nocturnal injuries during a highly physical episode.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

People who have post-traumatic stress disorder often dream of past traumas and experience intense feelings of grief, rage, or pain.

Dream sleep paralysis

This dream disorder usually occurs in the moments before you wake up or fall asleep. You feel awake and are aware of your surroundings, but your body is in a state of paralysis. Sleep paralysis is nothing to be worried about and usually only lasts for a few minutes. Still, dream sleep paralysis can be a frightening experience.

Sleep disorder symptoms to look out for

Do you suspect that you have a dream disorder? Take a look at these common symptoms of dream disorders so that you can get the right treatment.

Vivid, often distressing dreams

Having vivid dreams or nightmares which are upsetting and disturbing is common with sleep disorders. In these types of dreams, you are usually in a dangerous and/or traumatic situation.

Nightmares can wake you up and the distress caused by your dream can make it difficult to fall asleep at night. Even though they are just dreams, they are still unpleasant when they occur.

Getting nightmares frequently can interfere with one’s quality of life.

Sleep anxiety

Have you ever woken up after a bad dream and still felt disturbed and anxious long afterwards? Cortisol levels can spike during nightmares and stay elevated after you wake up, leaving you feeling anxious throughout the day.

Experiencing something like dream sleep paralysis can also trigger bedtime anxiety, as you might be scared of going to sleep and experiencing another nightmare or night terror.

Sudden awakening

Having a nightmare can wake you up suddenly at night. Even if you manage to fall asleep again, your sleep will still be disrupted. Frequently disrupted sleep can have serious implications, such as hormonal imbalances, a general lack of focus, weight gain, memory loss, and fertility struggles.

Wake up with your heart pounding

Having distressing dreams, night terrors, and a stressful event like dream sleep paralysis can wake you suddenly and leave you feeling sweaty with your heart pounding. Cortisol levels are typically high at this point and it can be difficult to fall asleep again after such an event.

What causes dreams and nightmares?

While scientists are not quite sure why we dream, we do know that dreams and nightmares typically occur during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Our dreams can be influenced by our desires, life events, emotional struggles, stress levels and medication.

Stress and anxiety

Dealing with stress and anxiety can affect your sleep and result in bad dreams. If you are feeling stressed or anxious often, and you are experiencing nightmares on a regular basis as a result, it is important to address the underlying causes.

If there are problems in your life that are making you feel stressed and anxious, consider talking to a psychologist or trying other stress-management techniques, such as journaling, exercising, meditating, doing breathing exercises, calling a friend, taking a bath, or listening to some music.


Vivid dreams and nightmares can occur as a result of the medication you are taking. Medications that can contribute to the development of dream disorders include certain blood pressure medications, antidepressants, beta-blockers, and medication used to treat Parkinson’s disease.

If you are taking medication, speak to your doctor about the potential side effects and whether the particular medication has been associated with dream disorders.

Sleep deprivation

Not only can having nightmares lead to sleep deprivation, but sleep deprivation can, in fact, increase your chances of having nightmares. This can become an unbearable cycle.

Catching up on sleep is essential if you want to break this cycle. Improving your sleep hygiene and going to bed earlier can help, and consider scheduling in a few naps as well.

Dream disorders can dramatically affect your sleep and lead to daytime sleepiness, mood swings, and hormonal imbalances, and can adversely affect your overall mental health.

Luckily, there are things that you can do to fix bad sleep patterns and improve the quality of your sleep.