What is nightmare disorder?

Updated: Oct 09, 2018
  • Author: Sufen Chiu, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: Caroly Pataki, MD  more...
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Nightmare disorder

Repeated occurrences of extended, unpleasant, and well-remembered dreams that involve avoiding threats to survival, security, or physical integrity that occur during the second half of sleep is defined as nightmare disorder by DSM-5. When awakened, the individual is rapidly alert and oriented. The symptoms must cause clinically significant impairment or distress.

In contrast to NREM sleep arousal disorders, the prevalence of nightmare disorder increases through childhood and adolescence. Nightmares begin between ages 3 and 6 years and peak in late adolescence or early adulthood. Nightmares occur in the second half of sleep, whereas night terrors occur in the first few hours of sleep. Nightmares involve vivid recall, whereas individuals are amnestic for sleep terrors.

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