Nightmares and Night Terrors

Nightmares and Night Terrors

When asked to differentiate between nightmare and night terrors, most people assume they’re both bad dreams of differing magnitudes. But night terrors, or sleep terrors, have much more to them than just being super-intense nightmares. These are literally two separate sleep conditions with some pretty important differences, which are important to find out if you’re unsure which one you’re coping with. Below, we’ll get into both and figure out some ways you'll be able to try and stop whichever is plaguing your sleep time.

What are nightmares?

Nightmares are coherent and vividly realistic dreams that become increasingly disturbing as they progress and lead to waking up from sleep. Nightmares commonly involve impending danger or distressing themes and provoke emotions like fear, embarrassment, or anxiety upon waking. Nightmares are common and affect people across the lifespan, with 50 – 85% of adults reporting occasional nightmares. However, they are particularly prevalent in childhood, with prevalence reaching a peak between the ages of 5-10 years.

Whilst it's usual to experience intermittent nightmares, a tiny proportion of individuals experience chronic and recurrent nightmares which cause insufficient quality sleep, causing distress and lethargy throughout the day and may lead to several other health problems. This nightmare disorder affects between 2-7% of youngsters and approximately 4% of adults. Although there's an absence of consensus concerning the reason behind nightmares, several factors increase their risk and include some groups of medicines including antidepressants and medicines for Parkinson’s disease, other comorbid medical, psychiatric, or sleep conditions, substance abuse, or misuse, etc. 

What does nightmare treatment entail?

For mild cases of nightmares, it is recommended to employ something called image rehearsal therapy. It works by desensitizing a particular nightmare so it’s less scary. During the day, write out your nightmare, remembering the first details. But near the peak of the story, during the scariest part, create a non-scary ending. Visualize this story sometimes on a daily basis. When the story appears in your nightmare, the ending might change to be more just like the one you’ve created. This could extinguish the nightmare over time.

Image rehearsal therapy might also help with nightmare disorder, as can options like talk therapy with a psychological expert. If it seems as if your nightmares could also be tied to an underlying condition like restless legs syndrome or the drugs you are taking, treatment may involve addressing those aspects to work out if your nightmares recede.

What are night terrors?

Night terrors are episodes of screaming and agitated movement like flailing or thrashing, amid intense fear. They typically last between seconds and a few minutes and start whilst still asleep. A person who experiences night terror is also sometimes mobile, resulting in episodes of sleepwalking, and provokes aggressive behavior if restrained by others. Upon waking, the person could also be confused, disoriented, and unable to recall the dramatic episode when fully awake.

Although distressing to watch, night terrors are relatively common in young children with an estimated prevalence between 1-6%, the majority of whom will stop having episodes by adolescence. Children with a family history of night terrors are at higher risk indicated by genetic component to the disorder, and pre-existing medical conditions like obstructive apnea causing fragmented sleep are identified as other risk factors.

How does one treat night terrors?

It is advised to map the timing of night terrors, or getting someone to do it for you like a parent or a partner, and setting an alarm before they strike. A part of this rests on your bed partner if you've got one since you will not realize you’re having night terrors on your own. Ask them to keep track of the time of your terrors so you understand when to keep the alarm for. Get up with the alarm and return to sleep. Sometimes the doctor may recommend you to spend a night at a sleep lab, where your behavior is videotaped and read later. This can help in further treatments. 

Other strategies

There are other strategies you can attempt to reduce terrors. There are some lifestyle changes and activities that may help with both nightmares and night terrors.

In both cases, it is advised to push for an adequate amount of sleep, which could appear counterintuitive if nightmares or night terrors are what’s disrupting your sleep in the first place, we know. But fatigue can leave you more in danger for both, so establishing a homogenous and relaxing bedtime routine could be a solid place to start out. Try calming activities like reading something light, doing puzzles, meditating, doing relaxation exercises, or snuggling under a weighted blanket. Trying your best to scale back stress normally, not just at bedtime, may also help.

Change your sleeping environment

You might also want to alter some things in your sleeping environment counting on if you’re handling night terrors vs. nightmares. If you've got night terrors, you ought to clear your space of obvious tripping hazards or sharp and fragile objects just in case you get into sleepwalking. If you have got nightmares, maybe try a night-light or venture out and make your room extra cozy and have calming, light colors in your room, instead of dark ones. 

Trying to get good sleep?

Like we said, even though you are getting disturbed sleep because of terrors or nightmares, you should push yourself to get a sufficient amount of quality sleep. While making changes to your bedroom environment, check if your mattress or pillow is a problem causing you not to have enough sleep. If they are a problem, it is time to change your bedding. Get a new premium mattress and pillows from Livpure. A memory foam mattress from Livpure will not only aid to have an undisturbed, comfortable, and peaceful sleep, your partner will also thank you for buying the mattress as it reduces motion transfer. 

On Livpure’s website, you will find other sleep accessories in beautiful calm shades for your bedroom. The calmer the bedroom looks, the lesser nightmares you will have, as you will drown into sleep time around peace. 


After you try our tips, you should find yourself at peace. If you’re still experiencing frequent, troublesome nightmares, or you’re just not feeling like you’re getting a restful night of sleep, it may be time to see a sleep expert. Are you feeling sleepy during the day because the nightmares are keeping you up, or because you’re avoiding sleep due to bad dreams? Are you having a hard time focusing at work? Then, yes, it’s time to see your doctor. Do not delay visiting one, because this might lead to further health risks. Never deny yourself a decent night of sleep! 

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