Nightmares are pretty much the same as dreams: they happen when we are asleep, and our subconscious minds conjure them up. Except, what sets nightmares apart from dreams, is the fact that nightmares are never happy experiences. Instead, they are always dark, scary, and maybe even evil in nature. And, nightmares can be so disturbing that they often wake us up suddenly from our sleep. When we do wake up from having a nightmarish dream, we are usually nervous, scared, or shaken up. Our hearts are racing and it’s difficult to fall back asleep.
Children are thought to experience nightmares more than adults do. Children around the ages of three to five are the most susceptible to these nighttime scares. Stressful events such as being left alone, watching a monster movie on television, being in the dark, etc, can easily create fears in a young child. The stress and fears can then manifest into a nightmare.
Nightmares can typically be classified into four categories. That is, there are four usual themes to our nightmares. Either we are being chased, we are falling, we are being attacked, or, we are stuck.
No matter which theme your nightmare follows, experts say that our nightmares are caused by stress in our lives. Experience a traumatic experience or a stress situation, and you’re likely to have a nightmare about it.
The experts also say that nightmares are “red flags” from our subconscious minds. Something is wrong in our lives. Therefore, our subconscious minds are trying to alert us to the fact that we have an unresolved problem. A nightmare is the mind’s way of bringing the problem to our attention so we can resolve it in real life.
So, although these nighttime experiences aren’t pleasant, if you analyze your nightmares, you may be able to find out how to stop from having them. For example, if you have a nightmare where you are falling, it can mean that you’re worried. The falling in your nightmare may represent you inner need to feel free and unburdened. If you have a scary dream where you are trapped, you may feel “trapped” in real life.

Another example is a dream that you can’t move your body in, or that you can only move in slow motion, this could represent your feelings that your life is stuck in a rut. If you can’t speak in your nightmares, this could mean that you feel you can’t express your inner feelings.
One of the most popular nightmares that people have is one in which they are naked or not fully dressed in public. Having nothing to do with sexuality or the love of streaking, these nightmares usually mean we feel unprepared or are “not up to par”. And, we’re afraid that other people will see our inadequacies. Since the others in a dream such as this don’t notice our nakedness, this means that we are looking at ourselves in a way that nobody else is.
So, nightmares are not really terrifying experiences that are conjured up by our subconscious in order to scare the hell out of us. Instead, they are our mind’s way of alerting us to a problem we have. Our subconscious mind is telling us that we have a problem that needs to be resolved. Or, that the steps we are taking to try and end the problem aren’t working. Therefore, we need to rethink the problem and come up with a new way to solve it. Once the problem in your daily life is solved, your nightmares should end.


Nightmares are disturbing dreams associated with negative feelings, such as anxiety or fear. Nightmares are common. They may begin in childhood and tend to decrease after about age 10. However, some people have them as teens or adults, or throughout their lives.
Until age 13, boys and girls have nightmares in equal numbers. At age 13, nightmares become more prevalent in girls than boys.
Nightmares seem real, often becoming more disturbing as the dream unfolds. But nightmares usually are nothing to worry about. They may become a problem if you have them frequently and they cause you to fear going to sleep or keep you from sleeping well.
Nightmares are referred to by doctors as parasomnias — undesirable experiences that occur during sleep, usually during the stage of sleep known as rapid eye movement (REM). You’ve had a nightmare if:
-Your dream wakes you
-You feel scared, anxious, angry, sad or disgusted as a result of your dream
-You can think clearly upon awakening, and can recall details of your dream
-Your dream occurs near the end of your sleep time
-Your dream keeps you from falling back to sleep easily
Children’s nightmare content varies with age, typically becoming more complex. While a young child might dream of monsters, an older child might have nightmares about school or difficulties at home.


Night terrors are episodes of fear, flailing and screaming while asleep. Also known as night terrors, sleep terrors often are paired with sleepwalking. Although sleep terrors are more common in children, they can affect adults. A sleep terror episode usually lasts from seconds to a few minutes.
Night terrors are relatively rare, affecting only a small percentage of children — often between ages 4 and 12 — and a smaller percentage of adults. However frightening, night terrors aren’t usually a cause for concern. Most children outgrow night terrors by adolescence.
Night terrors differ from nightmares. The dreamer of a nightmare wakes up from the dream and remembers details, but a person who has a night terror episode remains asleep. Children usually don’t remember anything about their sleep terrors in the morning. Adults may recall a dream fragment they had during the night terrors.
Like sleepwalking and nightmares, night terrors are a parasomnia — an undesired occurrence during sleep. Night terrors usually occur during the first third of the sleep period.
During a sleep terror episode, a person might:
-Sit up in bed
-Scream or shout
-Kick and thrash

-Sweat, breathe heavily and have a racing pulse
-Be hard to awaken
-Be inconsolable

-Get out of bed and run around the house
-Engage in violent behavior (more common in adults)
-Stare wide-eyed

Sleep Terror Disorders

Also called “night terrors”, these episodes are characterized by extreme terror and a temporary inability to attain full consciousness. The person may abruptly exhibit behaviors of fear, panic, confusion, or an apparent desire to escape. There is no response to soothing from others. They may experience gasping, moaning or screaming. However, the person is not fully awake, and once the episode passes, often returns to normal sleep without ever fully waking up. In most cases, there is no recollection of the episode in the morning.
Like sleepwalking, night terror episodes usually occur during NREM delta (slow wave) sleep. They are most likely to occur during the first part of the night. The timing of the events helps differentiate the episodes from nightmares, which occur during the last third of the sleep period.
While sleep terrors are more common in children, they can occur at any age. Research has shown that a predisposition to night terrors may be hereditary. Emotional stress during the day, fatigue or an irregular routine are thought to trigger episodes. Ensuring a child has the proper amount of sleep, as well as addressing any daytime stresses, will help reduce terrors.