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.


This troubling sleep disorder is a condition called REM behavior disorder. This disorder causes the sleepers to physically act out their dreams by kicking, screaming and even falling out of bed. Unfortunately, this disorder is usually not noticed until it causes an injury either to themselves or others.
Dr. Nabeela Nasir, MD, sleep specialist, assistant professor of neurology at Loyola University Medical Center, would like to raise awareness of this disorder because those who endure this condition can be treated successfully with medications.
“I don’t think we have a clear idea how prevalent it is.” “Patients don’t report it, and doctors don’t ask about it,” says Dr. Nasir in a news release.
Sleep involves transitions between three different states; wakefulness, REM sleep (rapid eye movement associated to dreaming) and N-REM sleep (non-rapid eye movement).
Normally muscles do not move during REM but this temporary paralysis does not occur in patients with REM behavior disorder. The patients will physically act out their vivid dreams they are having, for example, running, fighting and warding off attackers.
REM behavior disorder belongs to a class of sleep disorders called parasomnias, which include the sleep disorders of sleep walking and sleep related eating disorder (person eats while asleep).
This disorder affects an estimated one in every 200 adults with nine out of ten men suffering from this disorder with the vast majority being over 50 years. Many patients eventually develop Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.

Mayo Clinic researchers found that people with REM sleep behavior disorder have twice the risk for developing mild cognitive impairment or Parkinson’s disease. Their study appeared online January 12, 2012 in Annals of Neurology.
Many patients are treated with Clonazepam, which is in a class of medicines called benzodiazepines, which curtails or eliminates the disorder 90% of the time. Melatonin a hormone that regulates sleep and wake cycles is used for insomnia and being looked at for as a treatment for REM behavior disorder.
Dr. Nasir recommends to safe-proofing the bedroom such as clear the room of furniture and objects that could cause injury and sleep alone if necessary.
The main symptom of REM sleep behavior disorder is dream-enacting behaviors. At times they can be violent causing self-injury or injury to the bed partner. These behaviors can include punching or jumping out of bed while still asleep. Other actions of REM behavior disorder include; kicking, grabbing and sitting up in bed.
If any of these behaviors occur during sleep seek medical attention.


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.