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Nightmares, also called Bad Dreams, are very common in childhood with 60% to 70% of children experiencing occasional nightmares.  Adults may also experience Nightmares but at a much lower rate.  Nightmares are highly vivid and often disturbing mental images and experiences occurring in Rapid Eye Movement Sleep (REM Sleep) often resulting in an awakening from sleep.  The Nightmare content is typically that of imminent physical danger and most children report being chased by an animal or someone trying to hurt them or a family member.   The dream sequences are vivid and real and become more disturbing as they unfold.  Associated emotions are that of anxiety, fear or terror.  The person experiencing the Nightmare is often awakened frightened with full recollection of the dream.  Nightmares usually start between the ages of three and six years and peak between the ages of six and ten years.  Approximately 2% to 8% of the general population have Nightmares.  Typically Nightmares occur only once nightly. Rarely they occur more than once/night. 

Nightmare Disorder is when the Nightmare is recurring, frequent and interferes with sleep and occurs in 1% to 5% of preadolescent children.  Nightmares can also occur in adulthood especially after traumatic experiences.    Nightmares typically occur in the early morning hours during your REM Sleep as opposed to early in the night when Night Terrors typically occur.

If nightmares are frequent or disturbing you should schedule an appointment with Dr. Gingras.


Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment of Nightmares

There are many reasons why nightmares may occur; a traumatic life experience, a scary movie, normal development process.  Dr. Gingras will review you or your child’s history to help identify the trigger. The treatment that you receive depends on the cause of your nightmares.  Dr. Gingras will review your history and sleep study if ordered and advise you as to appropriate treatment.



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