Nightmares: Causes, Symptoms, and Effective Treatments

Learn about the causes and symptoms of nightmares and how EMDR therapy and neurofeedback therapy can help improve sleep. Discover tips for a better night’s sleep in children and adults.

Nightmares are a common occurrence for many people, both children and adults alike. These disturbing dreams can disrupt sleep and leave individuals feeling exhausted and anxious. While nightmares are a natural part of the sleep cycle, they can become a persistent problem for some, interfering with daily life and well-being. In this blog, we will explore the causes and symptoms of nightmares, as well as effective treatments such as EMDR therapy and neurofeedback therapy.


Nightmares can have various causes and triggers, and they may differ from person to person. Here are some of the common causes:

  1. Anxiety and Stress: High levels of stress and anxiety can make it challenging to fall asleep and can cause nightmares.
  2. Trauma and PTSD: People who have experienced trauma, such as physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, or have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may experience frequent nightmares.
  3. Medications: Certain medications, such as antidepressants, can cause vivid and intense dreams that may turn into nightmares.
  4. Sleep disorders: Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome may contribute to the occurrence of nightmares.
  5. Substance abuse: Substance abuse, including drugs and alcohol, can also cause nightmares.


Nightmares can cause several symptoms that can disrupt the quality of sleep, including:

  1. Intense feelings of fear or terror during sleep
  2. Profuse sweating and rapid heartbeat
  3. Waking up suddenly during sleep
  4. Difficulty falling back asleep after a nightmare
  5. Feeling anxious or depressed during the day due to a bad dream
  6. Daytime fatigue and sleepiness due to disturbed sleep at night.

It is essential to identify the underlying causes of nightmares to get appropriate treatment and improve the quality of sleep.

EMDR therapy and neurofeedback therapy are two effective treatments. EMDR therapy aims to help people process traumatic experiences and reduce the emotional distress associated with them.

The Impact of Nightmares on Mental Health

Nightmares are often associated with mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People who have experienced traumatic events, including physical or emotional abuse, accidents, or combat, may experience nightmares as a result of these experiences. In some cases, nightmares may be a symptom of an underlying sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome.

better sleep nightmares

In individuals with mental health conditions, nightmares may be a sign of unresolved emotional trauma or stress. Nightmares may also be a symptom of medication side effects or substance use, including alcohol or drug abuse. It is important to speak with a mental health professional if you experience frequent or distressing nightmares, especially if they are interfering with your daily life.

Nightmares can also be a common side effect of withdrawal from certain medications, including antidepressants and benzodiazepines. It is important to speak with a doctor before stopping any medications, as sudden withdrawal can lead to dangerous side effects.

Effective Treatments for Nightmares

  • EMDR therapy and Neurofeedback therapy have shown effectiveness in reducing the frequency and severity, particularly for those with PTSD or other trauma-related disorders.
  • EMDR therapy aims to help people process traumatic experiences and reduce the emotional distress associated with them.
  • Neurofeedback therapy involves training the brain to function more efficiently and can help with sleep disorders that may be contributing to nightmares.
  • Personalized treatment plans and the importance of working with a qualified mental health professional such as Serin Center.

Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for overall health and well-being. Here are some tips to help you achieve a better night’s sleep and reduce the likelihood of experiencing nightmares:

  • Importance of maintaining a consistent sleep schedule
  • Creating a relaxing bedtime routine
  • Managing stress and anxiety before bedtime
  • Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine before bedtime
  • Creating a sleep-conducive environment

Addressing Nightmares in Children

Nightmares are common in children and can cause significant distress and disruption to their daily lives. Unlike night terrors, which usually occur during the first few hours of sleep, nightmares typically occur during the later stages of sleep and are often remembered by the child.

Nightmares in children can be caused by a number of factors including anxiety, stress, fear, trauma, illness, medication, or even watching scary movies or reading scary books before bed.

Children’s nightmares often involve themes related to common fears and anxieties, such as being lost, chased, or attacked by monsters, ghosts, or animals.

They can affect a child’s quality of sleep, making them feel tired, irritable, and anxious during the day. It can also lead to fear of going to bed, which can further exacerbate the problem.

It’s essential to create a safe and comfortable sleeping environment for the child. Parents can help by providing comfort and reassurance to the child during and after the nightmare. Parents can also encourage the child to express their feelings about the nightmare and help them to confront and overcome their fears.

When to Seek Professional Help

If nightmares persist or interfere with the child’s daily life, it may be necessary to seek the help of a mental health professional. Serin Center can offer personalized treatment to assist the child in managing nightmares and addressing any underlying issues that may be contributing to them.

Nightmares can be a distressing and disruptive experience for both children and adults. However, effective treatments such as EMDR therapy and neurofeedback therapy, combined with practical tips for a better night’s sleep, can help alleviate the impact on daily life and well-being. If you or a loved one is experiencing sleep issues, it is important to seek the help of a qualified mental health professional.

Serin Center experts have been utilizing applied neuroscience to enhance the lives of children, adolescents, adults, families, and executives with effective and innovative therapy.

Experience the power of innovative and effective applied neuroscience therapy for mental and emotional wellness. Visit Serin Center in Phoenix, Arizona. With offices in Peoria and Scottsdale, our experts provide cutting-edge approaches for faster, long-lasting results. Upgrade your life today and contact us to see how we can help your child, teen, or yourself.