Treatments and drugsBy Mayo Clinic staff
Treatment for nightmares isn't usually necessary. If the nightmares are associated with an underlying medical or mental health condition, treatment is aimed at the underlying problem. If stress or anxiety seems to be contributing to the nightmares, your doctor may suggest stress-reduction techniques, counseling or therapy.
Medication is rarely used to treat nightmares. However, medications that reduce REM sleep or reduce awakenings during sleep may be recommended if you have severe sleep disturbance.
Imagery rehearsal therapy
Often used with people who have nightmares as a result of PTSD, imagery rehearsal therapy involves changing the ending to your remembered nightmare while awake so that it's no longer threatening. You then rehearse the new ending in your mind. This approach may decrease the frequency of nightmares.
- Nightmares. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. http://yoursleep.aasmnet.org/Disorder.aspx?id=37. Accessed June 7, 2011.
- Overnight sleep study. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. http://yoursleep.aasmnet.org/Topic.aspx?id=12. Accessed June 10, 2011.
- National sleep disorders research plan. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/prof/sleep/res_plan/section5/section5a.html. Accessed June 7, 2011.
- Matwiyoff J, et al. Parasomnias: An overview. Indian Journal of Medical Research. 2010;131:333.
- Stores G. Aspects of parasomnias in childhood and adolescents. Archives of Disease in Childhood. 2009;94:63.
- Avidan AY, et al. The parasomnias: Epidemiology, clinical features, and diagnostic approach. Clinics in Chest Medicine. 2010;31:353.
- Attarian H. Treatment options for parasomnias. Neurological Clinics. 2010;28:1089.
- Shredl M, et al. Gender differences in nightmare frequency: A meta-analysis. Sleep Medicine Reviews. 2011;15:115.
- Crenshaw T. Nightmares and PTSD: Research review. National Center for PTSD. www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/pages/nightmares_and_ptsd_research_review.asp. Accessed June 17, 2011.