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Are Nightmares A Sign Of A Disease?

Has anyone out there never experienced a nightmare?  I do not see any hands raised as all of us, to a lesser or greater degree have had nightmares in the past and/or present.  Interestingly, the term “nightmare” seems to have been coined in the early 1700s and was defined as “When a man in his sleep supposes he has a great weight laying upon him”.   (I guess those men and women having dreams of dead people coming out of the grave and trying to eat them were not considered to have nightmares in the early 1700s).

As we all have experienced nightmares, the question arises as to when these may be considered signs of a disease.  Clearly, it has been noted that those people suffering from Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) and other mood disorders tend to describe more nightmares than those people that do not have these underlying mental health conditions.

A recent study came out showing that people with exacerbations of autoimmune diseases such as Lupus may manifest an increasing pattern of nightmares and sometimes hallucinations.  These night time issues occurred actually before the onset of physical symptoms that accompany a worsening of these autoimmune diseases.

There is also a difference between nightmares and “night terrors”.  Night terrors occur during a different stage of sleep than nightmares, which occur during REM sleep.  In night terrors, people can move and talk and they do not remember their night terrors.  Nightmares can be remembered.

The bottom line: If you are noticing a change in pattern at sleep, i.e. an increasing amount of nightmares, it makes good sense to check in with your doctor to explore whether there is some underlying physical or mental health condition that needs to be diagnosed and addressed.

And it is always our hope that the very special one in our lives will dream a little dream of us (and hope this is not a nightmare or night terror).  Enjoy Mama Cass.


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