Recurring Nightmares: Understanding and Coping with Them

Nightmares are a common occurrence among many people, and they can be a terrifying experience. They are dreams that cause fear, anxiety, and distress, and they can be tough to shake off, especially when they recur over and over again. Although experiencing a nightmare once in a while is normal, recurring nightmares can be a significant problem for many individuals. In this article, we explore what recurring nightmares are, their causes, and how to cope with them.

What are recurring nightmares?

Recurring nightmares are a type of dream that occurs repeatedly. They often consist of disturbing, frightening, or unpleasant images that can leave individuals feeling anxious, worried, and overwhelmed. They can also have a profound impact on sleep quality, making it challenging for affected individuals to get sufficient rest.

What causes recurring nightmares?

Recurring nightmares can be caused by various factors such as:

  • Trauma: Trauma is one of the most common causes of recurring nightmares. It can be any event that causes severe emotional disturbance, such as experiencing or witnessing an accident, losing a loved one, or being a victim of abuse.
  • Anxiety and stress: High levels of anxiety and stress can also trigger recurring nightmares. Anxious individuals often experience vivid dreams that can turn into recurring nightmares.
  • Medication: Certain medications such as antidepressants, blood pressure drugs, and beta-blockers, among others, have been linked to recurring nightmares.
  • Alcohol and substance abuse: Alcohol and drug abuse can significantly affect sleep quality, leading to recurring nightmares.

How to cope with recurring nightmares

Recurring nightmares can be distressing and haunting, but there are several ways to cope with them. Here are some strategies:

Identify the trigger

The first step in dealing with recurring nightmares is to identify the cause or trigger. It can be challenging to pinpoint what causes recurring nightmares, but identifying and addressing the underlying condition can go a long way in resolving the issue. For instance, if the nightmares are caused by trauma, therapy and counseling can help individuals process their emotions and move past the trauma. In cases of anxiety and stress, therapy and relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga can help individuals calm down and sleep better.

Practice good sleep habits

Practicing good sleep hygiene is also essential in dealing with recurring nightmares. Having a regular sleep and wake-up schedule, avoiding caffeine and nicotine, creating a relaxing sleep environment, and engaging in activities that can help individuals destress can significantly improve sleep quality and reduce the likelihood of recurring nightmares.

Seek professional help

If recurring nightmares persist despite attempts to resolve them independently, it may be time to seek professional help. A therapist or a mental health professional can help individuals better understand their nightmares and develop an effective treatment plan that suits their unique needs. Therapy can also provide a safe space for individuals to process their emotions and memories, which may be contributing to the nightmares.

Consider medication

In some cases, medication may be necessary to manage recurring nightmares. Medication can help individuals relax, sleep better, and reduce the likelihood of nightmares. However, medication should only be considered under the guidance and advice of a doctor or a mental health professional.


Recurring nightmares can be a distressing and haunting experience, but they do not have to control an individual’s life. Identifying the underlying trigger, practicing good sleep habits, seeking professional help, and considering medication are all strategies that can help individuals cope with recurring nightmares. By taking these steps, individuals can reduce their anxiety and stress levels, sleep better, and improve their overall well-being.


FAQs about Recurring Nightmares

1. What are recurring nightmares?

Recurring nightmares are dreams that occur frequently and are repetitive in nature. These nightmares may continue over an extended period and can affect the quality of sleep.

2. What causes recurring nightmares?

Recurring nightmares can be caused by a variety of factors, including stress, trauma, anxiety, depression, and medication. They may also be the result of unresolved emotional issues, such as guilt or grief.

3. How can I stop recurring nightmares?

There is no definitive cure for recurring nightmares, but some techniques may help reduce their frequency and severity. These include addressing any underlying mental health issues, practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga, and creating a calming bedtime routine. Seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor can also be beneficial.


1. Kahn, M. (2019). Recurring nightmares: A review of the literature. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 43, 54-61. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2018.08.002
2. Spoormaker, V. I., & van den Bout, J. (2006). Nightmare frequency as a function of age, gender, and personality. Journal of Sleep Research, 15(2), 162-170. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2869.2006.00518.x
3. Zadra, A., & Pilon, M. (2010). Don’t wake up the sleepwalkers: Dire straits for the empirical study of sleepwalking and sleep terror disorders. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 14(3), 241-254. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2009.09.003