Hi everyone!

This is my third round of research with my question “How does dreaming vary with age?” .For this research round, I’m going to be looking into dream disorders and how it changes with age.


What is a dream disorder?

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A dream disorder, which can also be called a nightmare disorder, is when you continuously have dreams that send negative feelings such as anxiety or fear. (1)  It’s considered a nightmare disorder if you have some of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty staying focused and remembering things(1)
  • Constantly thinking about the dream(1)
  • Fear of going to sleep or the dark(1)
  • Anxiety during the day(1)
  • The nightmares are frequent(1)


The nightmares often feel very real; even for teenagers or adults. For children, it can be very disturbing. Young children especially have trouble distinguishing dreams from reality because of how real it can feel.  In teens, girls appear to have more nightmares than guys do and are more likely to develop a dream disorder. Some people even develop it in their teen years and it sticks with them for the rest of their lives (1,2) . Adults who have a nightmare disorder are in the minority of the population, and of that, around half have some sort of mental illness that is the cause or contributes to having the dream disorder.(2)

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Image result for nightmare disorder in toddlers

Nightmares are often triggered by stress, sleep deprivation, trauma, substance abuse, scary movies or books right before bed, and disorders such as depression or anxiety. The nightmares themselves are usually remembered very clearly and in detail. (1,2,3) There are often physical symptoms such as sweating or a high rate during nightmares. That’s a cause of why it can be very difficult to fall asleep when you wake up because of a nightmare; the horrifyingness of the dream is the first thing in your mind when you wake up along with the physical symptoms. Trying to fall asleep while you are very anxious is only difficult.(2)

Some researchers think that children, teens and adults who have a creative or artistic mind are more at risk for nightmares. They have well developed imaginations which could take their nightmares and could take the depth of it to a new level. Researchers also believe that people who are more sensitive are more at risk for nightmares as well. (2)

Many people do not seek the help needed for a nightmare disorder so the actual percent of people who suffer from it is unknown.  However, there are some estimates. In children, it is estimated that between 10%-50% have a nightmare disorder and the nightmares would usually have something to do with their parents.It usually isn’t caused by a mental illness.  However, with age, the number of children that have nightmares decreases. It is estimated that more than 3% of young adults have a nightmare disorder but only around 1% of adults have nightmares once a week. As mentioned earlier, girls appear to have more nightmares than guys. In fact, women are estimated to have nightmares 2-4 times more than men. But it’s still a mystery whether it actually has to do with being two different sexes or if women just reported their nightmares more than men. (2)

Nightmares are considered to be a parasomnia.(2,4)

Image result for nightmare disorder creative mind


What is a parasomnia?

Parasomnia is basically a general term for the abnormal things that can happen to someone while they are asleep, or falling asleep. Nightmares, sleepwalking, and sleep paralysis are all a few examples of things that would fall under this category.  If it were to happen while falling asleep, a person could experience hallucinations or even sleep paralysis which is basically when your body is unable to move for seconds/minutes but your mind is awake. It can also occur when a person is waking up, or while transitioning between sleep stages. (4)

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REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) is an example of parasomnia that could happen during sleep.  It’s basically where you physically act out your dreams with sounds and body movements. Even though more older woman are being diagnosed with the disorder, it usually is found in men older than 50 but it can still happen to anyone of any age if they are taking certain medications such as antidepressants or if they have a neurological disorder such as Parkinson’s disease (4,5)  Parasomnias can also happen when a person has partial sleep awakenings, such as sleep walking, sleep terrors, confusional arousals, and sleep related eating disorder. Parasomnias can often run through families so there is likely a genetic factor in some cases. Some mental illnesses and various medications can also be a cause of parasomnia.(5)

Parasomnias affect around 10% of the population.  It does happen to people of all ages but is much more common in children. The reason why parasomnias, nightmares, etc is more common in children is because of brain immaturity.  That’s why it often goes away with age as the child becomes much more mature. (5)

Although not entirely related to what I researched this round, but more so my previous research rounds, here’s a table I found interesting relating to different kinds of dreams/nightmares. (6)



Frightening Dreams






Frequent nightmares in children

20 to 30%, declines with age

Frightening, detailed plots

REM sleep, usually late in sleep period (i.e., 4 to 6 a.m.)

Usually reflects no pathology

Difficult return to sleep

Frequent nightmares in adults

5 to 8%

Increased awakeningsDaytime memory impairment and anxiety

REM sleep

“Thin-boundary” personality/creative personality May have associated psychopathology

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Variable 8 to 68% of war veterans At least 25% of trauma victims

Stereotypic dreams of the traumaIntense rage, fear or grief

REM sleep and sleep onset

Significant traumaDaytime hyperarousability and anxiety

REM sleep behavior disorder

Most common in late middle age and in men

Acting out of dreamsNocturnal injuries

REM sleepIncreased REM sleep EMG tone on polysomnogram

Degenerative neurologic illness in 50% of affected persons

Night terrors

1 to 4% of children

Blood-curdling screams

Deep sleep, early in sleep period (i.e., 1 to 3 a.m.)Stages 3 and 4 arousals on polysomnogram

No pathology in children Psychiatric and neurologic disorders in adults

Declines with age

Autonomic discharge

Rare in adults

Limited recall








Pictures(in order of which they are placed in my research)

1. https://www.hindustantimes.com...G6NNkuhd4IvHjRP.html 

2. http://www.sleepreviewmag.com/...-nightmare-disorder/

3 . https://www.alaskasleep.com/bl...help-terrified-child 

4.  https://www.huffpost.com/entry...tful-sleep_n_7589962 

5. https://www.xpertdox.com/disea...cription/Parasomnias


For my next research round, I had the idea to go look at myths about dreams, sleep and age then do research about them to try and see if they are true,false or neither. If you have any ideas, questions or comments, feel free to let me know. Thanks for reading.

Original Post

Hi Rhea,

Great round of research! It was very intriguing to read, and I found the diagrams you provided useful. I am fortunate enough to not have had any nightmares in years, or very many nightmares in my life at all, but the few that I did have I can assure you I remember very vividly. It really makes me feel very empathetic towards people who suffer these kinds of dreams on a regular basis. I'm also very curious now if women truly do have more nightmares than men, or if women are simply more likely to report it, as I have a feeling that it might possibly be the case since our society pushes men to keep their feelings and insecurities to themselves in order to be more "masculine". I wonder if there are any ways that people suffering from dream disorders/parasomnias can get help, and how effective the options are?

Here is a good website I found that you might find useful for your next round of research:


Good luck!

Hey Rhea,

I liked your research this week! It was very easy to read and follow along with, but it was also very informative. The images and charts that you included definitely supported your points, engaged me, and contributed information. I was surprised to learn that girls are more likely to develop a dream disorder than boys--interesting! I also was surprised to learn how ambiguous some of these statistics are due to the low frequency of people who report their dream disorder. I was surprised to learn many people do not report their cases, but at the same time, I can almost understand why. Where do you draw the line between sometimes having nightmares and having them constantly? Additionally, for those who are aware that they have an issue with nightmares and may have a dream disorder, it might seem futile to seek help. This topic is super interesting, and I think it will be intriguing to see how it develops as it is researched further. Your research has sort of inspired me to look a little further into dreams!

Here are a couple of sites you may be able to use next week:

Good luck with your research, I look forward to reading what you find

Hello Rhea,
The percentage of children that suffer from nightmare disorder seems to be quite high, possibly as much as 50 percent of the population. Meaning that half would suffer from this, which is simply unbelievable. It’s a staggering percentage of the population, which makes me wonder just how nightmare disorder affects children as they are growing up? It is affecting them during the time when they are growing and changing the most and affects up to half of the population so if it did have certain effects it would be very important to know of them I think. I also like the use of the table as it really added to my understanding of things, like how certain issues were caused due to what reason and when exactly when you were sleeping that they were activated. Parasomnias seem quite interesting as it encompasses all the issues that can arise while sleeping, they also seem absolutely terrifying at the same time though. Waking up but being unable to move, being trapped in your own body, that would be absolutely terrifying and worse of all you wouldn’t be able to react at all cause you’re paralyzed. Honestly though I wonder how many people actually have this, as it’s entirely possible that they could wake up in the middle of the night, not do anything bad go back to sleep, and forget all about it the next morning so it could be possible that there are many more people with it, that just don’t know and never will know. I can’t wait to see what myths you find ext round!

Hopefully these sites might help:

Hello Rhea, 

Wow! Another great round of research. I liked how you added various photos, bolded your titles and made a table to better explain your inquiry!

It’s intriguing how you mentioned that people with artistic minds are more at risk for nightmares. It makes sense that due to their “well-developed imagination”, they can take their nightmares more into depth. 

I also found it interesting how female teens have more frequent nightmares than guys. However, I’m curious to why that is. Perhaps elaborate on your future posts! I did some research and found some facts. According to a study done by University of the West of England, women’s dreams typically either confusing/muddled, or they consist of being chased/having their life threatened and losing a loved one. On the other hand, men had their dreams reference real attacks and serious threats. They concluded that women’s dreams contained more family members and had more negative motion. If you're interested, I attached a link (2nd below) that would help out.

Nonetheless, your explanation parasomnia was well done. I feel like it’s a term that not many people can recognize; however, when you gave examples of it, it helped with the comprehension. For future rounds, maybe you could investigate the causes and treatments of parasomnia?


Suggested websites that may help out: 





Can’t wait until your next post 


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