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What Is a Nightmare?
A nightmare is a dream turned bad; most nightmares involve a threat or a dangerous situation that the sleeper feels unable to control during the dream. Through history, nightmares have been attributed to visits from demons to evidence of some type of underlying disturbance. Today, it is recognized that occasional nightmares are a normal event. As stated above, the majority of people have experienced nightmares at some point, although adults seem to have bad dreams less often than children. Nightmares can include monsters or other scary figures or may involve situations such as being chased or other danger.
Nightmares are not the same as night terrors. Children who are experiencing a nightmare do not typically vocalize or thrash about; in contrast, night terrors are associated with crying or screaming and movement -- it appears that the child is panic-stricken. Children who experience night terrors remain asleep throughout the event and do not remember that it occurred the next day. Night terrors take place during non-REM sleep and often occur during the first half of the night.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/21/2012
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