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Sleep Education


American Academy of Sleep Medicine 
  

 
 

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Nightmares - Self-Test & Diagnosis

If you think you may have nightmare disorder, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you often wake up from sleep due to a disturbing dream?
  2. Do these dreams evoke emotions of fear, anger, sadness or disgust?
  3. Are you alert and able to think clearly as soon as you wake up?
  4. Are you able to clearly recall details of these dreams?
  5. Do these dreams often occur during the late portion of your sleep period, such as near morning?
  6. Do you have difficulty falling back asleep after these dreams?

If you answered yes to these questions, you should talk to your doctor or see a board-certified sleep physician. A sleep specialist is trained to accurately diagnose nightmare disorder and rule any possible underlying causes or complications.

The physician will need to know when you first started having nightmares, how often they occur and the content of the nightmares. Your complete medical history, as well as any past or present drug and medication use will help the physician make a diagnosis. Tell the physician if you have ever had any other sleep disorder, or if any of your family members have sleep problems.

You may be required to keep a sleep diary for two weeks. The sleep diary will help the physician look at your sleep patterns. This data will give the physicians clues about what is causing your problem and how to correct it. In most cases, you will not need any tests for nightmares. If your sleep is severely disturbed, or if the physician suspects there are underlying problems, you may need to have an in-lab sleep study.

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