Why Do People Have Bad Dreams? Is There Any Treatment To Stop Recurring Bad Dreams?

 A bad dream is nothing but a recollection of what happened to you throughout the day. The images you saw, any special incident that happened in front of you, everything comes back to you in the form of a bad dream. Follow this article to learn about why people have bad dreams and is there any treatment to stop recurring bad dreams.

Having a dream is a state of total unconsciousness, it comes at the stage where you are deeply asleep. You might experience a good dream and a bad dream. A bad dream is a recollection of images that are disturbing or your dream may consist of any incident from your past that still haunts you. You experience different versions of that incident and that fear awakens you. They happen due to the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep.

An incident from the past or present may not be the only reason for having bad dreams. If you are suffering from any medical condition or you are taking any heavy medication even then, you will experience recurring bad dreams. These bad dreams will awaken you in the middle of your sleep due to fear and anxiety. You might need a few minutes to compose yourself. Some people can go back to sleep almost immediately while some people might find it difficult to go back to sleep.

Follow this article to learn more about why people have bad dreams and is there any treatment to stop recurring bad dreams.

Why do people have bad dreams?

The reason for having a bad dream is different for everyone. Some people might get them because of something that happened with them recently, some people have them because of something that happened in the past, and some people might have a bad dream because of the medications they are taking. There is not one reason for having a bad dream, there are many different factors responsible for it. Following are some reasons why people have bad dreams.

  • Stress and anxiety disorder
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – PTSD
  • Medications such as antidepressants
  • Suffering from migraines
  • Suffering from dementia
  • Insomnia
  • Horror movies
  • Nightmare disorder
  • Substance abuse

Stress and anxiety disorder:

If your brain is constantly stressing or anxious about something then, it is most likely to transform those images in front of you in the form of bad dreams. According to a study in 2004, people who are suffering from stress and anxiety disorder experience more bad dreams than any normal person. Your bad dreams will include images and visuals from any recent incident that might have triggered your anxiety and stress.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – PTSD:

A person who is suffering from PTSD will get images and visuals from an incident that they have experienced in their past. Anyone who is fighting PTSD is dealing with something strong that they are unable to let go. That incident comes in front of them again and again in the form of a bad dream. They will wake up in the middle of the night because of the fear.

Medications such as antidepressants:

If a person is taking any kind of antidepressants or steroids then they will face hormonal imbalance which can have an affect on your brain activity. According to research, these medications affect the stage two of a person’s sleep, which is the most important stage of sleep. It can disturb a person’s entire dream history thus, a person will end up experiencing bad dreams.

Suffering from migraines:

Patients who suffer from migraines experience bad dreams since childhood. A migraine can often give you hallucinations, drowsiness, and sleep paralysis. These conditions can affect the quality of the patient’s sleep which will result in recurring bad dreams.

Suffering from dementia:

According to research, recurring bad dreams may be a result of some serious medical conditions like Parkinson’s and dementia. These conditions also attack the nervous system of a patient’s body which can cause them to have hallucinations and sleep paralysis. A patient who is suffering from dementia is most likely to experience bad dreams because of the unusual brain activity and change in sleeping patterns.


Insomnia means when a person is unable to sleep and faces drastic changes in their sleeping patterns. This can be caused by a medical condition or when you snack just before going to bed. According to a survey in Finland in 2015, more than 14,000 people who are suffering from insomnia have reported being woken up from their sleep at night because of having bad dreams and after that they were unable to go back to sleep. People who suffer from insomnia often take sleeping pills to at least have some sleep every day.

Horror movies:

Although it is not a major reason for having a bad dream, people who have a light heart and are more sensitive to these things have reported experiencing bad dreams after watching any horror movie or reading any horror story. Even if they are not watching it alone, they will still be scared which can cause the recent images and visuals to come in the form of a bad dream.

Nightmare disorder:

A nightmare disorder is when a patient is scared to sleep because the recurring bad dreams have had a strong impact on their mind. This can affect your sleeping patterns and it can also negatively impact your mental and physical health. A patient who is suffering from a nightmare disorder is advised to consult a professional therapist.

Substance abuse:

Being addicted to substances like drugs and alcohol can be a major reason why a person has bad dreams. It can change the way your brain chemicals work, it can create disturbance in your brain chemistry, and it can mess up your dream history. These factors can result in a person having recurring bad dreams.

What do different religions say about having bad dreams?

Every person tries to always find a spiritual meaning behind their good and bad dreams. Religion is a strong pillar of a person’s life, so many people try to find meaning behind their bad dreams and then react accordingly. Following are some religions and their perceived meaning behind having bad dreams.

  • Islam
  • Hinduism
  • Christianity
  • Chinese culture
  • Buddhism


In Islam, a bad dream means having a vision from the satan. If a person wakes up from a dream they dislike and consider as a bad dream then, they should recite Quranic verses and blow some air on themselves. This will help them seek forgiveness from Allah (SWT) and seek refuge from satan. The purpose of these bad dreams is to instore fear in a person, so if you seek help from Allah (SWT) then these bad dreams will never harm you.


In Hinduism, a bad dream indicated a bad omen. It means that some kind of problem or difficulty is heading your way. It is believed that reciting some mantras will help a person to get rid of these bad dreams. This will help a person getting out of that problem and no harm will come your way.


In Christianity, it is believed that if a person experiences any bad dream then, it is God’s way of telling or warning that person to sort out their problems. It is an indication to leave any sinful act that they might have been committing. It is believed that it is God’s way of protecting his people through these warnings in the form of bad dreams.

Chinese culture:

According to Chinese culture, having dreams indicates any good or bad thing that is about to happen. So, if you are having a bad dream then, it means something inauspicious is about to happen. You must seek forgiveness from God. according to the ancient Greek God Zhou Gong, a dream consists of the following elements:

  • An eye
  • A man
  • A bed
  • The moon


Buddhists believe that dreams are a state where you can gain control of yourself. It is a tool that guides you towards enlightenment. If you are having bad dreams then, some impending danger is headed your way. In Buddhism it is believed that whatever you see in your dreams is reality, it is in true nature, it is just veiled from people.

Is there any treatment to stop recurring bad dreams?

It is normal to have a bad dream once in a blue moon, but if you are experiencing recurring bad dreams then, you should follow some treatment options after consulting a healthcare professional. Following are some treatment options that can help you stop recurring bad dreams.

  • Psychotherapy
  • Sleep conditions
  • Seek professional help
  • Lifestyle changes


If a person is suffering from depression, stress, and anxiety then they should consider getting psychotherapy. It helps patients through relaxation techniques, regular exercise, support groups, yoga, medication, and cognitive behavioral therapy. These steps will help resolve a patient’s thoughts and feelings that may be the cause of having bad dreams.

Sleep conditions:

Many specialists will suggest you to change your sleep conditions. People who are suffering from sleep apnea often take medications or breathing machines and a person who is suffering from narcolepsy is treated with long term medications. A healthcare professional will also consult you to create a peaceful and dark atmosphere after taking your medications. Get rid of any device that might get your attention, turn off your TV and your mobile phone. Focus on relaxing thoughts. Try to maintain your sleeping schedule, follow the same schedule on weekends as well to avoid any disturbance.

Seek professional help:

If you are suffering from PTSD or any other disorder that is the cause of you having recurring bad dreams then, you must consult a professional therapist. They will try imagery rehearsal therapy with you, it means that you have to recall your bad dream when you are awake but you can change the ending, this way your bad dream will turn into a good one. A person who is battling PTSD will also be prescribed medications to help fight the disorder alongside the imagery rehearsal therapy. Sometimes therapists also treat their patients with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Lifestyle changes:

One of the best ways through which you can reduce having bad dreams is through a change in your lifestyle. Following are some changes you can make to improve the quality of your sleep.

  • Be consistent
  • Ditch the electronics
  • Avoid snacks before bed
  • Set the stage
  • Relax yourself

Be consistent:

Create a sleeping schedule for yourself and stick to it. Follow it religiously, this will help you in getting quality sleep and your routine will be stable. If you are suffering from anxiety and stress then, this is the best way to deal with any recurring bad dream. Be consistent in your sleeping schedule even on weekends or vacations.

Ditch the electronics:

Whenever you are going to sleep make sure you turn off everything that might distract you from sticking to your schedule. Turn off all the electronic devices like your TV, laptop, and mobile phone. This will help prepare your body for sleep and it will also save your brain from getting any imagery that might come back to you in the form of a bad dream.

Avoid snacks before bed:

Make sure you don’t eat just before going to bed. Avoid any caffeine before your bedtime. According to research, a person should avoid coffee, alcohol, and cigarettes before going to bed. If you use them then, it will negatively impact your sleep causing bad dreams.

Set the stage:

Always make sure that your bed is comfortable for you to sleep in it. Make your pillows and draw the curtains to avoid any outside light. Dark atmosphere can make a person fall asleep faster than sleeping in light. Make sure your room is quiet and has a nice smell. It will relieve your mind and uplift your mood. Sleeping with a good mood will result in having no bad dreams.

Relax yourself:

After lying down in your bed, stop thinking about anything. Make your mind completely blank. Relax your muscles and practice deep breathing exercises, you can even use the military technique to fall asleep which is, relax your thighs and legs, imagine a calming scene in your brain, something that makes you feel relaxed. This will help you fall asleep in two minutes.


Having a bad dream once in a blue moon is nothing to worry about, but if these bad dreams are becoming a daily part of your life and messing up your sleep then, you must consult a healthcare professional. There are many reasons why people have bad dreams, the most important reason is if they are suffering from a serious disorder like, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and anxiety disorder/stress disorder. In that case, your mind will always bring up different things from your past or your present, something that might have triggered the disorder. Your mind will play the visuals in the form of a bad dream.

If someone is not a patient of PTSD or anxiety disorder then, other reasons are substance abuse or insomnia. These two reasons are also the cause of a person having bad dreams. People who are suffering from insomnia have reported being woken up out of the fear of the bad dream and they had trouble falling back to sleep after that. Same goes for people who use substances like alcohol and drugs before going to sleep. Substance abuse can cause changes in your brain’s activity thus, disturbing your sleeping pattern and causing you to have bad dreams.