Position Paper for the Treatment of Nightmare Disorder in Adults: An American Academy of Sleep Medicine Position Paper

J Clin Sleep Med. 2018 Jun 15;14(6):1041-1055. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.7178.


Introduction: Nightmare disorder affects approximately 4% of adults, occurring in isolation or as part of other disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and can significantly impair quality of life. This paper provides the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) position regarding various treatments of nightmare disorder in adults.

Methods: A literature search was performed based upon the keywords and MeSH terms from the Best Practice Guide for the Treatment of Nightmare Disorder in Adults that was published in 2010 by the AASM. The search used the date range March 2009 to August of 2017, and sought to find available evidence pertaining to the use of behavioral, psychological, and pharmacologic therapies for the treatment of nightmares. A task force developed position statements based on a thorough review of these studies and their clinical expertise. The AASM Board of Directors approved the final position statements.

Determination of position: Positions of "recommended" and "not recommended" indicate that a treatment option is determined to be clearly useful or ineffective/harmful for most patients, respectively, based on a qualitative assessment of the available evidence and clinical judgement of the task force. Positions of "may be used" indicate that the evidence or expert consensus is less clear, either in favor or against the use of a treatment option. The interventions listed below are in alphabetical order within the position statements rather than clinical preference: this is not meant to be instructive of the order in which interventions should be used.

Position statements: The following therapy is recommended for the treatment of PTSD-associated nightmares and nightmare disorder: image rehearsal therapy. The following therapies may be used for the treatment of PTSD-associated nightmares: cognitive behavioral therapy; cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia; eye movement desensitization and reprocessing; exposure, relaxation, and rescripting therapy; the atypical antipsychotics olanzapine, risperidone and aripiprazole; clonidine; cyproheptadine; fluvoxamine; gabapentin; nabilone; phenelzine; prazosin; topiramate; trazodone; and tricyclic antidepressants. The following therapies may be used for the treatment of nightmare disorder: cognitive behavioral therapy; exposure, relaxation, and rescripting therapy; hypnosis; lucid dreaming therapy; progressive deep muscle relaxation; sleep dynamic therapy; self-exposure therapy; systematic desensitization; testimony method; nitrazepam; prazosin; and triazolam. The following are not recommended for the treatment of nightmare disorder: clonazepam and venlafaxine. The ultimate judgment regarding propriety of any specific care must be made by the clinician, in light of the individual circumstances presented by the patient, accessible treatment options, and resources.

Keywords: adults; nightmare disorder, PTSD-associated nightmares.

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Academies and Institutes
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Dreams*
  • Humans
  • Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / drug therapy
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / therapy*
  • United States


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Antipsychotic Agents