Difference Between Dream and Nightmare

Dream vs Nightmare

Night time is for sleeping, which allows the much needed rest and relaxation to the body and the brain. This gives the body time to repair and soothe whatever harm that has occurred within the body and the brain during daytime. However, this precious time is sometimes disturbed by certain phenomena; dreams and nightmares are two such things. Although these are natural occurrences experienced by all, many fail to distinguish the difference between the two.

What is a Dream?

Dreams can be described as certain sensations, images or ideas that involuntarily occur in the mind during various stages of sleep. The rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep is the most common stage of sleep that is often related to dreams which features high brain activity resembling moments of being awake. These dreams are often less memorable and vivid.

The length of a dream may vary and individuals are most likely to remember their dreams if they wake during the REM state. It is said that an average person sees up to 3-5 dreams a night. Dreams are mostly associated to the unconscious mind and these dreams may vary from the ordinary to bizarre and surreal. A topic of much scientific controversy, the purpose of dreams, has not yet been deciphered. Oneirology is the name given to the scientific study of dreams.

What is a Nightmare?

A nightmare is an unpleasant dream which may cause despair, terror, sadness, and anxiety in a person. Such a dream may consist of instances where the individual may be in the face of a dangerous situation, place of discomfort or disgust which may frighten or make the individual extremely uncomfortable. This makes the experience extremely unpleasant for the person, thereby resulting in both physical and mental discomfort. Nightmares could occur as a result of being under stress, eating before going to sleep thus triggering an increase in metabolism and brain activity, anxiety, or even illnesses such as fever. However, an individual who have suffered from a nightmare may wake up immediately and have trouble falling asleep afterwards, often times resulting in insomnia. Recurring nightmares maybe associated with some deeper trauma in an individual’s life and may require medical attention.

What is the difference between a Dream and a Nightmare?

Dreams and nightmares are terms that are directly related to the state of being asleep and both are occurrences that take place within the mind of the person. However, how does one discern between a dream and a nightmare? It is sometimes difficult to do so.

• A dream can be anything from ordinary, surreal to bizarre. A nightmare is always a negative experience resulting in anxiety and agitation to a person.

• A person does not necessarily wake up startled from a dream. However, a person waking up in the middle of a nightmare is a common occurrence.

• Nightmares can be categorized under dreams. The term ‘dream’ is a wide term that encompasses both good and bad dreams.

• Nightmares are often caused by stress that exists in the life of an individual. There has been no recognized source for dreams.


Further Readings:

Difference Between Night Terrors and Nightmares