A cognitive model of recurrent nightmares

Victor Spoormaker

Abstract


Nightmares are a prevalent mental disorder resulting in disturbed sleep, distress, and impairment in daily functioning. Elaborating on previous theoretical models for anxiety disorders, sleep disorders and dreaming, this study introduces a cognitive model of recurrent nightmares, the central element of which concerns representation of the nightmare’s repetitive storyline in the memory as a script. It is suggested that activation of this script during REM sleep results in a replay of the nightmare, and that activation occurs through perceived similarity between dream elements and the nightmare script. The model proposes a central role for cognitive processes in the persistence of nightmares over time. The success of cognitive-behavioural treatments is explained and clinical implications are discussed.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11588/ijodr.2008.1.21

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