"The treatment is called imagery rehearsal therapy (IRT). It's a form of cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on changing harmful thought patterns. It's not the only nightmare therapy, but it is gaining ground, says physician Barry Krakow, a sleep specialist who runs the Maimonides International Nightmare Treatment Center in Albuquerque. "
Nightmare therapy may put chronic nightmares to rest.
"Studies show that 70% to 80% of people who try IRT get significant relief," says Barry Krakow, MD, director of the Maimonides International Nightmare Treatment Center in Albuquerque, N.M. He's one of the researchers who worked on the JAMA study and the author of four books on sleep medicine, including Sound Sleep, Sound Mind.
Yael Levy recalls having chronic nightmares as far back as elementary school, when she was living in Israel. The grandchild of Holocaust survivors, she says her dreams were filled with images of suffering and death.
In one recurrent nightmare, Levy was trapped in a concentration camp, facing death. In another, she was drowning in deep water. At their worst, the nightmares occurred on an almost weekly basis, leaving her jittery and desperately fatigued.
"I would wake up so terrified that I was afraid to go back to sleep," Levy says. "And the bad feelings were hard to shake. I would continue to feel frightened throughout the next day."