For most of us, thank goodness, bad dreams disturb our slumber only occasionally. But for people who suffer from recurrent nightmares, falling asleep can be a truly scary experience and getting enough rest can be next to impossible.
So it is welcome news that a medication called prazosin (Minipress) can help, according to a recent study. And even though this research focused on a particular type of patient, it's quite possible that the drug could help a much wider range of nightmare-prone people. Here's the story…
For many patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), nightmares are so frequent and so frightening that they seriously affect sleep and quality of life-and can even contribute to substance abuse and suicide. While psychotherapy and other treatments may help PTSD, there is not much available from a medication standpoint for banishing nightmares. Because the blood pressure drug prazosin is sometimes prescribed off-label to ease PTSD-induced nightmares, researchers set out to see how well it worked by reviewing 12 studies involving a total of 259 PTSD patients.
Findings: While the methods and results varied from study to study, overall, prazosin was indeed found to be helpful in reducing the severity and frequency of PTSD-related nightmares-within a few days to a few weeks.
Tell the Truth–and Boost Your Health
In a 10-week study, participants who stopped telling lies (including exaggerations) had fewer mental and physical health complaints than those who stretched the truth.
Note: The average American lies about 11 times a week.
The drug was well-tolerated by patients of all ages, even at higher dosages. Though brief and temporary dizziness was a fairly common side effect, the drug did not cause significant unwanted changes in blood pressure.
How it seems to work: Nightmares involve an excess of the brain chemical norepinephrine. Prazosin blocks norepinephrine receptors, calming the body's overstimulated fight-or-flight response.
For sweeter dreams: Though this study review found evidence of prazosin use only in PTSD patients, the researchers said that it seems logical to extend the use of prazosin to nonPTSD nightmares" to explore whether the drug also might help in those cases, too. Bottom line: If you suffer from frequent nightmares, ask your doctor whether prazosin is appropriate for you.