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Past Experience Nightmare
aka: Bad Dreams

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This Trope is under discussion at the Trope Repair Shop.
The deeds of your days may become the demons of your nights.

At some point in the past, Bob The Hero got hurt. Badly hurt. He suffered some horrible injury. He saw people he loved being brutalized or murdered. He had to Shoot the Dog and has been living with the guilt ever since. Maybe it was even all of the above.

But Bob doesn't want anyone else to know he's still hurting; not him, not Bob The Stoic. He won't even say Don't You Dare Pity Me!; he would if anyone showed him pity, but his pain is too well concealed for that. He won't even suffer a Not So Stoic moment or brush off the tears that come in a rare unguarded moment with "There's Sand In My Eyes."

So how do you show the readers (and sometimes the other characters) that Bob's impassive demeanor is the result of superhuman control and iron will, not a sociopath's Lack of Empathy? How do you show his breaking heart without Character Derailment? Or inappropriate Character Development for the story?


You give him a Past Experience Nightmare.

There are various options:

  • At its mildest, we see that Bob is restless in bed, prone to muttering to himself, crying, or even screaming. He may also sleepwalk. The audience always sees this; other characters may or may not be aware.
  • Another option is to show Bob's dream sequence, letting us view his terror and a remarkably clear account of the trauma (possibly a Flashback Nightmare, possibly symbolically represented), and Bob waking in horror. A Nightmare Sequence, Daydream Surprise, or All Just a Dream are all possible options.
  • A third option, useful for letting the cast in about Bob's secret pain, is to show him talking in his sleep (or in a delirium). His speech will usually be remarkably clear and lucid for someone who is out of his conscious mind, but other times what he says is cryptic and its significance has to be pieced together by the rest of the cast. If he sleepwalks, they will catch him doing some activity or ritual related to the cause of his pain.

The instant Bob wakes (often by bolting upright in bed), he will be back to normal. However, the dread of more nightmares makes him likely to become The Insomniac, which can prove dangerous if these are Recurring Dreams. If he woke everyone else up with his screaming, he will apologize for disturbing them. Usually. But he also usually won't tell them what made him scream. If he has superpowers then they may spark and fly about as he tosses restlessly, unable to control them as they activate in his fevered state. (Every once in a while this vulnerable moment opens the door for Bob to tell someone else about his trauma; this can be unrealistically beneficial.) If Bob also suffers from Go Mad from the Isolation, he will often not be able to remember that he is safe until several moments after waking.

If they stemmed from My Greatest Failure, Past Experience Nightmares may overlap with Anxiety Dreams, and be fixed with it if Bob tackles the problem the second time around.

Visions about bad things, whether past, present, or future, or plain old ordinary dreams that are just unpleasant, are not Bad Dreams; Bad Dreams indicate that Bob is a traumatized character even though he is doing his damndest to hide that fact. (And nightmares from trauma can indeed be Truth in Television.)

Being the outward sign of inward pain, Bad Dreams are obviously more likely for characters who keep their feelings on the inside: the Stoic, the Emotionless Girl, Broken Bird, and the like (whether Bob hides his pain from everyone or just from one particular person). But they can be a useful tool for demonstrating trauma for — and humanizing — anyone since you can't control your dreams. May be used to reveal the true character of No Hero to His Valet (type 2). Or demonstrate that Being Evil Sucks. Or to show that The Alcoholic is Drowning My Sorrows. The Captain is prone to Bad Dreams because they cannot show weakness in front of their people and feels responsible for any injury or death that befalls those in their care.

Your Worst Nightmare may be mistaken for Bad Dreams. When the character suffers from Trauma-Induced Amnesia, they can overlap with Dreaming the Truth. When the dreams are symbolic, they can not always be distinguished; dreams of a villain could be remembering the past encounters, or foreshadowing future ones. The character may not be able to tell that someone is communicating because the means are bringing up memories. May be a Fever Dream Episode. It often involves reliving Your Worst Memory. Contrast Dreaming of Things to Come and Talking in Your Dreams.

These are often Recurring Dreams, at least by implication. May be caused by buried memories from Alternate Identity Amnesia.

Supertrope of Flashback Nightmare, which shows the nightmare in the form of a flashback.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Eren Yeager from Attack on Titan starts having some rough nights late into the story as he relives his father's memories in his dreams, triggered by reading the journals in the Yeager basement (don't ask, it's complicated). He's woken up screaming at least once, and for good reason he saw the Awful Truth behind the titan that killed his mother.
  • Guts from Berserk gets these a lot because of his horrible childhood. It only gets worse when he gets the Brand Of Sacrifice.
  • Tarou from Ghost Hound has been having these ever since he got kidnapped when he was four-years-old.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Asuka has one right beside Shinji on their final night of having to sleep together. It's about her mother.
  • Lucy from Elfen Lied demonstrates all three of the variations at one point or another. One of her Bad Dreams lasts for more than an episode.
  • Fruits Basket:
    • Yuki suffers a Bad Dream about his mother. He is worried because he hasn't had it in a while.
    • Rin also suffers a Bad Dream about her parents when she's ill.
    • At one point, Tohru has a bad dream about the day her mother left and was hit by a car and killed. The dream itself wasn't bad (just her mother bidding Tohru goodbye as she left for work), but Tohru watches while knowing what will happen and wakes up as she tries to warn her mother not to leave.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya empowers total strangers to come in and mop up her bad dreams, then has a good dream with her SO.
  • Hellsing: Alucard, of all people, has bad dreams of when Abraham Van Helsing defeats him, and later has hallucinations containing homages to various films. He's properly freaked out about this. This is exaggerated in the fifth OVA.
  • Digimon Adventure 02 basically managed to turn Ken Ichijoji from the psychopathic Big Bad into The Woobie by using this method.
  • In Count Cain, the titular Cain suffers near-constant nightmares due to his father's abuse and generally miserable childhood. Peculiarly, his own bad deeds, including several poisonings, don't seem to bother him at all.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima!:
    • Evangeline has recurring nightmares of the day the Thousand Master rejected her, defeated her, and sealed her in Mahora Academy.
    • After the events at the start of the Magic World arc, Negi himself had one where he saw all his students petrified. It ends with the petrified Asuna shattering.
  • Shows up multiple times in Chrono Crusade.
    • Chrono is shown having nightmares both after Rizelle is killed (implying guilt for Chrono and also hinting at his [at the time] unrevealed backstory) and in a flashback (hinting that he possibly has something like PTSD after a battle while leaving the demon's homeworld).
    • Rosette also has a bad dream after a traumatic battle that's half-flashback and half-symbolic, which sets up the uncharacteristic despair she's in for the rest of the chapter.
    • In the anime, Rosette has a bad dream about Joshua to foreshadow the reveal about her backstory.
  • Pokémon: The Rise of Darkrai features a Pokémon specifically capable of giving any sleeping person Bad Dreams, and is physically incapable of doing otherwise. When the main character, Ash, is put to sleep, he's given a vision of Palkia's appearance in the city. Of course, he doesn't realise what's going on until it's too late.
    • Additionally, due to Palkia's Space Warping powers being out-of-control at this point, any Pokémon put to sleep will have their nightmares in full view for everyone to see. Most of the Pokémon dream of being chased by "something frightening" - Lickylicky on the other hand dreams that it has transformed into Baron Alberto (not strictly the villain, more of a Jerkass) and thus the actual Baron ends up turning into Lickylicky. He even takes advantage of this in an attempt to battle Darkrai and begins using attacks. He loses. When Palkia wakes up and regains some control of its powers, the images of nightmares fade away and the Pokémon all inexplicably wake up at the same time.
  • In Full Metal Panic!, Sousuke is eventually shown to have nightmares concerning Kaname, along with his dead mother (who died protecting him, and told him to "fight" and "never give up"). These nightmare sequences are pretty much the only mention or thoughts he gives of his mother (as he isn't a very sentimental person), and without them, it would be made rather ambiguous whether or not Sousuke even remembered his mother (since she died when he was 3-4 years old, and he was even shown going mute and repressing memories of her when he was young, and only got better with Kalinin's help).
  • Happens early on in Fullmetal Alchemist, with Ed waking up from a dream of his mother with her flesh falling off her body.
  • In Code Geass, Lelouch, Suzaku, and Nunnally all have bad dreams from their experiences as children in a war zone. Around others, they put on a mask of cheerful, ordinary high school students, but when they are alone, this shows. The show uses this to frame some flashbacks as well.
  • In ...Virgin Love, Kaoru has a lot of trouble catching sleep because he always dreams of his abusive childhood.
  • In the first chapter of 3-gatsu no Lion, Rei suffers through bad dreams while sleeping over at the Kawamoto residence after bottling up all of his negative emotions regarding his victory over his father in shogi earlier in the day. While bringing him bedsheets to sleep with, Hina notices Rei crying in his sleep as she takes off his glasses, causing her concern.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Capsule Monsters:
    • Yugi has a couple nightmares about Yami being captured and the armor they later get being not enough to save him against the Seven-Armed Fiend.
    • After he and Anzu survive a train crash in the anime filler arc, Yami has a nightmare/convenient flashback to losing Yugi's soul.
  • In One Piece, Doflamingo continued having nightmares well into his mid-twenties reliving his experiences being tortured when he was a child by angry citizens. This experience was a result of his father denouncing the Donquixote family as Celestial Dragons, when the ordinary citizens of the country they were living in found this out they rounded them up for torture. Even up to the current story point, Doflamingo continues to loath his father for throwing away his birthright and placing them in that predicament. And even more personal, Doflamingo continued holding such hatred that he poetically named his ultimate attack "16 Sacred Bullets of the Assassin, God Thread" a mocking reference to a man who was part of the mob that tortured him claiming his sons were shot dead 16 times by Celestial Dragons. A subtle glimpse to how badly Doffy still wished his father hadn't denounced their Celestial Dragon status.
  • In Vinland Saga, Thorfinn is troubled by bad dreams every night, both shown directly and through his inability to sleep peacefully. These dreams are a mixture of childhood traumas over losing his father and home and his own bad conscience about all the people he has killed.
  • Ash from Banana Fish is shown to have these, most likely in the form of Flashback Nightmares. His friend Eiji pretends to not notice him calling out in his sleep or waking up crying.
  • In episode 6a of Tamagotchi, Lovelitchi has a nightmare where her friends are shocked to hear she's been keeping her identity as Lovelin a secret and voice their feelings of being betrayed, with Mametchi angrily telling her they're not Tama-Friends anymore.

    Asian Animation 
  • In Happy Heroes, Careful S. is so distraught over his friend Kalo sacrificing himself to save Planet Xing that at the beginning of Season 8 episode 7, he's shown to have what appears to be a nightmare about it, complete with him catapulting out of bed when he wakes up from it.

    Comic Books 
  • Heather Hudson has a dream sequence after the death of her husband in Alpha Flight: in the graveyard, one by one, the team members leave her. Then her dead husband's rotting corpse rises out of the grave and chases her.
  • Batman in various media and usually focusing on reliving the night of his parents' murder, with story appropriate variations.
  • In X-Men:
    • Magneto suffers these from his experiences in the Holocaust and his daughter's death afterwards.
    • In The Killing Dream arc of X-23's solo series, Laura has recurring nightmares of being chased or hunted, which lead to a Battle in the Center of the Mind against a demon attempting to recruit her into his service.
  • At the end of Watchmen, Ozymandias seems perfectly content that he did the right thing, but seems to show a hint of doubt when he mentions his dream of "swimming towards a terrible...never mind", drawing a parallel between his story and the mariner of the comic-within-a-comic, in which a man commits horrible atrocities in order to save his home from attack from a dreaded ship of the damned. However, the attack never happens, and he eventually joins the ship, having ironically lost his soul through his attempts to save his village.
  • Several of the members of the post-Zero Hour Legion of Super-Heroes have recurring Bad Dreams following the "Legion of the Damned" arc, in which many of them were taken over by The Blight.
  • Superman stories provide some examples:
    • In the Who Took the Super out of Superman? story arc, the Man of Steel has been gaslighted into believing he has to pick between his two identities. In order to make a decision, he spends one whole week being only Clark Kent, and every night he suffers nightmares of strolling around Metropolis with Lois, ignoring each and every disaster and plea for help.
    • At the beginning of the Bizarrogirl storyline, which happens right after the destruction of New Krypton, Supergirl has nightly nightmares in where she fights Superwoman again, and a legion of corpses tries to drag her down to Hell.
      Supergirl: Some people talk in their sleep. Others walk. I heat-vision, apparently.
      Lana Lang: I'm sure someone out there makes a sleep mask that can handle that. Nightmare?
      Supergirl: Yeah... Again.
    • In Superboy vol. 5 Kon-El comes across a corrupted red strain of Black Mercy on a drifting spaceship which traps its victims in their worst nightmare rather than a paradise and forces him to live out a future in which he's turned villainous conqueror like his evil alternate self Black Zero.
  • In the beginning of Trinity (2008), Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman get together to talk about several strange dreams they keep having night after night concerning a prisoner intent on breaking free.
  • Yorick, the protagonist of Y: The Last Man, gets these frequently. At one point one of his companions comments that they'd hate to live in his mind.
  • A variant of this trope appears in The Punisher MAX. Frank's worst dream is actually a happy dream of an alternate future in which his family didn't go to the park and he is a grandfather who is having dinner with his wife, children, children-in-law, and grandchildren. The reason that Frank considers this a bad dream is because it painfully reminds him that his family is dead when he wakes up.
  • In "Swamped", a vegetative Swamp Thing had a confused, pun-sprinkled nightmare about Linda Holland and his humanity.
  • Empowered: Basically everyone. Most of the cast is dealing with serious PTSD, with the obvious result.
    • Emp herself has nightmares both of her father's death (he had a fatal brain aneurysm right in front of her when she was a kid) and the many, many times she's been tied up by the bad guys. Her boyfriend often hears her whimpering in her sleep.
    • Emp's boyfriend isn't much better. He used to be a Cape Buster leading a capeless uprising until the San Antonio incident (when he missed getting killed by a newborn supervolcano by less than a mile). He lost a lot of friends during that time, but what he has the most nightmares about is Willy Pete, a "goddamn fire elemental" who raped all his remaining friends to death. Emp often hears him calling out the names of people she's never heard him mention while awake, and his greatest fear is that Willy Pete will one day find Emp herself.
    • Ninjette is on the low end of the nightmare scale, but not for lack of a horrific backstory. Her nightmares are more about her fears of the future. Specifically, her father sending her ninja clan to capture her, cut off her hands and feet, and turn her into a breeding sow for the rest of her life. And yes, that actually is his stated goal.
    • Mind████ was forced by her brother to cut out her own eyes and tongue in an effort to make her a better telepath (by forcing her to piggyback on other people's senses). He was stopped before he could make her deafen herself, but she still relives the event every single night, over and over and over. Worse, since she can't control her powers while asleep, these nightmares leak, and anyone nearby sees them in vivid detail. Normally she follows isolation protocols to keep others at a safe distance, but once she accidentally fell asleep in her girlfriend's arms. When they both woke up, she tried to leave, but her girlfriend insisted on her remaining. What followed was the worst night of her girlfriend's life, and she later says that she feels like it was the most heroic thing she had ever done.
  • In his first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #101-102 Morbius' backstory is retold through the nightmares he suffers, in which he keeps recounting the scientific accident that turned him into a living vampire and killing Emil immediately after. He is occasionally shown to be reluctant to go to sleep because he knows he'll have more nightmares.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): After Hippolyta's death Diana has a series of dreams in which she reaches her mother's corpse a bit earlier and Hippolyta accusingly asks why she didn't save her before dying, which is not how it really happened. When Diana learns her sister Donna, who wasn't there, is having the dreams too she realizes the dreams are actually being inflicted on them by Circe and hunts the witch down.

    Fan Works 
  • Axis Powers Hetalia fanfic Gankona, Unnachgiebig, Unità: Ever since Germany's and Japan's cock fight over him, Italy had been having recurring nightmares of the event. They only found out because he began mumbling in his sleep.
  • A Crown of Stars:
    • Asuka has suffered recurring nightmares for sixteen years. They were pretty bad when they “only” consisted of her mother’s madness and suicide, but they got worse during the Angel War and the post-TI years. However they stopped after she and Shinji started to sleep together.
    • Shinji had frequent bad dreams, too. Often they were about the abuse Asuka was suffering at the hands of Winthrop while he was powerless to stop it and save her.
  • Advice and Trust: Shinji and Asuka had nightmares constantly about their mothers dying and their fathers abandoning them afterwards.
    Asuka (talking about both): "You have nightmares all the time about it. The memory keeps coming after you when you try to sleep,"
  • The Child of Love: Asuka often has nightmares where she dreams about her mother, her madness, her suicide… and how Kyoko wanted her dying together with her.
  • Child of the Storm has, in the sequel, Harry suffer from these thanks to his experiences in the Forever Red arc, due to PTSD from the torture he underwent. They quieten down after the memories are locked away, but once he opens them up again (when he needed to access the associated skills), they culminate in a horrific case of this in chapter 60 related to being raped by Yelena Belova.
  • Children of an Elder God: Due to his childhood trauma, piloting an Evangelion (which drives most people insane), fighting Eldritch Abominations and stealing their powers after killing them, Shinji has frequent bad dreams. Sometimes they start out innocently but they soon devolve into nightmares where he is seized by a mob and thrown into an underground lake filled with black sludge which will turn him into a monster.
  • In Ghosts of Evangelion Asuka and Shinji have frequent nightmares and they don't abate until they are in their late twenties. Often Asuka wakes up screaming after dreaming again with being chopped into pieces and eaten alive. And Shinji...
    "God, I hate this."
    "Me too," he said.
    "What was yours about?" she asked.
    "Misato's blood, and Lilith's eyes," he replied.
    "One of your worst ones, huh?"
  • HERZ: Even after twelve years Asuka still has nightmares about the Angel War where she relives her defeats, her failures, her humiliation, her Mind Rape... and the Final Battle where she lost her left eye, got her right arm cut in half, was impaled, tore into pieces and eaten alive.
  • The One I Love Is:
    • Asuka suffers frequent nightmares, especially after getting raped by Arael. Usually they revolved around her mother's insanity and craziness. During a conversation with Rei, Shinji says they are getting so bad he is worried about Asuka.
    • Shinji also had bad dreams after Rei blew herself up and Asuka ran away. Often he sees his Eva tearing his best friend apart, Rei exploding and Asuka killing herself while he does nothing to prevent it.
  • Scar Tissue: Shinji and Asuka had been suffering from awful nightmares during the series. Then the events of the movie happened and their nightmares got way, WAY worse. Shinji's nightmares consisted of him letting Asuka dying and getting the whole humankind killed. Asuka's nightmares feature her mother's insanity and suicide, her Mind Rape, her extremely bloody death, and later the abuse that she heaped on Shinji after Third Impact.
  • In Supergirl (2015) story Survivors Kara suffers from nightmares where her mother and her aunt Astra stare down at her reprovingly after being forced to kill Astra.
  • In Destroyer of Olympus, Percy suffers through them as a result of his PTSD from being tortured in Tartarus.
  • Used twice in the My Little Pony fic, Rainbow in the Dark.
  • In Human Curiosity, England has a bad dream about discovering that Portugal was "killed". He also had some weird dreams that he found unpleasant, which later turned out to be his repressed memories.
  • Agumon has been having these for some time before Transcendence: Digital Curse even starts. Apart from being sleepy during some meetings they don't bother him too much until he dreams of himself in a superpowered form that attacks his friends. He doesn't appear to suffer from them anymore after his visit to The Tree of New Beginnings.
  • In Cadence in a Minor, both Shining Armor and Princess Cadence have recurring nightmares about the ordeals they went through when a changeling queen replaced Cadence before their wedding.
  • Something of a Motif in Children of Time:
    • In the first episode, the Doctor admits to Sherlock Holmes that he can't remember the last time he slept, mumbling that "the screams usually keep him awake." This is later implied to be his memories of the Time War.
    • Midway through the first season, Sherlock undergoes an And I Must Scream experience. He comes back from it physically whole but thoroughly shaken, with sleepless nights ahead implied.
    • In the finale, Beth Holmes relives her death in her dreams. Sherlock later relives the same moment in one nightmare but with a horrific twist that leaves him screaming himself awake.
    • Both Holmeses continue these patterns into the second season with heart-wrenching results.
  • In The Fifth Act, Sephiroth starts getting nightmares of Cloud's memories in the original timeline. Due to their S-cells, they evolve to Sephiroth seeing Cloud's recent memories in his sleep.
  • In The Lion King Adventures, Simba keeps having Recurring Dreams featuring Hago. They begin in Series Two and don't stop until midway through Series Three. It turns out that Hago is using them to try and psychologically damage him.
  • A Mighty Demon Slayer Grooms Some Ponies: Megan mentions that she had nightmares for weeks after she faced and killed Tirek. She was just a Kid Hero at the time.
  • In The End of Ends, Count Logan has one of these in the form of the clip from Things Change, where Terra tells his younger version, Beast Boy, that the girl she wants him to be is just a memory.
  • In the Total Drama story, Legacy, most of the surviving contestants must deal with nightmares in the wake of their campmate's death.
  • During the later chapters of Bringing Me To Life, Max implies that he has these about some of his Past-Life Memories of killing people during events of The Matrix.
  • Sight: Ichigo suffers from nightmares before his Inner Hollow attempts to win control over his body during one.
  • Syaoran suffers from nightmare due his regret over past actions in Shatterheart but they get worse after he gets kidnapped and tortured by Serial Killers.
  • In the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf novel, Empath suffers from a bad dream of Papa Smurf leaving him in Psychelia as an infant before he got Mind Raped. Papa Smurf reveals to Empath that this dream was a memory, which leads to the revelation that Empath is Papa Smurf's only begotten son and that he was brought to Psychelia because Papa Smurf feared that Empath would be rejected by his fellow Smurfs due to his telepathic and telekinetic abilities.
  • Sailor Moon: Legends of Lightstorm: Darien has this happen to him while Jason is planting bugs in his home at night. In his sleep, he begs for the life of an unknown individual, which Jason finds disturbing for a reason he can't explain.
  • In Storms Overhead, Louise suffers from these after the Battle of Tarbes as she realized she was responsible for the death of so many and the ever-growing fear she may use her power selfishly.
  • In Worm/Dark Souls II crossover fic, Outcry, Emma Barnes suffered through a string of these because Nadalia is connecting to her dreams through the Dark and tormenting her for what she put Taylor through, and Alsanna was forced to use a great deal of power to push her away. Even then, she warned Emma that It Only Works Once.
  • Neo Digimon Digital War: Hikari has been plagued with recurring nightmares that she can never remember since five years prior to the start of the series.
  • In The Bug Princess, it's revealed that BJ has a recurring nightmare about the events of the previous story, Cinderjuice, and that this is a huge part of the reason why he hates to let Lydia out of his sight.
  • In Thousand Shinji, Rei suffered from bad, nightmarish, bloody dreams due to her powers and her jealousy driving her mad. She dreamed that she seduced Asuka, she killed Asuka and in reaction Shinji killed her or killed himself and she was left all alone...
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide, Asuka suffers from frequent nightmares. She often dreams about her mother's suicide and her Mind Rape. In chapter 10 she has a particularly nasty nightmare where she's being hanged. It is eventually revealed to at least partly be a side-effect of exposure to the Emerald Tablet.
  • Code Geass: Colorless Memories: Mixed with Dreaming of Things to Come, the main character Rai experiences a few dreams of someone calling out to him. In one particular dream, a shadowy figure taunts Rai about his amnesia. Turns out it was E.E, his contractor, calling to Rai from Kamine Island.
  • Robb Returns: Apart from the ones detailed in Bad Future, there's the ones shared by several Baratheons (Robert, Shireen, Gendry) where Lyanna Stark appears in the middle of a snowstorm, trying to tell Robert something, before disappearing and being replaced by one of the Others.
    • Theon Greyjoy also has some, involving being rowed to an island made of bones by a crew of walking rotting corpses led by his dead brothers. On the island is a menacing figure heavily implied to be the Drowned God.
  • In All This Sh*t is Twice as Weird, the two leads have a Running Gag in which they sometimes ask one another whether it's possible that they're still asleep back on the Queen Madrigal (the ship which brought them to Ferelden and thus to the plot) and one of them is just having a nightmare about the whole thing.
  • Red has them often in Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, according to Yellow. They involve hearing the voices of his childhood tormentors, and apparently escaping a House Fire.
  • In Leviathan, Izuku suffers from these fairly frequently, having a particular Nightmare Sequence that he's very familiar with. It consists of him being all alone while clinging to a streetlight on a dark, foggy night as the Leviathan looks him dead in the eyes and roars. Normally, he's able to comfort himself with the fact that it was All Just a Dream. But Izuku has a different nightmare the night after Aizawa's test, in which Blade stumbles towards him as an eviscerated walking cadaver that's falling apart at the seams, as if to remind Izuku of the fact that he has killed people, before the Leviathan barrels towards Izuku and swallows him whole. It turns eerily prophetic when Izuku starts flipping through the news channels and finds that Blade has escaped custody, causing Izuku to run to the bathroom and vomit in disgust and terror.
  • The Makings of Team CRME:
  • Both Anna and Elsa suffer from frequent nightmares in The Queen of Hearts. Elsa mentions that Hans is in almost every one of her dreams. She's awakened twice in the fic by Anna because she was screaming in her sleep, once because she was dreaming Hans was torturing her and the second time because she was seeing her parent's death.
  • Those That Carry On has Cima haunted for years by dreams of those she killed at Halifax, starting the Zeon War.
  • Much Ado About Shakespeare: Love's Labours Won: Archie Kennedy keeps having nightmares about Jack Simpson, a sadist who was abusing him aboard HMS Justinian. In the dream he's trapped somewhere from where he can't escape and he's sure that Simpson will find him.
  • Ed suffers nightmares in My Master Ed because of how terrible the Promise Day was and to prevent it means erasing almost everyone and everything he's ever known. It causes him to become The Insomniac.
  • In the Supergirl (2015) fanfic Future Shock Kara suffers from these badly due to having 11 years of memories of fighting, and more importantly losing, a war fought across fifty-three universes to Darkseid.
  • The source of the title of Harry Potter and the Nightmares of Futures Past; Harry lived through 13 years of brutal war, losing everyone he cared about one by one until he was the only survivor. When he travels back in time and merges with his 11-year-old self, his memories replay in his sleep almost every night.
  • X-Men fanfiction Devils Diary reveals that Magneto suffers from frequent nightmares in which his helmet is crushing his head, or his wife is leaving him, or he's being tortured in Auschwitz again.
    In the middle of the night I woke up in terror.
    In my dreams, I was back within my helmet.
    It was pressing inwards and threatening to crush my head.

    Films — Animation 
  • Inside Out: Joy, Sadness, and Bing Bong try to give Riley a nightmare to wake her up. She has to be awake for the Train of Thought to start up to take them back to Headquarters. They succeed by releasing her memory of Jangles the Clown from her subconscious and leading him to Dream Productions to wreak havoc.
  • In The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, Simba has a nightmare of his father's death from the first movie. Things take a worse turn when Scar turns into Kovu, who knocks Simba into the gorge the same way.
  • In Moana, the title character has a nightmare about her parents and her home island being swallowed up by the encroaching darkness before she has a chance to restore the heart of Te Fiti.
  • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Legend of Everfree, Twilight Sparkle has recurring nightmares about Midnight Sparkle, the villain she became temporarily in the previous movie. The movie opens with one, where Midnight Sparkle shows up in her room, dissolves the whole place as well as her friends, and states that Twilight will never be free of her. She also has one during the first night at Camp Everfree, with Midnight Sparkle bursting out of the campfire.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Breakfast at Tiffany's, Holly gets into bed with Paul and talks in her sleep about, apparently, losing her beloved brother in the snow. The trope is slightly averted in that she'd already revealed, earlier in that scene, that she worries about her brother, but not the extent to which it distresses her.
  • Richard Kimble has recurring nightmares of his wife's death in The Fugitive, complete with bolting upright as he wakes and a few near-panic-attacks in the moments directly after.
  • I, Robot: Detective Spooner has nightmares about drowning in a car accident that includes a 12-year-old girl and an older NS robot, showing his Survivor Guilt.
  • In Iron Man 3 Tony's been suffering from them ever since the last film.
  • Averted in McCullin, a film about the British war photographer Don McCullin. He says that he never has nightmares about the terrible things that he has seen on the job. He often thinks about them when he's awake, but never in dreams.
  • Ethan Hunt in the Mission: Impossible Film Series, particularly Fallout. He never tells anyone about his dreams, but they very clearly leave him shaken. The nightmare/hallucination he has in MI: 1 is particularly harrowing, because at that point he's so traumatized and sleep-deprived that he can't tell where reality ended and the dream sequence began.
  • In Take Shelter, it's an ongoing problem for the protagonist.
  • Eve, the heroine of The Woman in Black: Angel of Death is especially vulnerable to the titular Woman in Black because of her tragic past. It is revealed that she became pregnant as a teenager, but that the child was put up for adoption by her disapproving relatives. Eve has recurring nightmares about this incident, in which the Woman in Black makes an...unexpected appearance.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • Wolverine is shown to have some nasty nightmares about his experience with Weapon X. They're so terrifying that he wakes up and stabs whatever's in front of him. Or whoever, unfortunately for Rogue and Kitty Pryde.
    • The Wolverine: Logan suffers chronic nightmares of Jean Grey, his Lost Lenore who he previously was forced to kill.
    • X-Men: Days of Future Past: Past Charles is plagued by these, which is why he informs Erik that he takes the serum so that he can sleep at night.
    • X-Men: Apocalypse: Jean Grey has one when Apocalypse awakens, and it's not the first (Xavier mentions to Hank that her nightmares are different this time).

  • Several characters in The Alice Network have Bad Dreams.
    • Eve has horrible nightmares. She mentions that she dreams about René’s study more than the trauma she was put through during the war she fought in, though.
    • Finn also has nightmares about the war he fought in, although they’re not as heavily featured as Eve’s are.
  • The Queen's Thief: Eugenides is often woken screaming by nightmares of the Queen of Attolia, the woman who cut off his hand and is also his wife.
  • Apparently this is a thing for the grimdark world of Warhammer 40k tie-ins:
    • In Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain books, Cain claims that his sleep has not been troubled by leaving people to die; in a footnote, Amberley Vail comments that actually, Cain is prone to nightmares.
    • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Ghostmaker, Major Rawne stands over Gaunt while he is sleeping. He is considering killing him for preventing him from trying to save his planet, Tanith, when he hears Gaunt babble about Tanith, and no, and I won't let you. Enough to keep him from killing him.
      • Later, Gaunt realizes that something is odd when he dreams about Tanith before it was destroyed; it is the lack of destruction that is odd because his dreams are haunted by Tanith's destruction.
      • In Necropolis, soldiers are ordered to close the gates on refugees because the city already has as many as it can take (and feed). They are described as having nightmares about it for years.
      • In First & Only, when on Cracia, Corbec reflects on how Fortis Binary still shows up in his dreams, but less frequently as time passes.
      • In Honour Guard, Dorden describes dreaming of his dead son, which he thinks a message; Corbec asked if he had dreamed before, and Dorden says, every night, but this felt different.
    • In Graham McNeill's Ultramarines novel The Warriors of Ultramar, Sister Joaniel still has Bad Dreams of her work on Remian IV, though she was dubbed "the Angel of Remian" by the soldiers grateful for her ministrations. (Didn't help that she was the sole survivor of a direct hit on her hospital.)
      • The Killing Ground features numerous characters suffering from Bad Dreams.
    • In Dan Abnett's Horus Heresy novel Legion, Soneka has Bad Dreams after the destruction of Nurth.
    • In Gav Thorpe's The Last Chancers novels, Kage suffers from bad dreams while in warp. When, in Kill Team, he frightens the trainees by showing them he could have killed them all in their sleep, they suffer from bad dreams as well.
    • In Lee Lightner's Space Wolf novel Wolf's Honour, Ragnar confides in Gabriella that he thinks his enemy Madox is in his dreams. Gabriella dismisses it as Bad Dreams; he feels guilty about what went awry in an previous encounter. In reality, he is Dreaming of Things to Come.
    • In James Swallow's novel Faith & Fire, Miriya says that her time as a warden over psykers still haunts her on the darkest nights.
    • In Dan Abnett's Xenos, Eisenhorn describes the Bad Dreams he suffers from a number of failures. He also suffers from Dreaming of Things to Come, and at the end of Xenos, explicitly says he can not tell whether dreams of a daemonhost were Bad Dreams or Dreaming of Things to Come.
    • In Simon Spurrier's Lord of the Night, Zso Sahaal has bad dreams over losing the Corona Nox, the gift of his primarch and the symbol of being his heir.
    • In Nick Kyme's Salamander, Dak'ir dreams of the past, including Bad Dreams about Moribur. This may be related to his Dreaming of Things to Come.
  • It's never stated exactly what the deal is, but Mr. Tulip in the Discworld novel The Truth supposedly screams in his sleep due to severe childhood trauma. The only clue we get is something about hiding from soldiers inside a church.
  • Throughout the first book of The Fallen Moon Arren has dreams about falling that are part Flash Back and part Foreshadowing. During these he also talks in his sleep, a monotone asking for help.
  • In Patricia A. McKillip's The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, Coren wakes Sybil with his screams and when she goes to wake him, he is babbling of his brothers and a disastrous battle they fought.
  • In Dorothy Gilman's The Tightrope Walker, Amelia is plagued with nightmares. Once, she wakes up screaming of the nightmare of finding her mother's body after she had committed suicide by hanging herself. She confesses to Joe that her mother had not just died when she was young, she had committed suicide. Joe deduces from her comments that her mother must have known she would find the body.
  • Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga:
    • Miles Vorkosigan suffers from repeated Bad Dreams from the combat-related deaths he has seen.
    • In Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, Tej also suffers from their escape.
  • Eddard Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire also suffers from repeated nightmares where he relives his sister's death and the promises he had to make her. Whatever said promises actually were.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Invoked: Harry has a dream of his parents' death. It's actually the piece of Voldemort's soul in Harry that is causing all of these bad dreams.
    • When Harry is mocked by his cousin for this in Order of the Phoenix, we learn that he's been having dreams about Cedric's death.
    • Also, Dumbledore, when tormented by Voldemort's poison/elixir in the cave at the end of Half-Blood Prince has some bad, bad recollections.
    • Ginny whilst possessed by Riddle in Chamber of Secrets, assuming Percy was telling the truth about her having nightmares.
    • And Molly had dreams about her husband and children dying.
  • In Death's Eve Dallas gets these. She often has to be dragged out of them by her husband Roarke.
  • In Stephen King's Apt Pupil, one of the main characters, who used to be a commander of a Nazi concentration camp, frequently has nightmares about it. He eventually commits suicide by overdosing sleeping pills, and he ends up dreaming those dreams - forever. The other main character, a boy who blackmails him to tell stories about the Holocaust, also gets nightmares from them.
  • Imriel de Courcel from Kushiel's Dart. As she had been kept as a sex slave for over a year at the age of ten, it was understandable.
  • In Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time, certain characters can inhabit the World of Dreams, where you can be killed by your own nightmares, or sometimes other people's nightmares. And some of Egwene's prophetic dreams scare the living shit out of her. Especially the one with the lamp and the ravens.
  • Crake, from Oryxand Crake, is mentioned to scream in his sleep, but says he never remembers his dreams.
  • In Ursula K. Le Guin's The Tombs of Atuan, the heroine suffers Bad Dreams after she sacrifices some prisoners.
  • In Death Star, Nova Stihl, a trooper on the Death Star, was mildly Force-Sensitive. Not only did he dream of future events, but as the date before the Death Star was completed and tested came near his dreams became worse and worse, and apparently he woke up screaming pretty often. The gunner who actually fired the Death Star quickly found that Evil Feels Terrible, and he just plain couldn't sleep for guilt and horror.
  • In Brian Jacques' Redwall, Cluny has Bad Dreams about past atrocities — mixed with Dreaming of Things to Come.
    • This is given to many of the villains.
    • Nimbalo also gets one in Taggerung; his sleep-talking is how Tagg knows he had an abusive father.
  • In The Dresden Files, Harry reports these, briefly and in passing. He specifically contrasts Talking in Your Dreams with them.
    • The events of Changes causes them for everyone with the Art after a Moment of Awesome.
  • In Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, Door dreams of the past. These are not always bad as such but they always remind her.
  • In Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games, Katniss still has Bad Dreams about her father's death (in the Backstory).
    • In Catching Fire, they have mutated to being about the Games. Peeta, too. He paints them.
    • This is implied to be almost ubiquitous among victors.
  • The Heroes of Olympus: Prophetic dreams are fairly common (and often unpleasant), due to the characters' Child of Two Worlds nature, but regular old human bad dreams make a few appearances. Most notably in The Mark of Athena where we get front-row seats to Percy reliving traumatic memories of being suffocated in frigid mud in the previous book.
  • In John C. Wright's Titans of Chaos, Amelia mentions she still sees the eyes of a certain maenad late at night.
  • In James Stoddard's The High House, Carter has bad dreams after being locked in the well-named Room of Horrors.
  • Wild Cards series:
    • Croyd "The Sleeper" Crenson spends weeks awake, then weeks to months sleeping. The same nightmare returns every time unless he seeks professional help. As Croyd grows more and more paranoid with every waking day, said help is very unlikely.
    • James "Demise" Spector has survived the Black Queen, a condition usually fatal. He is permanently experiencing death and tries to never fall asleep sober.
    • Jay "Popinjay" Acroyd returns to the same nightmare every night. He gets better after teleporting a nightmarish Joker-Ace into said nightmare.
  • In Robert E. Howard's The Hour of the Dragon, Conan the Barbarian suffers from bad dreams, though less bad than most, and with hints of Talking in Your Dreams.
    A devilish dream it was, too. I trod again all the long, weary roads I traveled on my way to the kingship.
  • In Josepha Sherman's The Shining Falcon, Ljuba has bad dreams about her attempts to ensnare Finist. She suppresses the knowledge that she deserved it.
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero Lost, Miranda recounted how she suffers bad dreams from an Attempted Rape.
  • Carrera's Legions: Carrera is plagued by these, both over the murder of his family in a terrorist attack and, later, his nuking a city to get the family of the leader of the terrorists he was fighting in the first half of the series.
  • In Jasper Fforde's Well of Lost Plots, Thursday Next suffers these — albeit under the influence of a Dream Weaver.
  • In Krabat, when some peasants ask the miller (really an evil wizard) to make it snow, Jerkass Lyschko uses magic to make them think they were attacked by wild dogs. In the night, someone makes Lyschko dream of wild dogs killing him. Five times, then the other boys have enough and make him sleep somewhere else.
  • In Jack Campbell's Fearless, some of the freed prisoners suffer from bad dreams of being prisoner again.
  • King Elias in Memory, Sorrow and Thorn is plagued by dreams so terrible that he no longer sleeps, opting instead to wander his castle throughout the night. Other characters closely affected by the swords are also tormented in their sleep; most notably Simon, Guthwolf, and Camaris.
  • In Michael Flynn's The January Dancer, the advantage of fighting for a nobler cause is that a Shell-Shocked Veteran, waking cold and shaking from Bad Dreams, can sometimes get back to sleep.
  • Wen Spencer:
  • In Melisa Michaels's short story, "I Have a Winter Reason" (which was repurposed as the prologue to the first Skyrider novel), Melacha ("Skyrider") is tormented by dreams of the accidental death of her lover Django, for which she feels responsible.
  • The first chapter of Greek Ninja begins with Sasha having one.
  • Zak Arranda opens Galaxy of Fear: City of the Dead with a dream that he is safe at home and the destruction of Alderaan never happened. It turns bad when the body of his mother turns up, asking why he left her behind. He wakes up screaming. And yep, he has more than one dream like that.
  • In Robin McKinley's Sunshine, Sunshine has them after the kidnapping and her escape.
  • In Sarah A. Hoyt's Draw One in the Dark, Tom dreams of the triad and the pearl as soon as he falls asleep.
  • In Neil Gaiman's A Study in Emerald, the narrator screams in the night, sometimes, after being tortured.
  • In Seanan McGuire's October Daye novels:
    • Rosemary and Rue Toby dreams of the pond where she was a fish for over fourteen years, entirely disrupting her life.
    • Ashes of Honor, Toby hasn't slept well in almost a year, after Conner's death. She also knows that Gilliane will be having bad dreams.
  • In Seanan McGuire's Velveteen vs. The Junior Super Patriots, it is pointedly said that the refounders of the Super Patriots slept just fine at night.
  • In Madeleine E Robins's Sold For Endless Rue, Laura has these after her escape from the bandits.
  • Julie Kagawa's The Iron Fey: In The Iron King, Meghan starts having disturbing dreams as soon as she's in the Land of Faerie, about Ethan's kidnapping.
  • Frodo Baggins from The Lord of the Rings often has bad dreams during the quest. They get more frequent as he approaches Mount Doom, due to the heavy toll the Ring is taking on his mind.
  • The protagonists in the Circle of Magic books by Tamora Pierce. Tris gets them in the first quartet after she sinks a pirate ship full of oarslaves. Sandry gets them as the result of the plague that killed her parents and then after working with unmagic in her Circle Opens book. Briar has them in Will of the Empress after living through the war in Battle Magic.
  • Ricker, from Casey Fry's Death Speaker, is an assassin who spends most of his time while asleep suffering from nightmares that are retellings of jobs he has taken in the past. And that's not counting the memories he relapses into while awake.
  • In MARZENA, Dr. Sam, while being under the influence of Ibogaine, has nightmares with recurrent symbols about a house, jihadist soldiers, and white/red candles, all pointing toward some kind of psychological trauma.
    • And then there's Lauren, who has dreams about a mysterious woman with black hair, a house on fire, and women sneaking into her bed (among many other things). It's not what you think.
  • In Quantum Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner, Serph has a dream where he is on a battlefield back when Embryon was just he and Heat as well as their mentor figure. The dream ends when said mentor figure get's killed and Serph awakens with a scream.
  • In The Dinosaur Lords, Karyl starts having screaming nightmares following his Identity Amnesia and resurrection.
  • Wulfgar from The Legend of Drizzt keeps it together most of the time in Paths of Darkness, but he mentions that he sleeps uneasily since he has been the prisoner of Errtu, always thinking that every good moment he experiences is just a dream and that his nightmares are the real thing.
  • The troubled main character in William Lindsay Gresham's Nightmare Alley increasingly suffers from bad dreams, especially towards the end when he begins rapidly sinking into depression and alcoholism. His most recurring bad dream is of him running down an endless dark alley being chased by unseen forces, hence the title of the novel.
  • Shades of Magic: Prince Rhy is left plagued with recurring nightmares of his murder after being brought Back from the Dead, which spill over to Kell through their Psychic Link. He's still able to function but admits in a candid moment that he sometimes regrets his new lease on life when he first wakes up.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The two-part 3rd Rock from the Sun episode "A Nightmare on Dick Street" has each of the aliens experiencing a vivid bad dream (shown in 3D, no less).
  • Commander Sinclair in Babylon 5 was plagued with dreams of the Battle of the Line.
  • Buffyverse:
    • In addition to Dreaming of Things to Come, Buffy experiences guilt-fueled dreams about her encounter with Faith in the season 3 finale "Graduation Day, Part 1". These dreams begin peacefully but become Bad Dreams because of Buffy's guilt. The dreams appear in episodes involving Faith after the aforementioned encounter.
    • Likewise at the beginning of Season 3, Buffy's dreams reflect her guilt at killing a re-souled Angel in the Season 2 finale. The dreams stop after she confesses her action to Giles.
    • Genevieve is plagued by prophetic dreams and the memories of past Slayers and their deaths. One of the reasons she wants to kill Buffy is because Roden lied and told her the dreams would end when Buffy was dead.
    • Angel has them with such regularity, one wonders how he catches any winks without valium. Yet another downside to being undead: vampires share a Psychic Link with their kin. When a vampire he sired 100 years ago starts killing people locally, Angel feels it. In Angel Season Two, Angel starts having... erm, 'dreams' about his maker. It is later revealed that Darla is dosing him with occult herbs to drive him into a frenzy.
  • Burn Notice: Michael has these in S5 of Burn Notice due to the stress of being targeted by the organisation that burned him and his fear the organisation still exists.
  • Spencer Reid in Criminal Minds. In the two-parter "The Instincts" and "Memoriam'', the entire plot is driven by the fact that he is having horrible dreams that include finding a dead body behind a dryer, seeing babies at a crime scene, and being devoured by leeches (he wakes up in the middle of the night at a victims house shouting "Morgan, get 'em off me!", which is a huge piece of bait for shippers). He later connects these dreams to his father in "Memoriam" and the investigation is on. Earlier in the show, Rossi is haunted by nightmares relating to the Galen murders.
  • The Doctor Who special The End Of Time begins with everyone on Earth having nightmares of a laughing man.
    • In "The Next Doctor", the amnesic, possible future incarnation of the Doctor has Bad Dreams, stating that with everything a Time Lord has seen and done, of course he has Bad Dreams. The Tenth Doctor simply replies "Yeah,". Jackson Lake isn't the Doctor though. His Bad Dreams are caused by the death of his wife and kidnap of his son that he's suppressed the memory of out of grief.
    • In the Series Five episode "Amy's Choice", the Eleventh Doctor's cheerful carefree manner is revealed to be a mask at least some of the time. This is revealed in two dreams caused by psychic pollen. Amy and Rory are also included in these dreams, so they end up seeing Eleven's inner darkness for themselves.
  • "They've Got a Secret", a first-season episode of Farscape, shows a hallucinatory version of this: D'Argo is awake and walking around the ship, but is hallucinating, and thinks that the other characters are actually people from his past. They eventually realize this, and play along to get him to snap out of it. We (and his crewmates) learn about his wife and son in this way.
  • River from Firefly has these as a result of what happened to her at the Academy.
  • House of Anubis:
    • Both Patricia and Alfie wound up with these in season 1 after traumatic experiences - Alfie being trapped in the cellar, and Patricia getting kidnapped by Rufus. They eventually bonded over it and agreed to hang out more to try and stop the nightmares.
    • Nina also got one in the beginning of the season, about how Sarah told her to "Beware the Black Bird". Patricia, who hated her at the time, used this as an opportunity to bully her some more.
  • M*A*S*H:
    • The later-period episode "Dreams" consists of each of the exhausted characters falling asleep and dreaming a symbolic but horrific dream reflecting the war (except Potter, who has a really nice dream about home). In the end, as they're all talking about going to bed, Winchester quotes, "To sleep, perchance to dream"... and everyone decides that they'll have another cup of coffee, after all.
    • In "Hawk's Nightmare", the normally unflappable Hawkeye goes through a period of sleepwalking and terrifying dreams from which he wakes screaming loud enough to rouse most of the camp. It's determined that he's having a sane reaction to his insane situation, and the worst his childhood had to offer was $20 he may or may not owe an old friend.
  • Robin from Robin Hood has nightmares about fighting in the Holy Land, but oddly none (that we see) about the fact that Marian was murdered in the Holy Land. On the other hand, Guy is seen having a nightmare after he kills Marian.
  • In Sherlock, John Watson is shown to have nightmares about his time in Afghanistan. Subverted in that those dreams are revealed not to be actually nightmares at all, but because;
    Mycroft: You're not haunted by the war, Dr. Watson. You miss it!
  • In the first series of Spaced, Tim wakes from dreams of his ex-girlfriend shouting out her name on several occasions.
  • The main characters from Supernatural get hit by this a few times.
    • In season four, Dean spends many nights tossing over his nightmares of hell. In season seven, Dean is once again having nightmares, this time about Castiel's death and Sam's hallucinations. Well, mostly about killing Sam's monster friend.
    • Sam had nightmares throughout Season 1. While some were visions, the ones where he watched his girlfriend die over and over again still affected him like this. In season seven, his hallucinations of Lucifer began as nightmares.
    • In one episode, Bobby's nightmares are used against him by a Monster of the Week, as are Dean's.
  • In an episode of Tales from the Darkside, a gangster is given a chance to dream beautiful dreams for all eternity. During the trial run he experiences occasional nightmare visions, but is assured that when he goes into the permanent dream state, those will disappear. He goes for it, and it does not end well for him.
  • Torchwood:
    • In "Small Worlds", Jack Harkness dreams about his last encounter with The Fair Folk, and how all his men died.
    • In "Adam", the titular antagonist, makes Jack relive in his dreams, the repressed memories of the death and enslavement of everyone on his homeworld, The Boeshane Peninsula, which was the day he lost his little brother.
  • Voyagers!: In "The Trial of Phineas Bogg", Jeffrey says that up until recently, he's been having nightmares about his parents. As the trial is going badly, he fears that he'll have ones about being separated from Bogg before long.
  • The X-Files:
    • Agent Mulder often relives his sister's kidnapping during nightmares.
    • In season 2, Mulder dreams of Scully being tortured by those who abducted her.
    • Reversed in season 8, in which Scully has nightmares of Mulder being tortured ruthlessly by aliens. These get so regular she panics when she's not having them anymore, for fear that his death may be the reason.

  • Dice Funk: Johnny inflicts nightmares on the entire party during their first long rest. Leon refers to them as "cutscenes."

  • Egg of AJCO has suffered from them on-and-off throughout most of her life but after she contributed to Pi's death they came back increased tenfold, to the point that she was waking up in the middle of the night physically nauseous and unable to get back to sleep due to the hallucinations of blood staining her hands and dripping from the walls. They've been decreasing in intensity since she left the Silo to live in Katton, however.
  • Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
    • Josephine suffers from bad dreams relating to her dark past of being bullied by her peers and abused by her alcoholic aunt.
    • Simon has to take medication to help deal with the nightmares he experiences as a result of his Dark Dragon personality. When he stops taking his meds, the bad dreams return.
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, Refan and Ronove suffer from these. In Refan's case it's mostly about the guilt for having killed for the first time, but he also has flashback dreams which make him gradually remember who was responsible for his mother's death, and later he even has nightmares about his nemesis who contacts him telepathically. Ronove's dreams make him gradually recover his memory, and their content foreshadows that he is in fact a former demonic Dreadlord.
  • Ti'Cira Hawk from The Gungan Council has reoccurring nightmares reliving the torture sessions under the hands of Azrael Daragon during her time in slavery.

    Video Games 
  • In one of the multiple endings, Albel Nox from Star Ocean: Till the End of Time is accused by the protagonist of causing him to wake up every night with his screaming from nightmares. Albel's considerable angst over his dead father is ostensibly the cause. Albel's father was a renowned and successful leader in Airyglyph's military, and he died when Albel failed the test to join the same military branch, the Dragon Brigade. This would have resulted in Albel dying in a fire, if his father didn't step in to save Albel at the cost of his own life. Even though Albel's father saved his life, Albel still got burned pretty bad and lost most or all of his left arm.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Cloud from Final Fantasy VII experiences these regularly over the course of the game (sometimes while he is wide awake).
    • Haunted by his actions in the attack of Mysidia, and distraught by the King stripping him of his rank, Cecil from Final Fantasy IV suffers from bad dreams on the night before his assignment on the Village of Mist. Rosa is there to comfort him.
    • In Final Fantasy VI, Shadow's backstory is only revealed through his flashback Bad Dreams when you rest at an inn.
  • Max Payne gets these a lot as a result of failing to save his wife and baby girl.
  • Serge from Chrono Cross suffers a melancholy dream about Kid after seeing Lynx take over his body and stab her, and getting shunted into another dimension in the aftermath.
  • Metal Gear:
    • At the end of Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, Snake yells at Big Boss that he's had terrible nightmares for the last four years, and says that by killing Big Boss he can end the nightmares. Not only does this not work, it's not terribly conducive to drama when Snake's nightmares were never actually mentioned until that one scene. On the bright side, the nightmares were eventually developed into PTSD and this was used to flesh out Snake's character into something more rounded.
    • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater has a bonus scene if you save while in the prison cell which is Snake's (somewhat odd) nightmare (Snake's afraid of vampires, and Para-medic talks about Dracula after you save). The scene is actually a demo of "Guy Savage", a game that was never released. Following the dramatic wake-up you can call your support team to get some humorous conversations (like SIGINT's rather disturbing dream).
    • In Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, Python mentions having nightmares every night due to the people he's killed as an assassin, which was only training for him to kill Snake. By killing Snake, he reasons the nightmares would go away.
  • Aribeth in the original Neverwinter Nights campaign has a lot of these in chapter 2
  • In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, the player character has some pretty scary dreams if they become a vampire. It's a good thing they didn't actually show them as a cinematic!
  • Fallout:
    • In the Point Lookout DLC to Fallout 3, your character is exposed to hallucinogenic swamp plants, and goes on a bad head trip through the swamp; including mocking bobble-heads with inscriptions insulting you and your mother's death. Then when you wake up, it's revealed somebody cracked open your head and cut out a chunk of brain.
    • Fallout: New Vegas gives us potential companion Craig Boone, who was forced to Shoot the Dog twice. After you gain his trust, he'll tell you that he thinks about the massacre of Bitter Springs even when he sleeps. He also states that a dream made him reconsider traveling with the Courier to the site of the massacre.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Grey Wardens suffer Bad Dreams after the Joining due to their new connection to the Darkspawn taint that lets them hear the Call of the Old Gods. How bad it gets varies from Warden to Warden; a rare few are almost fine, while others can have trouble sleeping their entire lives. The worst part is that this is the warm-up. After thirty years or so, the dreams get really bad, showing the taint is overcoming the Grey Warden. Rather than succumb to it, the Wardens travel to the Deep Roads to die while killing as many Darkspawn as possible.
    • If he is romanced in Dragon Age: Inquisition, it's revealed that Cullen struggles with nightmares about his experiences during the events of Dragon Age: Origins, in which he was imprisoned and tortured by demons. The fact that he is attempting to get over the lyrium addiction which all Templars have only makes the dreams worse, as he admits to his beloved.
  • Bao-Dur and the Exile in Knights of the Old Republic II are revealed to have bad dreams about the Mandalorian War, particularly the final battle. In a randomly generated cutscene on the Ebon Hawk, the Exile walks the ship while everyone else is asleep - except for Bao-Dur, who can't sleep for the same reasons, and sympathises.
  • Kratos's motivation to serve the gods in God of War is to rid himself of the nightmares that he'd been plagued with since he killed his wife and child. Unfortunately, while he ultimately obtains forgiveness from the gods for his service, they don't take away the nightmares.
  • The Pokémon Darkrai's Special Ability is named this. It hits an opposing Pokemon for 1/8 of its max HP at the end of every turn if it is sleeping. The move Nightmare does the same thing, but it hits 1/4 of their max health instead.
  • Mass Effect:
    • In Mass Effect Shepard can tell Liara that they're being kept up at night from dreams and visions from what Shepard saw when they accessed the Prothean beacon.
    • When Liara asks Shepard at the end of The Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC for Mass Effect 2, Shepard will reply that they're no longer having visions, "if that's what you mean."
    • And in Mass Effect 3, they have a recurring dream about a young boy they failed to save on Earth. It is indicated in dialogue that Shepard now suffers nightmares about The Fall of Earth every time they go to sleep.
  • In an e-mail conversation in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Rebecca says that she hears Demond screaming during the night. Apparently, there are some psychological drawbacks to strapping a person to a machine that messes with their memories for several hours at a time. Who would have guessed?
  • In Tales of the Abyss, main character Luke is realistically traumatized by the first time he kills a human soldier, even though it was in self-defense. Late in the game, after much character development, Jade mentions that he knows Luke continues to wake in the night trembling from nightmares after days when they have to kill people. This seems to underscore that even when Luke was a brat at the start of the game, he still had the essential kindness toward others that he develops in more obvious ways later on.
  • Nightmares make up multiple stories in Fallen London. Following a nightmare path all the way through can leave a player permanently changed, and there is a creature called the Eater of Chains that attacks people in their dreams. Have too many nightmares, and you might end up having a stay at the Royal Bethlehem Hotel.
    Some nights you hardly dare sleep
  • Maria in Sakura Wars has Flashback Nightmares about her time as a soldier in Russia and particularly about the death of her commanding officer (who was either her mentor [anime] or her love interest [manga]... the original game is unclear on this point), for which she feels responsible.
  • Sunless Sea also implements nightmares, which will happen if you arrive at London with very high Terror. Notably, these nightmares are a concrete thing (like having nightmares about a vast eye that never stops watching you) rather than Fallen London's vague Nightmares stat. Having restful nights at home will help in dealing when they come for you at zee, as otherwise they'll shoot up your terror rather quickly.
  • Ni GHTS Into Dreams and its sequel NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams involve the visitors (the sleeping children) having to overcome these.
  • Many interpretations of Yume Nikki hold that the often horrific symbolism in Madotsuki's dreams was inspired by some traumatic event in her past, be it rape, death, the apocalypse, or any other number of theories and abstractions. What is certain is that it's probably not something she's telling many other people.
  • In The Secret World, the 2015 Halloween Mission "The Seven Silences" features the player trying to discover how one of their fellow Bees has managed the impossible task of committing suicide; as it turned out, the deceased agent used her own magically-empowered nightmares as means of disassembling the Bee inside her... and of course, in order to figure out what really happened, you have to experience these nightmares for yourself. It turns out that the Bee in question is none other than Lorraine Maillard of The Park.

    Visual Novels 
  • Miles Edgeworth in the first Ace Attorney game admits that he's dreamed of his father's murder almost every night for the last fifteen years.
  • In Demonheart, the protagonist has recurring nightmares of a tortured demon child begging her for help.
  • Fate/stay night: Shirou Emiya still has dreams about the end of the fourth Grail War and is wracked by his helplessness to save those around him at the time. As he learns more about the War the dream gains a new feature: The true form of the Grail when it partially manifested.
  • Grisaia Series:
    • Protagonist Yuuji is still haunted by his past in his dreams, more specifically the things he has done: Killing his own father or being made into a child soldier by a terrorist and being forced to carry out several assassinations, to name a few.
    • Sachi suffered from night terrors that force her to relive the day her parents died before her eyes, for which she mistakenly believes her mother blamed her. Her "perfect good girl" persona is a psychological defense against them.
  • Katawa Shoujo has this play a part in two of the five stories, Hanako Ikezawa's and Emi Ibarazaki's. Hanako's stem from the origin of her scars and is left at that, but Emi's end up being a significant factor in her arc.
  • In Little Busters!, both Komari and Kud's routes involve them having bad dreams. Komari's are perfectly peaceful scenes of herself with an older boy acting as her brother, but they make her quite uneasy because she doesn't have a brother and feels disappointed whenever she wakes up. Kud has the more traditional example of recurring nightmares after she hears that her home country is falling apart after a big explosion of a rocket there. In her good route the player never finds out why, but in the bad ending it's revealed that she was Dreaming of Things to Come - namely, her mother being executed.
  • In Lux-Pain, although Atsuki hasn't dreamt them since joining FORT, the dream about how his parents died, as well as his sister being eaten by Silent infectees and barely surviving, came back in Episode 1 and it counts. No one knows about it until Rui accidentally reads it with her fortune-telling powers.
  • In the Bad End of Spirit Hunter: NG, Akira becomes plagued with visions of all his companions that died, preventing him from getting any sleep and causing his health to deteriorate.
  • In Sunrider Mask of Arcadius, after seeing a little girl get gunned down right before his eyes, Kayto starts having nightmares in which the girl’s mangled corpse blames him for her death. Later on, the dreams evolve so that the girl morphs into the mangled corpse of Kayto’s sister Maray, who was killed when PACT nuked his home city from orbit.
  • Yo-Jin-Bo allows you to have a conversation with either Yo or Ittosai if you choose to stay in the cave with them while on their respective paths. Yo dreams about a time when he accidentally hurt his mother as a child, and Ittosai flips out and attacks Sayori, believing her to be his father.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • Considering how traumatic her entire life is, Himei Shoutan of Sailor Nothing gets these very often. Most of the time, it's just pieces of her memory replayed for her viewing pleasure, but sometimes, her nightmares go all creative on her. She doesn't wake from them screaming. At least, not anymore.
  • Ayla Goodkind of the Whateley Universe routinely has Bad Dreams that reflect her self-doubts and the horrific traumas she has gone through since she became a mutant. Most of the Phase stories have at least one night of nightmares.
  • One piece of fan-art titled "The Madness of Mission 6" depicts an astronaut gulping down anti-anxiety pills to keep away the skeletal ghosts of his comrades, who point accusingly at him. Quite a twist on Pac-Man's plot.

    Web Videos 
  • Kate of KateModern is frequently disturbed by strange dreams featuring needles, morbid imagery, and sinister figures. In the Grand Finale "The Last Work", it is implied that these are memories of being a baby in an Order laboratory.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • The Season 2 opener shows that Aang has been experiencing nightmares (for what was probably the better part of a month) about his actions under the Avatar State in the previous season finale.
    • Zuko's had some bad dreams, too, mostly having to do with his struggle to please his father and his desire to fulfill his destiny, as seen in S2 E17, "The Earth King."
    • Season 3 has an entire episode (called "Nightmares and Daydreams") devoted to Aang's stress-induced nightmares before invading the Fire Nation. He forgoes sleep and decides to spend his days and nights training, resulting in a series of hilarious sleep-deprivation induced daydreams. Most of his so-called "nightmares" are also Played for Laughs ("Oh no, I forgot my pants and my math test!"), but at least one of them is seriously scary.
  • Done without seeing the actual dream in Batman Beyond, when Payback calls himself Bruce's worst nightmare, and Bruce simply retorts "You have no idea what my nightmares are like." Similarly notable in an episode of Justice League where the team was being locked inside their own nightmares. Batman, running on willpower and coffee, struggles mightily to stay awake, and when the bad guy taunts him, he says, "My brain's not a nice place to be." That Chekhov's Gun doesn't fire, though, and he takes his opponent down before passing out.
  • The Grand Finale of Courage the Cowardly Dog, "Perfect", featured several of these on account of Courage's constant berating from an evil teacher. They're all manifestations of his low self-esteem and yearnings to be perfect, two of which involving bizarre creatures reminding him of such. And these are nasty dreams, especially the first, more infamous one: a blue deformed humanoid, rendered in CGI, who whispers "You're not perfect." note  Watch it here, if you dare.
  • Subverted in an episode of The Fairly OddParents. Timmy is very guilty of releasing the town goat and blaming Vicky that he has "wish nightmares" brought on by wishing in his sleep, creating a garbled pink mess in his bedroom.
  • In The Legend of Korra, Korra has flashback nightmares about being nearly murdered by Zaheer while struggling with PTSD from that event.
  • X-Men: Evolution:
    • Mesmero uses his Psychic Powers to enter the minds of a bunch of X-Kids as they sleep, then he turns their dreams into nightmares, and ultimately mind rapes them into serving him.
    • In "Ghost of a Chance", Kitty has a bizarre dream about befriending a girl named Danielle, and then she has more hallucinations/bad dreams about Danielle, including one where the mansion begins to flood and ooze slime from the walls, while a zombie-like Danielle calls for Kitty to help her. It turns out that Danielle is a mutant with psychic abilities, who had been trapped in a cave-in near where Kitty visited earlier in the episode. The dreams she was sending Kitty were messages for rescue before her body was drowned. We also get hints in the series that Danielle wasn't very popular in her hometown because she had a tendency to give other people bad dreams by mistake.
    • Wolverine also has nightmares about the Weapon X program; the episode they appear in has some justification, though, in that his brain is being remotely messed with by the original scientist in charge of the Weapon X program.

    Real Life 
  • People with post-traumatic stress disorder frequently have nightmares about the traumatic event in question. In fact, this is a common enough symptom that treatment approaches for PTSD that target nightmares explicitly have been developed (and shown high efficacy).
  • People who fall into comatose states frequently have "dreams" in this vein as well, the memories of which usually haunt them for years to come. One member of the AdventureQuest forums allegedly was tortured by demons for three months while he was in a coma following an ATV accident and incorporated many of his hellish sequences into his stories.

Alternative Title(s): Bad Dreams, Trauma Induced Nightmare


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