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Plagued by Nightmares

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"I saw my death in my dreams, many times. A nightmare I'll never forget."
William Bishop, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon

It's commonly accepted, at least in fiction, that a dream is never just a dream. When a character's dream is referenced for more than a quick gag or for a surreal scene, it's usually to establish something going on in their mind. This is especially true of nightmares, which can symbolize things like a bad past experience or major stress. Giving a character nightmares is a good way to show that they're affected by something. If they have the same nightmare, or a series of constant ones, then there's definitely an issue with them.

This trope is used to establish that issue. A character may be suffering from trauma or from the supernatural. They may be dreaming of the same thing every night or having a variety of them. They may never explain what these nightmares are about, or we'll get a full description of them. They may even result in the character becoming a willing insomniac. What stays consistent is that the nightmares don't stop. They affect the character on a consistent or near-consistent basis, and act as a sign of some psychological issues or things outside of their control. Even if the audience isn't sure what the issue is, it's obvious that the character is suffering and has something very wrong with them.

A character merely having a nightmare or two isn't this trope; it needs to happen often enough for it to be a notable trait about them, rather than an anomaly. The narrative often goes to great lengths to make it clear a character is suffering from these nightmares on most, if not all, nights, or the audience is shown it happening multiple times. A downplayed example may only make the character suffer for the duration of an episode or arc, but it counts as long as the nightmares are recurring for however long they affect the character. Another variant is recurring bad hallucinations or daydreams, which symbolize similar things but can affect the character while awake.

Has some overlap with Past Experience Nightmare, Anxiety Dreams, Dreaming of Things to Come, and Psychic Dreams for Everyone, depending on the source of the dreams. The dreams can also overlap with "Groundhog Day" Loop and may act as something of a variant, with the character being trapped in an endless dream rather than an endless day.

Don't confuse with Recurring Dreams, which is about dreams proving their importance by recurring, rather than the recurrence itself being the important part.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within: Dr. Aki Ross has recurring nightmares of an alien world engulfed in war and violence, where she constantly feels like her life is on the line. She feels this dream means something, and later discovers that these are not dreams at all, but memories of the Phantom alien inhabiting her body.
  • How to Keep a Mummy: Daichi suffers from chronic nightmares (usually involving him being attacked by monsters) and the ensuing sleep deprivation causes him to become violent and unhinged at school. Thankfully, he gets better when a bakunote  comes to eat his nightmares.
  • Is My Reality A Love Game: Ryou has horrifying nightmares of several "capture" targets coming after him and inflicting graphic death.
  • Overlord (2012): Nemu is haunted in her dreams each night by memories of her parent's death, forcing her to sleep with her sister.
  • In PandoraHearts, Elliot suffers from recurring nightmares of him standing in a burning building surrounded by corpses of people he murdered.
  • The Rising of the Shield Hero: When Naofumi buys Raphtalia, she suffers from recurrent night terrors stemming from the trauma of her parents' deaths.
  • RG Veda: Kumaraten has nightmares of his past in the Holy War that turn into Taishakuten about to perforate Kaara's belly with the "baby" inside it, killing both.
  • World War Blue: Gear keeps getting reminded of the death of his best friend in his dreams.

    Comic Books 
  • In Batwing, David Zavimbe has spent most of his adult life haunted by nightmares of the things he did as a child soldier.
  • Knights of the Old Republic: Raana's Force visions take the form of vicious nightmares that keep her from getting more than an hour of sleep each night.
  • In Maus, Vladek (a Holocaust survivor) apparently has them every night, as he's always moaning in his sleep. Art says to Francoise: "When I was a kid I thought that was the sound that all grown-ups made while they sleep."
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers (Boom! Studios): A side effect of Rita's mind control is that Tommy's constantly haunted by nightmares of Rita coming back into his life, and early on, would have hallucinations of the witch taunting him.

    Comic Strips 
  • Retail: Played for laughs. Cooper usually ends dreaming about work or Stuart, and they end up with him sitting bolt upright in bed.

    Fan Works 
  • What Tomorrow Brings: Jake mentions that he has a recurring nightmare where Tom talks to him while dying gruesomely.

Avatar: The Last Airbender / The Legend of Korra

  • The Saga of Avatar Korra: In the first chapters of Book Two, Korra has recurrent nightmares about the deaths of the Red Lotus.


  • Infinity Train: Knight of the Orange Lily: Ryoken Kougami has been getting nightmares of seeing Specter going through rounds of Electric Torture with an ominous green glow. What makes it even more terrifying is that 1) Specter is on the Infinity Train (Ryoken has no idea about it), 2) the fact that this is the same Specter who took 6 months of torture as a young kid that is screaming and begging for mercy and 3) the fact that Ryoken is specifically having this dream since, again, he has no idea about the Train.
  • The Rigel Black Chronicles: Professor Snape is upset and worried to hear that Rigel is still reliant on Dreamless Sleep potions, albeit only partial doses, even many months after being buried alive for two weeks. The fact that she has to return to the scene of her trauma doesn't reassure him.
    Snape: You should not be going back into that forest.


  • Abraxas: Vivienne Graham is plagued by PTSD-induced nightmares of her first death by Ghidorah's middle head's jaws among other things.
    • Abraxas: Empty Fullness: Ghidorah's backstory reveals that it went through the very same thing whilst being subjected to inhumane experiments to the point of developing untreated PTSD, just after it was transformed into its iconic three-headed dragon form.

Invader Zim

  • Gaz, Taster of PTSD: With the one year anniversary of the time she was cursed to only taste pork (and got locked up as a media freak for it) approaching, Gaz starts having repeated nightmares of being back in that situation, leaving her unable to get any sleep as result. With her refusing to talk out her issues, they only get worse, and she starts suffering sleep deprivation-induced Sanity Slippage until she has a total breakdown. After a brief stay in a mental hospital, she starts accepting help.

Marvel Universe

  • Devil's Diary: 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.

My Hero Academia

My Little Pony

  • The Apprentice, the Student, and the Charlatan opens with the titular trio (Nova Shine, Twilight Sparkle, and Trixie Lulamoon) all experiencing these over an extended period. The first chunk of the story is devoted to them finding out what the dreams mean and who is causing them. Nova Shine two years older, after an expedition into the past, is causing them as a warning because he knows it gets the events of the story moving.

Neon Genesis Evangelion

  • Advice and Trust: Shinji and Asuka had nightmares constantly about their mothers dying and their fathers abandoning them afterwards. Sleeping together effectively banishes those nightmares, allowing them to sleep more peacefully than ever before.
    Asuka (talking about both) You have nightmares all the time about it. The memory keeps coming after you when you try to 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.
  • Ghosts of Evangelion: Asuka had frequent nightmares for decades. Often she woke up screaming after dreaming about being chopped into pieces and eaten alive.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide: Asuka suffers from frequent nightmares. Often she dreams of the suicide of her mother or 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.
  • The One I Love Is...:
    • Asuka suffers frequent nightmares, specially 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 of humanity killed. Asuka's nightmares features 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.


  • A Winter's Tale: Castiel wrote in his diary about how that he constantly has nightmares of Sam and Dean leaving him and ignoring him. He also had nightmares of being stalked by skeleton wolves in the middle of snow.

Team ICO Series

  • Enlightenments: Wander has severe and persistent trauma nightmares. He starts out trying to avoid them by pushing himself to exhaustion before sleeping; this rarely works. One thing Dormin does for him as they start to become friends is show him how to mix a medication that interrupts his recall of the dreams, allowing him to sleep more easily.


  • Atomic Number 79: Goku experiences recurring nightmares about Vegeta dying. These nightmares often cause him to wake up in the middle of the night, which results in him not getting much sleep.
  • Broken Spirit: Discord has several nightmares stemming from his guilt over inadvertently killing Celestia and Luna's parents. His nightmares only stop when he confesses to the princess's what he did and reconciles with them.
  • 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.
  • A Certain Droll Hivemind: It's mentioned that the entire Network has constant nightmares of their many deaths against Accelerator. Misaka-11111 says this very casually, only musing that it might be nice to dream about something else.
  • Dangerverse: Sirius has these for a while in Living with Danger, a result of his guilt over Lily and James finally catching up with him after Azkaban.
  • Getting Back on Your Hooves:
    • Twilight's been having recurring nightmares about Discord's brief reign, and the effect he had on her friends. Trixie helps her find a way to cope with them, as an early sign of her Character Development.
    • According to Applejack in chapter 11, all of the Mane Six have been having nightmares since then. Trixie, who by this point considers them all True Companions, offers to teach them the Lucid Dreaming trick she taught Twilight to help.
  • In Harry and the Shipgirls, Ehren has nightmares about getting dragged back into the zombie infested spirit of Verdun. Those ones are easier to bear than her other nightmares where she is a proud member of the SS serving as an officer in one of the extermination camps. She hides this very well behind her cool demeanor save to Claire, Niobe, and Draco, who have seen under the mask.
  • In Jonathan Joestar, The First JoJo, It's revealed that Jotaro repeatedly has extremely vivid dreams of the other crusader's deaths.
  • The Kings Who Cared: Aegon begins to get bad dreams after the first time he kills during the Battle of Castle Black, with his victim, the wildling Ygritte, hauting his nights.
  • Leviathan (My Hero Academia): 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 Lone Dragon Emperor: Issei begins experiencing nightmares on a regular basis ever since eating members of Genesis alive in chapter 9, but these nightmares get even worse after his return to Kuoh.
  • A Tale of Two Suns: Sunset has one in the first chapter, imagining Celestia turning her to stone as punishment for her misdeeds. Later chapters reveal that she has been constantly suffering nightmares about the different kinds of punishments Celestia would subject her to if she ever returned back to Equestria. Thankfully for Sunset, Celestia isn't planning that at all.
  • Tarnished Diamonds: Diamond Tiara is implied to have had them since Checker Monarch's defeat, including the one that starts the fic, due to being terrified of becoming a second Checker. She's showing signs of sleep deprivation at the beginning of the story.

    Film— Live-Action 
  • The 1945 anthology horror movie Dead of Night shows its hero, architect Walter Craig, called to a country house for work purposes. He realizes he knows all those assembled because they appear in a recurring dream he has and predicts what will happen to those assembled (including his killing them). Each guest recounts a bizarre and spooky story to distract him and entertain each other — but all of Craig's foretold events occur. He begins murdering those in the assembled group and then runs afoul of the characters in the stories he has heard, one of whom begins strangling him. He wakes up to a phone call, summoning him to a country home for work purposes, thereby starting the nightmare over.
  • During Revenge of the Sith, Anakin has a recurring nightmare of his wife, Padme, dying in childbirth, something that Anakin believes to be a prophetic dream. Sure enough, this ends up being the case, largely because of the actions he took to prevent it. The film's Novelization goes more in depth with this, revealing that Anakin has this nightmare every time he sleeps, leading to him swearing off sleep entirely just to avoid it. The reason he was so certain that his dreams were prophetic is because during Attack of the Clones he had similar dreams of his mother being tortured to death and found her just in time for her to die in his arms.

  • Aliens (Steve Perry Trilogy): Wilks and Billie both suffer recurring nightmares based on their encounter with the Aliens on Rim. Billie arguably has it worse, since she was subjected to a brainwipe that didn't entirely take, so she's unaware the monsters in her dreams are real, or why she keeps dreaming about them.
  • Anna Dressed in Blood: Cas has had recurring nightmares, sometimes complete with Catapult Nightmare, and attributes it to his ghosthunting. He doesn't tell anyone, thinking that it's either to be expected, or worse, that it isn't, and Gideon and his mother will really try to get him to stop killing ghosts.
  • The Belgariad: The same nightmare has plagued Zakath since his teens, after he was forced to execute his lover and her family for plotting his assassination for the Murgo King. Discovering too late that she was framed transforms him from a kind, wise man into a cold-blooded monster hell-bent on destroying Taur Urgas' entire family and race. By the time he meets Garion's group in The Mallorean, grief, guilt and self-loathing have reduced him to an insomniac Empty Shell who seeks world domination in the secret hope of finding someone strong enough to kill him. After a fatal poisoning forces Polgara, Sadi and an unusually worried Cyradis to pool their medicinal knowledge to save him, he privately admits to Garion that this first encounter with Cyradis has left him with a strange sense of peace that cures his nightmares and insomnia; it also triggers increasing confusion towards whatever mysterious power she wields over him... The Power of Love, it turns out.
  • Carrera's Legions: Carrera is plagued by recurring nightmares, both over the murder of his family 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.
  • The Curse Workers: Nightmares about killing Lila haunt Cassel through half the first book until he discovers that he didn't kill her.
  • Delirium Series: Lena and her little cousin Gracie, who have both lost their mothers, are plagued by recurring nightmares about their deaths.
  • Different Seasons: Kurt Dussander, who used to be the commander of a Nazi concentration camp, frequently has nightmares about it. He eventually commits suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills, and he ends up dreaming those dreams — forever.
  • Dishonored The Return Of Daud: Daud was starting to settle down and move on when he was haunted by nightmares, visions of Karnaca being swarmed by endless bloodflies and death, until he couldn't sleep anymore. That leads to his decision to kill the Outsider.
  • The Diving Universe: Boss is haunted by nightmares; the most powerful involve her mother's loss to the Room of Lost Souls when she was seven, but others involve members of her crews who have died. Wreck diving is a dangerous business.
  • Dreamblood Duology:
    • In the sequel, Wana is troubled by nightmares of his dead father talking to him while his body putrefies and rots. Made worse by the knowledge that they're true visions of his father's soul eternally trapped in nightmares for his crimes in life.
    • The nightmare curse Mind Rapes people with these until they die. Specifically, it traps them in the nightmares of its source, a horrifically tormented child.
  • The First Law: Ever since Calder had Forley the Weakest murdered, he's had nightmares of the event, regretting his decision to kill a good person just to make himself appear strong.
  • Fellow Man: Ragnhild has coped with her crime, but the bad dreams come to her eventually. This one is pretty scary: She dreams that she is surrounded by priests, just staring at her, and in front of them stands The Devil. Behind her is the things she has to protect - her loved ones and her child. She hews down the Devil again and again, "but he just keeps coming". The being tells her that you can't kill evil with an axe.
  • The Godzilla vs. Kong novelization states David has a recurring nightmare almost every night, where he's back at his and his brother David's disastrous attempt to access the Hollow Earth, and he tries to change it at the last minute. Also in the novel, Mark Russell's own recurring Past Experience Nightmare of Madison's Near-Death Experience in Boston highlights his overprotectiveness of Madison since the incident and his refusal to move past any of his trauma.
  • The Hunger Games: Katniss and the rest of the victors seem plagued by them, although Katniss has long had recurring nightmares about her father's death.
  • Kane Series: In "Raven's Eyrie" Klesst has a recurring nightmare of a huge black hound with fiery red eyes that is hunting her. This is actually a Foreshadowing of the fate her mother Ionor has intended for her.
  • Kushiel's Legacy:
    • Imriel is plagued by nightmares in the days after Darsanga, though they eventually go away completely. It's said by Drucilla that he also had them soon after he arrived there, for very horrific reasons.
    • Phedre is plagued by a few of these in Kushiel's Avatar, the first of which serves as a plot-triggering event in the novel. The rest show Phedre's stress and fear as her quest continues and her feeling of travelling towards darkness and doom grows, and also serve as guidance from the gods.
  • In The Last Jedi's novelization, Tallissan Lintra has nightmares about the deaths of her comrades, hearing their dying screams as she tries to protect the bombers.
  • The Legend of Yan-Kan Mar: Dia/Tomoyo is frequently haunted by past memories when she sleeps and they become more distressing as the book progresses.
  • The Locked Tomb: Gideon got them a lot as a kid, especially ones about the Locked Tomb opening. Her dreams get a lot worse after the Fourth's death, her nightmares mostly revolving around all the deaths she failed to prevent.
  • The Lord of the Rings: Frodo is stated to have recurring nightmares throughout the quest, and they get increasingly worse as he approaches Mount Doom and the effect of the Ring increases.
  • Malazan Book of the Fallen: In particular, thanks to being touched by the blood of a Hound of Shadow, Paran keeps dreaming of being a Hound, hunting and drowning in darkness.
  • The Mistmantle Chronicles: In the first book, Husk gets nightmares after killing Prince Tumble, of the dead hedgehog sniffing him out. Could be seen as prophetic when a short sighted baby hedgehog does the same thing innocently at the end.
  • Rosebush: Almost every chapter opens with a recurring nightmare Jane has throughout the novel. It is strongly implied to be Jane's inner guilt at Bonnie's death and her anger at herself for not seeing this coming.
  • Sonny's Blues: The narrator mentions that Isabel has recurring nightmares about their deceased daughter Grace.
  • Son of the Shadows: Bran comes off as a very unpleasant man, making it difficult to sympathize with him in any light. Then Liadan gets a look inside his head and witnesses his nightmares for herself. Some of his dreams are extremely disturbing.
  • Star Wars: Resistance Reborn: Jessika Pava has nightmares about whatever happened to her family. When Poe wakes her up from a nap, she shoots awake and looks terrified, worrying Poe about her mental state, but unfortunately, the Resistance is in such a bad place at the moment there literally are no therapists to help her.
  • The Stories of John Cheever: Irene in "The Wrysons" has persistent nightmares of nuclear holocaust.
  • Warrior Cats: In The Raging Storm, Shadowkit has a constant nightmare about drowning on RiverClan land during a heavy rain. He nearly does drown near the end of the book, but Juniperclaw manages to save him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 100: Charlotte confesses to Wells that she has bad dreams every night, and believes they will stop if she kills Wells.
  • Are You Afraid of the Dark?: In the "Tale of the Shiny Red Bicycle", the main character has recurrent nightmares of his friend's death.
  • Behind Her Eyes: Louise suffers from night terrors, which Adele tries to help her control. Adele has experienced these in the past, as has her friend Rob, whose journal gives advice on controlling dreams.
  • BIA: Victor has a lot of these about Helena and the accident, mostly not literal dreams but daydreams. Then, episode 37 includes an actual dream where he and Helena, pre-accident, sing the song they never finished. It suddenly changes into a nightmare with Helena repeating "You let me down" and then Victor's father saying "There's nothing more you can do about it, son". Victor wakes up with a start, saying "I must tell the truth". In short, he is haunted by the secret he has been keeping for 10 years about the way the accident happened.
  • Blake's 7: In the episode "Warlord," Zukan is haunted by guilt over the men who died for his schemes.
    Zukan: They're all dead. Eleven good Betafarlians. Do you think you'll see them in your dreams, Finn?
    Finn: Not me.
    Zukan: I will, if my dreams aren't already overcrowded.
    Finn: You should take dream suppressants.
    Zukan: [shakes head] They don't help. I see my bad dreams in other people's eyes.
  • Cadfael: In "The Devil's Novice", Meriet has screaming nightmares that disrupt the abbey and lead Oswin to ask if he's possessed by demons. It's guilt over his family's involvement in Clemence's death.
  • Carnivàle: throughout both seasons, Ben Hawkins has repeated visions and nightmares about a man with a black tree tattooed across his chest. Eventually, these dreams begin merging with others about Brother Justin Crowe, a charismatic preacher who is undergoing his own visions and developing strange powers. Ultimately we learn Justin and the tattooed man are one and the same, the Usher of Destruction destined to end the world.
  • The Defenders (2017): In "The H Word", Danny appears to be plagued by night terrors about K'un-L'un. According to Colleen, it's not the first time he's been heard screaming in his sleep.
  • An episode of Empty Nest has Harry having a recurring nightmare where he's trying to escape from a lion while wearing his late wife's nightgown. Eventually, he ends up having to stay up all night to avoid having it. With the help of Barbara and Carol, he discovers why he's having it: the lion represents the cancer that his wife died from and his escape attempts were her battle with it. He's been having the nightmares because he's scheduled to attend a conference at the hospital where she died.
  • The Golden Girls had a "What Do They Fear?" Episode where it's revealed that Blanche had a recurring nightmare where she was in a room full of bald men, then heard the voice of God, and the room fell into the ocean. She accompanies Rose and Dorothy when they take a flight to a funeral and is shocked when all of the passengers aside from them are bald men. note  Then the pilot, Captain Lord, makes his pre-flight announcement which just agitates her further. Fortunately, the falling into the ocean part doesn't come into play and they return home safely.
  • Jane the Virgin: In "Chapter Forty-Six," following Michael's shooting, Jane has recurring nightmares of hearing gunshots and seeing his body.
  • In Lexx, Stan has nightmares about being chased by Giggerotta. In "Patches in the Sky," the resulting sleep deprivation causes him to embark on a frantic search for something to improve his mood, but his search leads to the destruction of a planet populated by sentient robots, which provides him with even more fodder for nightmares.
  • Lucifer (2016): Charlotte Richards has a recurring nightmare based on the way she was tortured during her time in Hell. In her nightmares she's having breakfast with her family when a criminal she defended during her Amoral Attorney days bursts in and kills them in front of her. Each time the scenario repeats the gun is wielded by a different criminal. "Quintessential Deckerstar" opens with the nightmare being shown to the audience with the addition of Dan Espinoza, who just started dating Charlotte, to the scenario alongside her children.
  • Once Upon a Time:
    • Since waking up from the Sleeping Curse, Aurora's had recurring nightmares of being trapped in a room on fire. As it turns out, Henry's been having them, too, and so has Mary Margaret - which ends up being key to getting Mary Margaret and Emma out of the Enchanted Forest.
    • Henry has nightmares as a side effect of eating the poisoned apple (turnover) and falling under the sleeping curse. Even after Emma breaks the curse, he still gets horrible nightmares.
  • Picket Fences: Zach is seen suffering from nightmares about death in the first season episode "Sacred Hearts" after he visits an elderly patient with Jill and they find her dead in her hospital bed.
  • Power Rangers Zeo: In "Inner Spirit", Tommy keeps having nightmares about the Zeo Megazord being destroyed in battle with an unseen adversary.
  • Cristóbal "Chris" Rios in Star Trek: Picard is a former Starfleet officer turned freighter captain. He says that every night for the past ten years he's had the same nightmare about his former captain's "blood and brains splattered all over a bulkhead", and he doesn't want to work with another "heroic" captain like the one he saw die as a result of suicide after he was ordered by Starfleet to kill two artificial life forms, which Rios covered up.
  • Supernatural:
    • Sam experiences psychic visions, usually of premonitions of people in danger or people who are going to die in the future. These dreams occurred during the first and second seasons. Although these dreams would often help Sam and Dean during a hunt, they would also be incredibly scary and traumatic for Sam as quite a few of them would occur at night when Sam was sleeping. It's also incredibly disturbing for Sam as Sam continuously sees morbid thoughts and visions of people constantly dying and there is nothing that Sam can do to prevent it or stop it from happening. However, there were some cases in which Sam and Dean were able to prevent or stop the premonitions from coming true.
    • 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, Sam's hallucinations, killing Amy Pond and keeping it a secret.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): The episode "Shadow Play" shows main character Adam Grant trapped in a recurring nightmare. The episode starts with him on trial for murder and being sentenced to death and concludes with him being executed in the electric chair. The recurring nature of the dream is revealed at episode's end, when the nightmare starts all over again, this time with different people serving in roles such as the judge and public defender.
  • The Waltons: The Halloween Episode "The Ferris Wheel" centers around Elizabeth's recurring nightmares of being trapped on a Ferris wheel.
  • The X-Files:
    • Mulder frequently has nightmares about his sister's abduction; it's probably the biggest reason he's an insomniac.
    • Both Mulder and Scully have nightmares about the other during their separate abductions. For Scully, they come so often and regularly that she panics when she stops having them, fearing that Mulder's death is the reason.

    Multiple Media 

     Puppet Shows 
  • Fraggle Rock: In "The New Trash Heap in Town", all the Fraggles have been having a recurring nightmare since Gobo got his leg thumped after a particularly violent encounter in the Gorgs' garden. The Nightmare Sequence shows Junior sledgehammering his way into the Rock, crawling in amidst screams of terrified Fraggles, and beginning, on all fours, to chase them.
    Junior: [laughing maniacally] Okay, you Fraggles! I've busted in here, and now I'm gonna thump all your legs!

  • Theatre/Miss Saigon's Chris about his LostLenore Kim, as revealed by his wife Ellen's lyrics in the song "I Still Believe"—"Last night, I watched you sleeping. Once more, the nightmare came. . .", seconds before he wakes from yet another bad dream.

    Video Games 
  • William Bishop from Ace Combat: Assault Horizon is plagued by recurrent nightmares of getting shot down over Miami by a Russian jet with a shark mouth painted on its nose. This turns out to be a case of Dreaming of Things to Come, as Bishop later learns that that plane belongs to a Renegade Russian ace, giving an otherwise stoic Bishop a bad case of anxiety when the two of them do duke it out over Miami.
  • Another Code: It's established early on that the nightmares Ashley has of her third birthday are going to be important when Jessica implies she's been having them for a while.
  • Eternal Senia: Hydrangea After The Rain: When tapped on the Start Screen, Senia mentions that she has multiple nightmares, contents unknown, but her hometown was razed by demons, and her sister figure is trapped in a tower:
    Senia: "Another nightmare..."
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses:
    • The first time Princess Edelgard von Hresvelg opens up to Byleth is when they wake her up from a nightmare while making the nightly rounds at the campus. She then reveals it was about the time when she and her siblings were vivisected in an attempt to give them a second Crest — she was the only success, while all her brothers and sisters died in front of her eyes. She has been reliving this trauma regularly in her dreams ever since.
    • On his own route, Dimitri implies that his dreams are constantly plagued by the voices of those he lost in the Tragedy of Duscur, all pleading with him to exact revenge on those that killed them.
  • The Last of Us Part II: Abby has recurring nightmares of finding her father's corpse. It's only once she saves Yara that she has a peaceful dream of her father alive.
  • Mass Effect: In the first game, Shepard has unsettling dreams about the visions from the Prothean beacon. Understandable, considering that it A) was information delivered in a format not meant to be understood by human minds, and B) concerned the extermination of entire species. In the third game, Shepard starts having flat-out nightmares about the people they couldn't save.
  • Mercenaries: Sometimes when you approach Misha in the base, you can catch him waking up screaming from a nightmare about his plane crashing.
  • Night of the Living Robot: The game takes place within the nightmares of Felix. Said nightmares are a frequent enough occurrence that they're negatively affecting his ability to sleep.
  • OMORI: Sunny, in both the real world and Headspace, is periodically assaulted by nightmares featuring Something in various forms, representing his guilt for accidentally pushing his sister Mari down the stairs.
  • The Secret World: According to her dialogue tree, Rada suffers from periodic nightmares of being adrift in a cold and dark ocean, slowly sinking beneath the waves and being dimly aware of something waiting in the darkness below her.
  • Shin Megami Tensei:
    • The main setting of Catherine is Vincent's recurring nightmares about cheating on his girlfriend. He's plagued by them in Persona 3 as well.
    • Persona 4: Shu has a recurring dream in which he's on a train going to an unknown destination. He's unable to leave the train, and is being pursued by a strange figure, who gets one car closer every night.

    Visual Novels 
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Miles Edgeworth eventually reveals that they've suffered recurring nightmares about their father's death for the past fifteen years. He uses this dream as a confession later in the case, believing he was the one responsible.
  • Fate/stay night: Though it's not every night, Shirou has nightmares about the fire that killed his biological parents and would have killed him if Kiritsugu hadn't found him in the nick of time.
  • The Fruit of Grisaia: Central to Sachi's story: Sachi suffered from nightmares about her parents' deaths and her perceived responsibility for it so severe that they prevented her from getting any rest at night, to the point that she was in serious danger of dying from lack of sleep. She developed her habit of being perfectly obedient as a coping mechanism: as long as she obeys everyone around her, the nightmares don't occur. Unfortunately, when she begins a relationship with Yuuji, they start to come back, requiring a different method to cure.
  • Lamento - beyond the void: Rai suffers from them very often, particularly from nightmares about his bloodlust.
  • The Second Reproduction: Christina has frequent nightmares due to Laser-Guided Amnesia of the time she was made to slaughter an entire demon village.
  • Spirit Hunter: NG: In the Bad End Akira becomes plagued with visions of all his companions that died, preventing him from getting any sleep and causing his health to deteriorate.
  • Sunrider: After getting captured by Cosette on Ongess and seeing Alliance soldiers gun down a little girl during his rescue, he starts having nightmares in which the child blames him for her death before morphing into his dead sister Maray.
  • Sweet Enchantments: Zain suffers from nightmares, as the heroine discovers in his second season.

    Web Animation 

  • Doc Rat: Pippie suffers from horrible nightmares and wets the bed after most of her family die in a wildfire. She gets better thanks to her friendship with Jarrad.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Grace used to have nightmares before she defeated Damien and faced her fear of her beastly side.
  • Freefall: Strip 2344: Final panel:
    I have a recurring nightmare that I'm never going to get a good night's sleep and then I wake up to find it's a recurring reality.
  • Kubera:
    • After the battle with God Kubera and Asha's revelation of what Leez really means to her and what Asha did to her father, Leez frequently has dreams about the both of them and how they betrayed her, causing her to wake up screaming and in cold sweat.
    • Ian routinely suffers from these and tends to shuffle about. Taksaka, for whom being disturbed in his sleep is a Berserk Button, notes that it's the only thing about her that annoys them in their marriage.
  • In Outsider, after his ship is destroyed, Alex Jardin nearly dies due to asphyxiation while drifting in space. He's later noted to be having nightmares in which he mentally relives this experience. The first instance of this that's depicted also includes him being confronted by the "spirit" of one of his dead crewmates who chides him for having survived, hinting that he has some deep-seated Survivor's Guilt.
  • Platinum Grit: Jeremy keeps having nightmares about his childhood tormentor Cousin Dougal suddenly returning. Despite Dougal looking suspiciously dead at the end of an early storyline, Jeremy's dreams might be more than just the result of childhood trauma.
  • Shinka The Last Eevee: Nick has nightmares about being chased by a Skarmory. They occasionally segue into odd dreams where a voice gives him vague warnings and such. Turns out those odd dreams were actually telepathic communication from Sol the Espeon, who believes Nick can help rescue the other captive Eeveelutions.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Just Before the End, Árni Reynisson from the prologue works for an Icelandic coast guard that has resorted to bomb refugee boats to stop the spread of The Plague. The segment focuses on Árni quitting his job because he has been getting, per his own words "horrible dreams" for an unspecified number of nights in a row.
  • When Heaven Spits You Out: In Part 2 especially, Ryan has strange and lucid nightmares where he imagines himself either dying or bathed in blood while faced with religious iconography. On the outside, such terrifying visions reduce him to tears and he subsequently wakes up crying.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Downplayed with Aang. He becomes deeply stressed as the Day of Black Sun approaches. He begins having nightmares akin to those of a kid the night before an exam, where his battle goes comically wrong, such as him showing up without pants and Ozai making fun of Aang, causing him to become sleep deprived and neurotic.
  • Low-Light in G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero is plagued with nightmares every night due to a abusive childhood at the hands of his father. When Dr. Mindbender invents a device that gives the other Joes nightmares, Low-Light is able to shrug them off because they are much tamer than his usual ones.
    Low-Light: You gotta be tougher than that! I'm not a wimp anymore! I'm a G.I. Joe! And nothing stops a G.I. Joe! NOTHING!
  • During Star Wars: The Clone Wars, it's revealed that all Clones regularly suffer from nightmares about a "mission that never ends", presumably a side effect of the inhibitor chip implanted in their brains to make them obey Order 66.
  • Steven Universe: In "Kiki's Pizza Delivery Service", Kiki letting Jenny push off her responsibilities onto her causes recurring nightmares about being dragged by cheesy hands down into pizza and drowning.