Many people often have the same or a similar dream, either for a short period or throughout their lives. Recurring dreams usually mean that something in your life that you have not acknowledged is causing some form of stress.
The dream is repeating itself because you have not solved the problem. Another theory is that people who experience recurring dreams have some trauma in their past that they are trying to deal with. In this case, the dreams tend to diminish with time.
Nightmares are dreams that are so distressing that they usually wake us up, at least in part. Nightmares usually cause intense feelings of fear, sadness, or anxiety. Nightmares can occur at any age but are most common in children.
Their causes are diverse. Some medications cause nightmares (or cause them if you stop the medication abruptly). Traumatic events also cause nightmares.
Treatment for recurring nightmares usually starts with interpreting what is going on in the dream and comparing that to what is happening in the person's life. The person then undergoes counseling to address the underlying issues causing the nightmare.
Some sleep centers offer nightmare therapy and counseling. Another method of treating nightmares is through lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming allows the dreamer to confront their attacker and, in some cases, put an end to the nightmares.
Unlike nightmares that occur during REM sleep, night terrors occur during non-REM sleep, usually in the first cycle of the deepest stage of sleep (within the first two hours after going to bed). Night terrors can last anywhere from five to twenty minutes. People who have night terrors are still asleep but may look as if they are awake.
Night terrors are most common in children, but adults can experience them. For example, they may sit up in bed screaming with their eyes wide open. They usually have no memory of the episode (although some people do).