Dreams that frighten us are called nightmares. Dreams are absolutely normal—when we fall asleep, dreaming is thought to be the mind's way of dealing with "extra" information that it could not process during the day. When the mind is troubled for some reason, it can produce a nightmare. The cause may be physical, such as an illness or having eaten something odd too close to bedtime, or it can be emotional. Stress or anxiety felt during our waking life has a way of expressing itself during our dreams. Sometimes nightmares can produce a strong physical response. We may wake up breathing heavily, or sweating, or with a racing heartbeat.
Does the Bible say anything about nightmares?
The Bible mentions dreams, and it is clear that God can and does speak to people through dreams. This does not mean that all dreams have spiritual significance, just that it happens to be a channel through which God sometimes speaks to us. There are many examples of God speaking through dreams. Jacob had a dream of angels ascending a ladder (Genesis 28) and Joseph had prophetic dreams about becoming a ruler over his brothers (Genesis 37). Joseph also interpreted dreams had by Pharaoh's chief cup bearer and chief baker, as well as one had by Pharaoh (Genesis 40—41). Many other biblical characters had spiritual dreams, including Abimelech (Genesis 20), a man near Gideon whose dream confirmed what God had told Gideon (Judges 7), Solomon (1 Kings 3), Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2), Joseph, the adoptive father of Jesus (Matthew 1—2), and Pilate's wife (Matthew 27). God compares the impermanence of wicked people to "phantoms" in dreams that are forgotten as soon as one awakes (Psalm 73:20).
Because nightmares are so scary, we are tempted to believe that Satan or demons are responsible for them, and that they are tormenting us in nightmares. This is most likely just our fears talking. The Bible does not record any instances of demonic activity in nightmares. But that is not to say that God is unfeeling towards those who suffer with nightmares or night terrors. Like any illness, mental or physical, nightmares are the result of a fallen world. If you regularly suffer from nightmares, meeting with a doctor or counselor may be a good idea. In dealing with any nightmare, remember that God promised that He cares for us, and that we should bring our anxieties to Him (1 Peter 5:7). Jesus became a man so that He could sympathize with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15), and He does understand. Turning to God for peace after a nightmare (or before going to sleep) is a biblical response to this very real fear. He is a good Father, and has promised to give us the Holy Spirit's peace when we ask for it (Galatians 5:22; Luke 11:11–13).
How are dreams and visions used in the Bible?
Is there such a thing as Christian dream interpretation? Are dreams from God?
What is sleep paralysis with false awakening? Is it a spiritual attack?
What is lucid dreaming? Is having a lucid dream a sin?
How does the Bible address fear?