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Nightmares: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment

09-10-2020 · Nightmares can affect anyone, and when frequent, can harm sleep and daily life. Learn about nightmares, their causes, & how to reduce them.

09-10-2020

Dreaming is one of the most complicated and mysterious aspects of sleep. While dreams can include visions of grandeur and bliss, they can also be scary, threatening, or stressful.

When a bad dream causes you to wake up, it’s known as a nightmare. It’s normal to occasionally have a nightmare or bad dream, but for some people, they recur frequently, disrupting sleep and negatively impacting their waking life as well.

Knowing the differences between bad dreams, nightmares, and nightmare disorder is a first step to addressing the causes of nightmares, starting appropriate treatment, and getting better sleep.

What Are Nightmares?

In sleep medicine, nightmares have a more strict definition than in everyday language. This definition helps distinguish nightmares from bad dreams: while both involve disturbing dream content, only a nightmare causes you to wake up from sleep.

Nightmares are vivid dreams that may be threatening, upsetting, bizarre, or otherwise bothersome. They occur more often during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the stage of sleep associated with intense dreaming. Nightmares arise more frequently in the second half of the night when more time is spent in REM sleep.

Upon waking up from a nightmare, it’s normal to be acutely aware of what happened in the dream, and many people find themselves feeling upset or anxious. Physical symptoms like heart rate changes or sweating may be detected after waking up as well.

What Is Nightmare Disorder?

While most people have nightmares from time to time, nightmare disorder occurs when a person has frequent nightmares that interfere with their sleep, mood, and/or daytime functioning. It is a sleep disorder known as a parasomnia. Parasomnias include numerous types of abnormal behaviors during sleep.

People who have occasional nightmares don’t have nightmare disorder. Instead, nightmare disorder involves recurring nightmares that bring about notable distress in their daily life.

Are Nightmares Normal?

It’s normal for both children and adults to have bad dreams and nightmares every now and again. For example, a study found that 47% of college students had at least one nightmare in the past two weeks.

Nightmare disorder, though, is far less common. Research studies estimate that about 2-8% of adults have problems with nightmares.

Frequent nightmares are more common in children than in adults. Nightmares in children are most prevalent between the ages of three and six and tend to occur less often as children get older. In some cases, though, nightmares persist into adolescence and adulthood.

Nightmares affect males and females, although women are generally more likely to report having nightmares, especially during adolescence through middle age.

Why Do We Have Nightmares?

There is no consensus explanation for why we have nightmares. In fact, there is an ongoing debate in sleep medicine and neuroscience about why we dream at all. Many experts believe that dreaming is part of the mind’s methods for processing emotion and consolidating memory. Bad dreams, then, may be a component of the emotional response to fear and trauma, but more research is needed to definitively explain why nightmares occur.

How Are Nightmares Different From Sleep Terrors?

Sleep terrors, sometimes called night terrors, are another type of parasomnia in which a sleeper appears agitated and frightened during sleep. Nightmares and sleep terrors have several distinguishing characteristics:

  • Nightmares happen during REM sleep while sleep terrors happen during non-REM (NREM) sleep.
  • Sleep terrors don’t involve a full awakening; instead, a person remains mostly asleep and difficult to awaken. If awakened, they likely will be disoriented. In contrast, when a person wakes up from a nightmare, they tend to be alert and aware of what was happening in their dream.
  • The following day, a person with nightmares usually has a clear memory of the dream. People with sleep terrors very rarely have any awareness of the episode.
  • Nightmares are more common in the second half of the night while sleep terrors happen more often in the first half.

What Causes Nightmares?

Many different factors can contribute to a higher risk of nightmares:

  • Stress and anxiety: Sad, traumatic, or worrisome situations that induce stress and fear may provoke nightmares. People with chronic stress and anxiety may be more likely to develop nightmare disorder.
  • Mental health conditions: Nightmares are often reported at much higher rates by people with mental health disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, general anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. People with PTSD often have frequent, intense nightmares in which they relive traumatic events, worsening symptoms of PTSD, and often contributing to insomnia.
  • Certain drugs and medications: Using some types of illicit substances or prescription medications that affect the nervous system is associated with a higher risk of nightmares.
  • Withdrawal from some medications: Some medications suppress REM sleep, so when a person stops taking those medications, there is a short-term rebound effect of more REM sleep accompanied by more nightmares.
  • Sleep deprivation: After a period of insufficient sleep, a person often experiences a REM rebound, that can trigger vivid dreams and nightmares.
  • Personal history of nightmares: In adults, a risk factor for nightmare disorder is a history of having had recurring nightmares during childhood and adolescence.

Though not fully understood, a genetic predisposition may exist that makes it more likely for frequent nightmares to run in a family. This association may be driven by genetic risk factors for mental health conditions that are tied to nightmares.

Some evidence indicates that people who have nightmares may have altered sleep architecture, meaning that they progress abnormally through sleep stages. Some studies have also found a correlation between nightmares and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a breathing disorder that causes fragmented sleep, although further research is needed to clarify this association.

Are Nightmares Connected To Waking Activity?

Nightmares can have a clear connection to things that happen while you’re awake. Nightmares tied to anxiety and stress, especially PTSD, may involve flashbacks or imagery that is directly linked to traumatic events.

However, not all nightmares have an easily identified relationship to waking activity. Nightmares can have bizarre or bewildering content that is difficult to trace to any specific circumstances in a person’s life.

Can Nightmares Affect Sleep?

Nightmares, especially recurrent nightmares, can have a significant impact on a person’s sleep. People with nightmare disorder are more likely to suffer from decreases in both sleep quantity and quality.

Sleep problems can be induced by nightmares in several ways. People who have nighttime disruptions from nightmares may wake up feeling anxious, making it hard to relax their mind and get back to sleep. Fear of nightmares may cause sleep avoidance and less time allocated to sleep.

Unfortunately, these steps can make nightmares worse. Sleep avoidance can cause sleep deprivation, which can provoke a REM sleep rebound with even more intense dreams and nightmares. This often leads to further sleep avoidance, giving rise to a pattern of disturbed sleep that culminates in insomnia.

Nightmares may exacerbate mental health conditions that can worsen sleep, and insufficient sleep can give rise to more pronounced symptoms of conditions like depression and anxiety.

Insufficient sleep connected to nightmares and nightmare disorder can cause excessive daytime sleepiness, mood changes, and worsened cognitive function, all of which can have a substantial negative impact on a person’s daytime activities and quality of life.

When Should You See a Doctor About Nightmares?

Because it’s common to have an occasional nightmare, some people may find it hard to know when nightmares are a cause for concern. You should talk to your doctor about nightmares if:

  • Nightmares happen more than once a week
  • Nightmares affect your sleep, mood, and/or daily activity
  • Nightmares begin at the same time that you start a new medication

To help your doctor understand how nightmares are affecting you, you can keep a sleep diary that tracks your total sleep and sleep disruptions, including nightmares.

How Is Nightmare Disorder Treated?

Infrequent nightmares don’t normally need any treatment, but both psychotherapy and medications can help people who have nightmare disorder. By reducing nightmares, treatments can promote better sleep and overall health.

Treatment for nightmares should always be overseen by a health professional who can identify the most appropriate therapy based on a patient’s overall health and the underlying cause of their nightmares.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is a category of treatment that works to understand and reorient negative thinking. Talk therapy has broad applications in addressing mental health disorders and sleeping problems like insomnia.

Many types of psychotherapy fall under the umbrella of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), including a specialized form of CBT for insomnia (CBT-I) that may be used to treat nightmares. A central component of CBT is reorienting negative thoughts and feelings and modifying detrimental patterns of behavior.

There are numerous types of talk therapy and CBT that may help reduce nightmares:

  • Image Rehearsal Therapy: This approach involves rewriting a recurring nightmare into a script that is rewritten and then rehearsed when awake in order to change how it unfolds and impacts the sleeper.
  • Lucid Dreaming Therapy: In a lucid dream, a person is actively aware that they are dreaming. Lucid dreaming therapy seizes on this idea to give a person the ability to positively modify the content of a nightmare through their awareness of it in the moment.
  • Exposure and Desensitization Therapies: Because many nightmares are driven by fears, a number of approaches utilize controlled exposure to that fear to reduce the emotional reaction to it. Examples of these techniques to “face your fears” include self-exposure therapy and systematic desensitization.
  • Hypnosis: This approach creates a relaxed, trance-like mental state in which a person can more easily take in positive thoughts to combat stress.
  • Progressive deep muscle relaxation: While not a direct form of talk therapy, progressive deep muscle relaxation is a technique for calming the mind and body. It involves deep breathing and a sequence of tension and release in muscles throughout the body. Relaxation methods like this are a tool developed in talk therapy to counteract stress buildup.

Behavioral recommendations associated with talk therapy frequently involve changes to sleep hygiene. This includes making the bedroom more conducive to sleep as well as cultivating daily routines and habits that facilitate consistent sleep.

Many psychotherapies for nightmares involve a combination of methods. Examples include CBT-I, Sleep Dynamic Therapy and Exposure, Relaxation, and Rescripting Therapy (ERRT). Mental health professionals can tailor talk therapy for nightmares to fit a patient, including, when appropriate, account for a coexisting mental health disorder.

Medication

Several types of prescription medications may be used to treat nightmare disorder. Most often, these are medications that affect the nervous system such as anti-anxiety, antidepressant, or antipsychotic drugs. Different medications may be used for people who have nightmares associated with PTSD.

Medications benefit some patients, but they can also come with side effects. For that reason, it is important to talk with a doctor who can describe the potential benefits and downsides of prescription drugs for nightmare disorder.

How Can You Help Stop Nightmares and Get Better Sleep?

If you have nightmares that interfere with your sleep or daily life, the first step is to talk with your doctor. Identifying and addressing an underlying cause can help make nightmares less frequent and less bothersome.

Whether nightmares are common or occasional, you may get relief from improving sleep hygiene. Building better sleep habits is a component of many therapies for nightmare disorder and can pave the way for high-quality sleep on a regular basis.

There are many elements of sleep hygiene, but some of the most important ones, especially in the context of nightmares, include:

  • Following a consistent sleep schedule: Having a set bedtime and sleep schedule helps keep your sleep stable, preventing sleep avoidance and nightmare-inducing REM rebound after sleep deprivation.
  • Utilizing relaxation methods: Finding ways to wind down, even basic deep breathing, can help decrease the stress and worry that give rise to nightmares.
  • Avoiding caffeine and alcohol: Caffeine can stimulate your mind, which makes it harder to relax and fall asleep. Drinking alcohol close to bedtime can induce a REM rebound in the second half of the night that may worsen nightmares. As much as possible, it’s best to avoid alcohol and caffeine in the evening.
  • Reducing screen time before bed: Using a smartphone, tablet, or laptop before bed can amp up your brain activity and make it difficult to fall asleep. If the screen time involves negative or worrying imagery, it may make nightmares more likely. To avoid this, create a bedtime routine with no screen time for an hour or more before going to sleep.
  • Creating a comforting sleep environment: Your bedroom should promote a sense of calm with as few distractions or disruptions as possible. Set a comfortable temperature, block out excess light and sound, and set up your bed and bedding to be supportive and inviting.

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17 Signs Your Bad Dreams Could Mean Something ...

13-02-2019 · Everyone experiences bad dreams, typically pointing to a major life event they're nervous about. But, that not always it. Could yours mean something worse?

13-02-2019

We've all had our share of nightmares. Hey, they're just a natural part of life! But sometimes a nightmare is actually more than just a nightmare. If you're experiencing them frequently or severely (or frequently and severely), there could be something bigger at play. Here are 17 signs your bad dreams could indicate something much, much more serious than a series of random mental images.

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Frequent nightmares are a possible symptom of panic disorder, schizophrenia, dissociative disorder, and borderline personality disorder. But nightmares are most commonly associated with the big bugaboos of mental health: clinical depression and clinical anxiety. Among adults with clinical depression, 11.4 percent reported having nightmares, while, among those with clinical anxiety, that number jumps to a whopping 17.1 percent.

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While bad dreams can arise from countless factors, scientists have doubled down on how they relate to post-traumatic stress disorder. And their findings have been astonishing: one study out the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine revealed that 90 percent (!) of people who experienced PTSD had reoccurring nightmares.

Nowadays, nightmares are one of the symptoms used to diagnose PTSD. And, yes, many people have nightmares associated with their trauma—but that's not always the case. According to one study published in Behavioral Sleep Medicine, 60 percent of PTSD victims reported suffering from nightmares prior to their trauma, suggesting that having nightmares could make someone prone to the condition.

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Have you checked the warning labels on some of your medication bottles? It's very common for many medications to list nightmares as a possible side-effect. A good rule of thumb: any medication that influences the neurotransmitters in the brain—like antidepressants or mood stabilizers—has the ability to negatively affect your dreams. But blood pressure meds, sleep aids, allergy meds, and steroids can cause them, too. Read your labels, folks.

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In a study of university undergraduates, researchers at the Canadian Center for Advanced Research in Sleep Medicine found that 17.8 percent of students believed that food caused their dreams to be more bizarre or disturbing. And get this: those undergrads are on to something.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, when you eat before bed, your metabolism is boosted, signaling your brain to be more active. And since the dreaming stage of sleep happens while your brain is at its most active, if you're dreaming more, you also may be experiencing more bad dreams during that time. In other words: Stop eating right before you hit the hay.

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It's a vicious cycle. Nightmares can cause you sleep less, but sleeping less can also cause nightmares. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that 17.1 percent of those with frequent insomnia reported having frequent nightmares as well when able to sleep. When you're not getting adequate REM sleep every night, your brain ends up becoming overactive during the few moments you do experience REM sleep, heightening the amount of bad dreams you have.

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Loss of sleep might not be the only thing increasing your bad dreams, however. If you are getting enough sleep, but experiencing breathing complications such as sleep apnea, you may still have increased nightmares.

A study of sleep apnea patients, published in the Sleep Medicine Journal, revealed that the patients also suffering from nightmares had a higher severity of sleep apnea during the REM cycle: 91 percent of those patients who agreed to undergo treatment therapy for sleep apnea reported experiencing less nightmares.

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While sleep apnea is one of the most common sleep issues, your nightmares could be pointing to any number of problems, like sleep paralysis, restless leg syndrome, or even narcolepsy.

You also might be experiencing an actual nightmare disorder. (Don't worry: the condition sounds more terrifying than it is.) Symptoms of a nightmare disorder include repeated awakening from intense, threatening dreams, alertness upon awakening, and frequent nightmares not associated with any other issue. Nightmare disorder is most common in children below the age of 10, but about 4 percent of adults still suffer from the disorder.

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If you're a fan of horror flicks, sorry, but you should refrain from having any marathons after dark. A study conducted by the International Association for the Study of Dreams concluded that media has an outside influence on dreams—and that those who watched violent movies before bed were more likely to experience violent dreams.

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While you should already avoid snacking before bed, if you can't help it, at the very least reconsider what you snack on: namely, dairy. One Canadian Center for Advanced Research in Sleep Medicine study found that participants mentioned dairy most often in association with disturbing dreams. Lactose intolerance is one of the most common food allergies—one that often goes undiagnosed—with 65 percent of the population having a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy. So, if you suffer from nightmares, cut out the cheese plates and ice cream.

Woman With a Thermometer Checking For a Fever

A sharp rise in body temperature could be the answer behind your sudden nightmares. The amygdala inside your brain—most associated with negative emotions like terror and anger—can be thrown for a loop when your body is overheating. This over-activation of the amygdala, which is already quite active during REM sleep, can cause an increase in intense fear-responses while you're dreaming. Hey, look: An excuse to call out sick tomorrow!

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Most major shifts in life bring come with their fair share of stress and anxiety, no matter if it's a good change or a bad one. An Oxford Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute study—and this surely won't surprise you a bit, but it's always good to have scientific confirmation—found that higher levels of worry and stress correlated with an increase in nightmares. Out of all the factors studied—including worry, psychotic behavior, alcohol use, and depersonalization—worry was the strongest factor associated with nightmare occurrence.

Teen Smoking Weed Facts That Will Make You Happy You're Not a Teen Now

Take a look at what and how much you're putting inside your body. One Alcohol and Drug Recovery Center study found that those who abuse substances are five to ten times more likely to experience sleep disorders or disturbances. Why? Simple: most substances disrupt REM sleep. Continuous abuse and sleep disturbances causes the body to go for a long period of time without deep sleep. And deprivation of deep sleep comes with an accumulation of nightmares.

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While relying on substances can send nightmare frequency through the roof, quitting those substances cold turkey can have the same effect. For example, if you drink an excessive amount of alcohol daily and then stop or reduce the amount significantly, you can develop Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS). One of the most prominent symptoms of AWS is nightmares, which can exacerbate over two to three days after withdrawal—and then continue for weeks.

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As you get older, sleep patterns change. Many elderly people experience sleep disturbance, but telltale signs of major health risks you might develop when older can usually be seen with nightmare-suffering earlier in life.

When experiencing nightmares, many also experience REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD), which is where people physically "act out" their nightmares with violent arm or leg movements. One University of Toronto neuroscientist found that more than 80 percent of those with RBD eventually developed a neurological disease, especially Parkinson's disease. The research found that the group of cells responsible for REM sleep appeared damaged in those with RBD, eventually spreading to damage the areas of the brain that can cause Parkinson's or other neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia.

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Nightmares can be linked to a variety of health problems, including the number one leading cause of death in the world: heart disease. A 2003 Netherlands Journal of Medicine study found that the percentage of irregular heartbeats and spasmodic chest pain among elderly women and men who experienced frequent nightmares was much higher than those who rarely or never experienced nightmares. During nightmares, our heart rate increases and blood pressure rises. This accumulation over time can lead to more heart problems later down the road.

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A Sleep Research Society study found that amongst patients suffering with burn pain, 30 percent of their dreams had associated pain sensations. Another study published in the Open Pain Journal found that patients with chronic back pain reported more pain sensation dreams than those who did not suffer from chronic back pain. Chronic pain sufferers are also more likely to get less sleep, which is a reoccurring factor in increased nightmares.

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Most mental health disorders have the possibility for associated nightmare symptoms. Unsurprisingly, nightmares are also linked with increased suicidal thoughts, attempts, and death by suicide. The longer someone suffers with nightmares, the greater the risk of suicide is. In one Psychiatry Research Journal study, researchers found that those who experienced weekly or monthly nightmares reported higher levels of hopelessness than those who reported yearly or no nightmares. Hopelessness was found to have a major contributing role in an increased risk of suicide. And to be able to spot any possible signs, learn all about these Suicide Warning Signs Hidden in Plain Sight.

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What Causes Bad Dreams? Avoid These 7 Things If You Want ...

If you don't get to bed early, chances are you're not going to be sleeping enough — and that can cause seriously bad dreams. Some studies have found that sleep deprivation intensifies dreaming ...

We've all had at least one dream in which our worst enemy is out to get us, or all our teeth are falling out. Bad dreams are a common part of how we sleep; it's unknown whether or not other mammals and other animals have similar nightmare patterns, though many species do show signals of dream-like states. Many of us wonder what causes bad dreams, and if there's anything we can do to help us sleep better. Turns out, there are seven simple things you can stop doing if you're over constantly having nightmares.

Nightmares, it's important to note, are different than night terrors, which many people also suffer from. We tend to dip between different depths of sleep throughout a conventional night's rest, and night terrors are sudden washes of fear or negative emotion as you transition from one stage of sleep to another. Nightmares, by contrast, tend to happen during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the deepest stage of slumber, in which the brain remains active while the body is almost fully at rest. REM periods lengthen as the night goes on, and nightmares often happen in the longer REM periods.

But bad dreams aren't an inevitable part of your REM sleep. These are seven simple things that can cause bad dreams, that you can stop doing tonight for a better night's rest.

Eating Cheese At Bedtime

A pretty usual suspect for nightmares is what you eat before bed. Yes, your night cheese might actually be at fault here. The National Sleep Foundation explains that eating too close to bedtime can rev up your metabolism, prompting more brain activity during REM sleep and a higher risk of having bad dreams. In one bizarre, unscientific survey in 2005, the British Cheese Board gave various people types of cheese to eat before bed and asked them to describe their dreams; cheddar dreams were about celebrities, while Stilton created nightmares.

Staying Up Late

Yet another reason to listen when Netflix pauses your binge-sesh. Evidence suggests heavily that delaying sleep and being deprived of it altogether increase your likelihood of nightmares once you finally hit the sack. A 2011 study in Turkey found that there's a strong correlation between being a night owl — staying up late habitually — and having more nightmares. For your best sleep, make like Gwenyth Paltrow and go to sleep at the same time every single night.

Not Sleeping Enough

If you don't get to bed early, chances are you're not going to be sleeping enough — and that can cause seriously bad dreams. Some studies have found that sleep deprivation intensifies dreaming in REM states, including the probability of nightmares. Basically, anything that mucks up regular circadian rhythms, from jetlag to a period of intense partying (we've all been there), is likely to increase the possibility of having a nightmare.

Not Managing Your Stress Level

You know that meditation app you've been meaning to download? Here's your excuse to do it. Higher levels of anxiety and stress are tied to nightmare occurrence. Our emotional levels during waking hours carry through to our brain activity during the night. It's believed that dreams serve an emotional purpose, in that they reflect and process what we're experiencing while we're awake — but if those experiences are stressful, our dream-life will pick up on that.

Some scientists theorize that humans evolved to use nightmares as a kind of safety valve for anxiety and fear, so that they could operate more functionally during the day. However, Scientific American reported in 2010 that a study of Australian teens found nightmares fail to diffuse anxiety, and in fact make people more anxious in general.

Drinking Alcohol Before Bed

Sorry to ruin weekends for you. Drinking alcohol before bed (or, you know, when you're out late and you collapse into bed without taking your makeup off) not only makes you sleep worse, it increases the ratio of REM sleep to deep sleep, multiplying the chance you'll have a bad dream. You don't have to have been partying to feel this effect, either; just a glass of wine with dinner will make you more susceptible to having a bad dream.

Being In A Bad Mood

Low life satisfaction was shown to be a strong predictive factor for nightmares, as a 2015 study showed, though it's unclear whether that's a matter of cause and effect, or if it's simply part of a cycle of negativity. If you're experiencing low mood, nightmares may result, and therefore make your mood worse. A 2016 study from Finland showed that sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder were much more likely to experience nightmares in the winter than people who didn't experience depression and anxiety as the seasons changed. If you're feeling down on an ongoing basis, take steps to brighten your mood, whether that's leaving a toxic work environment, making time to exercise, or consulting a mental health professional.

Taking Certain Medications

Some medications have some pretty surprising effects that can carry over into your sleep. An overview of the evidence in 2013 found that, while being on tricyclic antidepressants makes dreams happier, withdrawal from those medications, MAOI-type antidepressants, or SSRIs can cause nightmares. Adjusting doses of SSRI and SNRI-type antidepressants seemed to "intensify" dreaming states, which could lead to bad dreams. This is no reason to stop taking antidepressants if you're on them to treat depression; on the contrary, finding a stable dose of an antidepressant can help with multiple causes of bad dreams.

Other medications, including beta-blockers for heart conditions and drugs for Parkinson's disease, have also been linked to nightmare frequency. If you are experiencing nightmares on an antidepressant or another medication, don't stop or drop a dose without consulting your doctor first: It's likely there are other options to help you.

People also ask
  • What causes you to have bad dreams every night?

    What causes vivid dreams?Stress or anxiety. Difficulties real and imagined can cause a person to experience stress and anxiety in their daily life.Sleep disorders. Sleeping issues that cause a lack of sleep, such as insomnia and narcolepsy, can increase one’s risk of experiencing vivid dreams.Medications. ...Substance abuse. ...Other health disorders. ...Early pregnancy. ...

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    A nightmare is a disturbing dream associated with negative feelings, such as anxiety or fear that awakens you. Nightmares are common in children but can happen at any age. Occasional nightmares usually are nothing to worry about.

    Nightmares may begin in children between 3 and 6 years old and tend to decrease after the age of 10. During the teen and young adult years, girls appear to have nightmares more often than boys do. Some people have them as adults or throughout their lives.

    Although nightmares are common, nightmare disorder is relatively rare. Nightmare disorder is when nightmares happen often, cause distress, disrupt sleep, cause problems with daytime functioning or create fear of going to sleep.

    • Book: Mayo Clinic Guide to Raising a Healthy Child

    Symptoms

    You're more likely to have a nightmare in the second half of your night. Nightmares may occur rarely or more frequently, even several times a night. Episodes are generally brief, but they cause you to awaken, and returning to sleep can be difficult.

    A nightmare may involve these features:

    • Your dream seems vivid and real and is very upsetting, often becoming more disturbing as the dream unfolds.
    • Your dream storyline is usually related to threats to safety or survival, but it can have other disturbing themes.
    • Your dream awakens you.
    • You feel scared, anxious, angry, sad or disgusted as a result of your dream.
    • You feel sweaty or have a pounding heartbeat while in bed.
    • You can think clearly upon awakening and can recall details of your dream.
    • Your dream causes distress that keeps you from falling back to sleep easily.

    Nightmares are only considered a disorder if you experience:

    • Frequent occurrences
    • Major distress or impairment during the day, such as anxiety or persistent fear, or bedtime anxiety about having another nightmare
    • Problems with concentration or memory, or you can't stop thinking about images from your dreams
    • Daytime sleepiness, fatigue or low energy
    • Problems functioning at work or school or in social situations
    • Behavior problems related to bedtime or fear of the dark

    Having a child with nightmare disorder can cause significant sleep disturbance and distress for parents or caregivers.

    When to see a doctor

    Occasional nightmares aren't usually a cause for concern. If your child has nightmares, you can simply mention them at a routine well-child exam. However, consult your doctor if nightmares:

    • Occur frequently and persist over time
    • Routinely disrupt sleep
    • Cause fear of going to sleep
    • Cause daytime behavior problems or difficulty functioning
    Request an Appointment at Mayo Clinic

    Causes

    Nightmare disorder is referred to by doctors as a parasomnia — a type of sleep disorder that involves undesirable experiences that occur while you're falling asleep, during sleep or when you're waking up. Nightmares usually occur during the stage of sleep known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. The exact cause of nightmares is not known.

    Nightmares can be triggered by many factors, including:

    • Stress or anxiety. Sometimes the ordinary stresses of daily life, such as a problem at home or school, trigger nightmares. A major change, such as a move or the death of a loved one, can have the same effect. Experiencing anxiety is associated with a greater risk of nightmares.
    • Trauma. Nightmares are common after an accident, injury, physical or sexual abuse, or other traumatic event. Nightmares are common in people who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
    • Sleep deprivation. Changes in your schedule that cause irregular sleeping and waking times or that interrupt or reduce the amount of sleep you get can increase your risk of having nightmares. Insomnia is associated with an increased risk of nightmares.
    • Medications. Some drugs — including certain antidepressants, blood pressure medications, beta blockers, and drugs used to treat Parkinson's disease or to help stop smoking — can trigger nightmares.
    • Substance misuse. Alcohol and recreational drug use or withdrawal can trigger nightmares.
    • Other disorders. Depression and other mental health disorders may be linked to nightmares. Nightmares can happen along with some medical conditions, such as heart disease or cancer. Having other sleep disorders that interfere with adequate sleep can be associated with having nightmares.
    • Scary books and movies. For some people, reading scary books or watching frightening movies, especially before bed, can be associated with nightmares.

    Risk factors

    Nightmares are more common when family members have a history of nightmares or other sleep parasomnias, such as talking during sleep.

    Complications

    Nightmare disorder may cause:

    • Excessive daytime sleepiness, which can lead to difficulties at school or work, or problems with everyday tasks, such as driving and concentrating
    • Problems with mood, such as depression or anxiety from dreams that continue to bother you
    • Resistance to going to bed or to sleep for fear you'll have another bad dream
    • Suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts

    Request an Appointment at Mayo Clinic
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    2. Nightmare disorder. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. American Psychiatric Association; 2013. https://dsm.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed April 6, 2021.
    3. Kotagal S. Parasomnias of childhood, including sleepwalking. https://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 6, 2021.
    4. AskMayoExpert. Parasomnias. Mayo Clinic; 2020.
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    9. Olson EJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. April 11, 2021.
    Vivid Dream Causes: Why They Happen and How to Stop Them
  • Why do I keep having crazy dreams every night?

    Some common side effects of vivid dreams include:Daytime sleepiness. This can cause concentration and memory problems that can affect your productivity at school or work. ...Mood problems. Vivid dreams can be emotionally draining, causing depression or anxiety symptoms. ...Resisting sleep. ...Suicidal attempts or thinking. ...

    What are vivid dreams?

    While we think of sleep as a time for recharging the body, the brain is actually quite active during sleep — dreaming. Our dreams can be soothing or scary, mysterious or helpful, and realistic or fantastical.

    Sometimes we wake up and have no idea that we’ve dreamed, while other times, we can closely recall our dreams because they were so intense. These are known as vivid dreams.

    Brain scientists aren’t sure why humans dream in the first place, but they think it has something to do with memory.

    Dreaming might help the brain eliminate any unnecessary information or memories while processing and storing what’s important. Some people feel more refreshed after having had slept and dreamed, even if they do not remember dreaming.

    People are most likely to remember the last dream they’ve had in their sleep cycle. But it’s possible to remember a vivid dream long after it’s occurred if it seemed very intense.

    Vivid dreams can be positive or negative, realistic or fantasy. Scientists know that most heavy dreaming occurs during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep normally cycles every 90 minutes during a night of sleep and may last 20 to 25 minutes.

    About 25 percent of an adult’s night of sleep is spent in REM cycles. The average adult should get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night for optimal health. That’s a lot of time for dreaming!

    So, what causes vivid dreams? Scientists aren’t completely sure. But they think the following factors may play a part.

    Stress or anxiety

    Difficulties real and imagined can cause a person to experience stress and anxiety in their daily life. Problems with friends, family, school, or work can trigger intense dreams as can big events like getting married or buying a house.

    Stressed caused by traumatic events, such as a death of a loved one, sexual abuse, or a car accident can also cause vivid dreams. Anxiety, in particular, is associated with an increased risk of disturbing and intense nightmares.

    Sleep disorders

    Sleeping issues that cause a lack of sleep, such as insomnia and narcolepsy, can increase one’s risk of experiencing vivid dreams.

    Changes to your sleep schedule, such as flying overseas (and going to sleep at a different time) or getting less sleep than usual, can also increase this risk.

    Medications

    There are some medications that have been reported to contribute to vivid dreams. These medications include many antidepressants, beta blockers, blood pressure medications, Parkinson’s disease drugs, and drugs to stop smoking.

    Substance abuse

    Using alcohol in excess, using recreational drugs, or experiencing a withdrawal from drugs can trigger vivid dreams, often nightmares.

    Other health disorders

    In addition to stress and anxiety, other mental health conditions, such as depression and schizophrenia, are associated with vivid dreams. Physical illnesses, like heart disease and cancer, have also been associated with vivid dreams.

    Early pregnancy

    Pregnancy can trigger changes in the body’s hormone levels, sleep patterns, and emotions. Many pregnant women say they experience vivid dreams, especially during the early days of their pregnancy.

    Normally, vivid dreams are nothing to worry about. Sometimes they may only affect you during a certain part of your life.

    But negative vivid dreams, especially if they last for weeks or months, can be emotionally disturbing and disruptive to your sleep. And that can cause health problems.

    Some common side effects of vivid dreams include:

    • Daytime sleepiness. This can cause concentration and memory problems that can affect your productivity at school or work. It can even affect your ability to carry out everyday tasks, such as driving or taking a shower. Even the smallest tasks can become dangerous if you get distracted.
    • Mood problems. Vivid dreams can be emotionally draining, causing depression or anxiety symptoms. This can be an especially concerning problem if your vivid dreams persist over time.
    • Resisting sleep. You may find that you consciously or subconsciously avoid going to bed or falling asleep because you fear you’ll have another bad dream.
    • Suicidal attempts or thinking. Some people have reported suicidal thoughts (ideation) secondary to troubling dreams. This is extremely serious. If you have attempted or are considering suicide, get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Try the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. It’s important to get help right away.

    It isn’t always possible to pinpoint an exact cause of vivid dreams. In many cases, these dreams will go away over time.

    But if your vivid dreams are causing you emotional distress or physical problems, you might benefit from medical treatment or lifestyle modifications.

    Schedule an appointment with your doctor or a sleep specialist to try to determine what treatments or lifestyle modifications are right for you.

    Here are some of the common treatments for vivid dreams.

    Medical intervention

    If your vivid dreams are caused by an underlying mental or physical health condition, you can reduce your risk of vivid dreams by treating that condition.

    Staying healthy

    Eating well, maintaining a healthy weight, getting enough sleep, maintaining a regular sleep schedule, drinking enough water, and looking after your mental health can help prevent vivid dreams.

    Coping with stress and anxiety

    Everyone experiences stress and anxiety, but some people are better at coping with it than others. If you feel that your stress and anxiety levels are out of control, you might want to consider:

    • meditation
    • deep breathing
    • relaxation techniques
    • art therapy
    • exercise
    • other activities that can ease your stress

    Another major thing you can do is to make sure you always reserve some time for relaxation during the day so you don’t feel overwhelmed. A racing mind can result in vivid dreams and sometimes nightmares.

    Imagery rehearsal therapy

    This treatment is often used for people experiencing vivid dreams, especially nightmares, as a result of trauma. This therapy, done with a mental healthcare professional, involves changing the ending to a nightmare you remember when you’re awake until it no longer becomes threatening.

    Your mental healthcare provider will ask you to continue playing over the new, nonthreatening ending to the dream in your mind. This therapy is designed to reduce a person’s frequency of vivid dreams — especially nightmares.

    Medication

    Most doctors don’t recommend use of medication to treat vivid dreams. However, in the case of nightmares induced by trauma, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, a doctor may consider prescribing sleeping medication or anti-anxiety medication to help induce sleep.

    Vivid Dream Causes: Why They Happen and How to Stop Them
  • How do I get rid of Bad Dreams?

    Bad dreams can be unpleasant, but there are some simple ways to help you get rid of them. Nightmares are often caused by stress and negative thoughts, but if you take a few minutes to relax before bed, you’ll reduce the chance of having bad dreams. Try focusing on your breath or listening to some calming music.
    icon-pdf.svg Download Article
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    Nightmares can be extremely unpleasant, cause fear and anxiety and affect the quality of your sleep. This can lead to physical tiredness, mental stress, and excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS). However, it's important to understand the cause of your nightmares before you can begin to treat them. Start with Step 1 below to understand the source of your nightmares and take steps to prevent them from recurring.

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      My daughter gets negative thoughts while going to sleep. What should I do?

      Sarah Gehrke, RN, MS
      Sarah Gehrke, RN, MS
      Registered Nurse
      Sarah Gehrke is a Registered Nurse and Licensed Massage Therapist in Texas. Sarah has over 10 years of experience teaching and practicing phlebotomy and intravenous (IV) therapy using physical, psychological, and emotional support. She received her Massage Therapist License from the Amarillo Massage Therapy Institute in 2008 and a M.S. in Nursing from the University of Phoenix in 2013.
      Sarah Gehrke, RN, MS
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      Please read the section "Encouraging Pleasant Dreams." If the suggestions don't help, please see your doctor or a mental health professional such as a counselor that specializes in children with sleeping issues.

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    1. Know that it's relatively normal to get nightmares as an adult. A lot of people associate nightmares with children, believing they are something you grow out of. However, it is not uncommon for adults and teens to experience nightmares as well.
      • In fact,1 in every 2 adults will experience nightmares now and again, while 2% to 8% of the adult population suffers from chronic or recurring nightmares.[1]
      • Nightmares are characterized by vividly realistic images, thoughts and emotions which cause your heart to beat faster and sometimes even force you to wake from your sleep. Sometimes details of the nightmare will be remembered and the terrifying or disturbing images can be difficult to shake.
      • As a result, nightmares affect the quality of sleep, leading to physical exhaustion and mental anxiety and stress. If your sleep is being interrupted by nightmares, it can cause issues in other areas of your life and even lead to long-term health problems. Therefore, it is important to understand the source of the nightmares and take steps to prevent them.
    2. Understand the difference between nightmares and night terrors. Nightmares and night terrors are two different types of sleep disturbances which are sometimes confused.[2]
      • Nightmares tend to occur during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, so you will usually experience them in the early hours of the morning. They are experienced as frightening or disturbing dreams which seem vividly real as they occur. The content of the dreams will vary from person to person, though adults often report having nightmares about being chased or falling from a height. People who have experienced a traumatic event tend to relive that event in their nightmare.
      • Night terrors occur during the deeper stages of sleep and so tend to occur in the first few hours of going to bed. They are experienced as an intense feeling of fear, which is not accompanied by dreams or images. It is often accompanied by movement (thrashing or sitting upright in bed) which may cause the person to wake up. Usually the person cannot remember why they were so frightened upon waking.
    3. Understand that nightmares can be the symptom of a larger problem. Although nightmares in adults often happen spontaneously with no serious underlying cause, sometimes nightmares will be the result of psychological conditions such as anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).[3]
      • This is particularly likely if the sufferer has recently experienced a traumatic or life-changing event, such as the loss of a loved one, changing or losing a job, having a baby, undergoing surgery or being involved in an accident.
      • Sometimes nightmares are a symptom of another sleep disorder such as sleep apnea or restless leg symptom. Other times, a person is just genetically predisposed towards nightmares, as research has shown that the likelihood of having nightmares runs in the family.[1]
    1. Treat any underlying disorders. If your nightmares are the result of an underlying condition such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, REM disorder, or restless leg syndrome, receiving treatment for these conditions should help to reduce nightmares.[4]
      • If your nightmares are related to anxiety, depression or PTSD, certain forms of therapy or medications might help to alleviate these conditions and lessen nightmares.
      • In particular, a drug known as Prazosin is often prescribed to help patients with PTSD, anxiety and panic disorders, and can alleviate nightmares.
      • It is important that you speak to your doctor to figure out a treatment option that is best for you.
    2. Avoid eating before bed. Eating before bed can trigger nightmares, as food speeds up your metabolism and sends signals to your brain to become more active. Therefore, it's a good idea to cut out bedtime snacks, particularly those that are high in sugar. [5]
    3. Reduce stress. Stress can contribute to nightmares, so take some time to relax throughout the day and aim to go to bed with a calm, clear mind.[6]
      • Yoga and meditation are both good activities for relieving stress and clearing the mind. Consider taking a class, or simply practice for a few minutes each day in the comfort of your own home.[7]
      • Other activities such as reading, knitting, running or just spending more time with your family and loved can also help to relieve stress.
      • Taking a hot bath before bed can help you to unwind after the stresses of the day and leave you feeling calmer and more relaxed .
    4. Talk to your doctor about any medications you're taking. Certain medications can increase the likelihood of nightmares, so speak to your doctor if you feel this might be an issue for you.[8]
      • Anti-depressants and certain blood pressure medications are often responsible for causing nightmares, so speak to your doctor about switching to a different drug.
      • Sometimes a change in dosage or coming off a particular drug can cause nightmares, in which case the bad dreams should subside once your body adjusts.[5]
    5. Improve your sleep. Although nightmares may cause sleep deprivation, sleep deprivation can also cause nightmares. Therefore, taking steps to improve the quality of your sleep can help to prevent nightmares.[9]
      • Make your bedroom a relaxing environment. Keep your bedroom neat and tidy, make sure it's dark enough and avoid temperatures that are too hot or cold. Make sure your bed is comfortable. Use a white noise machine to block out any undesirable sounds. Reserve your bedroom for sleeping - working in your bedroom may cause you to associate it with stress.
      • Get more physical exercise. Tiring yourself out with physical exercise is a great way to improve your sleep. Find an activity that you enjoy, whether it's running, strength training, dancing, rowing or rock climbing and work out 3 to 5 times a week. Schedule it for the morning if you can. Just don't exercise right before bed - it will leave you too amped up for sleep.
      • Cut back on your caffeine, alcohol and nicotine intake. These substances can interfere with your sleep, so it's a good idea to cut them out or at least cut down. Also try to avoid drinking, smoking or consuming caffeine less than 3 to 4 hours before bedtime.
      • Avoid blue light. The light emitted from electronics like phone, computers, and tablets can suppress sleep hormones and affect the quality of your sleep. Avoid using these devices close to bedtime.[10]
    6. Try imagery rehearsal treatment. Imagery rehearsal treatment is a type of cognitive therapy which has been found very effective in reducing nightmares in PTSD and insomnia patients.[1]
      • With imagery rehearsal treatment, the patient is encouraged to imagine an alternate ending to their nightmares - one with a more pleasant or satisfying outcome - while they are still awake.
        • For example, if you're dreaming you're being chased, you could imagine the monster that's chasing you, when it catches you, saying "tag, you're it" and it's really a game of tag.
        • If you're dreaming that you're falling, you could imagine that a parachute opens up and saves you.
      • Sometimes this is done orally, other times the patient is asked to write down, draw or paint the alternate ending to their nightmares.[5]
    1. Find a happy place. Envision a happy, peaceful place - like a tropical beach or a secluded mountain top. You can make one up, or base it on somewhere real. No matter what or where it is, just make sure it's calm and relaxing. In addition to just envisioning the scenery, try to imagine the sounds, the smells and the overall atmosphere.
    2. Think happy thoughts. As you drift off to sleep, try to think happy thoughts. They could be anything you like - try imagining yourself as a superhero saving the world, as a famous actor or actress or heading off on your dream holiday. It can also help to focus on your goals and envision yourself achieving them - getting that dream job, hitting your ideal weight or finding your true love.
    3. Talk to someone about your dreams. Find someone who you trust, and explain your dreams. Also explain to them why they scare you. Just letting your feelings out can make things better. You can also keep track of your dreams in a dream journal, but be aware that sometimes it's more effective to talk to an actual person who you know is listening.[11]
    4. Attempt to manipulate your nightmare. See if you can manipulate your nightmare by making certain things happen and altering the outcome to make it less frightening or upsetting. This ability comes to some people faster than others, so don't be frustrated if you can't manage it at first.
    5. Relax. Nightmares can also be caused by stress, such as wondering if you will get a job or not. Let go of your worries, and begin having happy dreams again. You can relax by either meditating, or having a nice day at the beach. Just make sure it's a quiet area where you can relax and chill out.
    1. Write down the nightmare(s) you've been having.
    2. Try to re-write them but include how you would change the situation. For example if you have a nightmare that someone is yelling at you you might rewrite your nightmare by adding that you would yell back at that person.
    3. Read over the revised version of your nightmare(s) at least once a day to try and help prepare you for when you next have a nightmare. This will help you think about the strategies you can put in place while you're dreaming to try and mitigate the nightmare(s) you're having.
    Watch something funny or cheerful before going to sleep. Listening to happy or relaxing music before going to bed can help relieve your mind of negative thoughts. A happier dream will be more likely now that your mind is fixated on positive thoughts. Think of good things that have happened in your life. Imagine great things that you can accomplish. Nothing but happy thoughts. Folk or spiritual remedies you might consider include a dream catcher or gemstone for protection (e.g., amethyst). Remember that most all of your dreams are not real and could not happen in real life. Just relax, take some time to recuperate, put a big smile on your face, and greet another wonderful (normal) day. Try to use herbal calming natural oils (like lavender) to help clear your mind. Try reading until you becoming really tired, so you fall asleep quickly. Think of something fun in the future or in the past that was something fun or just keep a journal and write what you did that day (make it happy not bad). If you have a nightmare in the middle of the night try to ask yourself how you got into the dream and how to turn the nightmare into a good dream. You may have nightmares due to excessively thinking about the same thing which is bothering you or you taking a lot of stress. Try solving the issue which is bothering you. If that's not the case and you do not certainly have any stress issues to worry about, try consulting a doctor.
    If the nightmare doesn't stop after one month, you should seek medical attention. You could be having nightmares because someone close had died, and in this case, it's very hard to get over it. If you are continually having problems getting over something in your life, and you consistently have nightmares about the subject, talk to a professional. They can help you.[12] In a few rare, extreme cases, a nightmare can terrify a person so greatly that they will be afraid to go to bed the next night or for several nights after having the nightmare. In subsequent nights, the person may either dread having the same or similar nightmare again, or the nightmare was so immensely terrifying that its images, scenes, thoughts and feelings are still in the person's waking thoughts, continuing to scare the person while trying to fall asleep. If this is the case, you could find a friend or roommate (if you're not married) to sleep in the company of, or talk to a doctor or someone you trust about this terrible dream you had. Listening to quiet, relaxing music as you go to sleep might help too.[13]

    To stop having nightmares, try to avoid eating before bed since food can make your brain more active, which increases the chances you'll have nightmares. Also, do things to reduce stress before bed since stress can trigger bad dreams. For example, you could do yoga, take a relaxing bath, or read a good book. As you're lying in bed at night, try to think happy thoughts and imagine yourself in a peaceful place, which can help encourage good dreams. If your nightmares persist, you may want to talk to your doctor to see if there's an underlying cause.

    Sarah Gehrke, RN, MS

    This article was medically reviewed by Sarah Gehrke, RN, MS. Sarah Gehrke is a Registered Nurse and Licensed Massage Therapist in Texas. Sarah has over 10 years of experience teaching and practicing phlebotomy and intravenous (IV) therapy using physical, psychological, and emotional support. She received her Massage Therapist License from the Amarillo Massage Therapy Institute in 2008 and a M.S. in Nursing from the University of Phoenix in 2013. This article has been viewed 1,186,295 times.

    Co-authors: 129

    Updated: September 15, 2021

    Views: 1,186,295

    Categories: Featured Articles | Bad Dreams

    Medical Disclaimer

    The content of this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, examination, diagnosis, or treatment. You should always contact your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional before starting, changing, or stopping any kind of health treatment.

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    • Jessica Noye
      "I have been having recurring nightmares several nights a week due to anxiety and too much stress. I read that meditation and taking a nice bath before bed could help reduce stress, therefore helping preventing nightmares. I gave it a try, and didn't have any nightmares. I now meditate and do yoga before bed, it really does help. "..." more
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    How to Stop Having Nightmares: 14 Steps (with Pictures)
  • Why do you keep experiencing the same nightmare every night?

    Why Do We Have Recurring Nightmares?Causes. Nightmares can occur for a number of reasons, but here are five of the most common. ...Nightmares vs. night terrors. ...Treatments. In many cases, treating recurring nightmares involves treating the underlying condition. ...Lifestyle changes. ...When to see a doctor. ...The bottom line. ...

    Medically reviewed by Shilpa Amin, M.D., CAQ, FAAFPWritten by Eleesha Lockett, MS on January 28, 2019

    Nightmares are dreams that are upsetting or disturbing. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, over 50 percent of adults report having occasional nightmares.Nightmares – Risk factors. (n.d.). http://sleepeducation.org/sleep-disorders-by-category/parasomnias/nightmares/risk-factors However, some people have nightmares that occur more frequently. These are called recurring nightmares. Recurring nightmares tend to happen more often in children than adults.Bad dreams, nightmares, and night terrors: Know the difference. (n.d.). https://www.sleep.org/articles/what-is-a-night-terror/

    Not all recurring nightmares are the same each night. Many nightmares follow similar themes and tropes but may differ in content. Regardless, these nightmares often cause similar emotions once you wake up, including:

    These thoughts and feelings can make it hard to get back to sleep again.

    Recurring nightmares often have an underlying cause. In this article, we’ll explore the common causes for recurring nightmares, as well as treatment options for some of the underlying conditions.

    Nightmares can occur for a number of reasons, but here are five of the most common.

    1. Stress, anxiety, or depression

    Stress is one of the emotions that many people have trouble channeling in a productive manner. Because of this, dreams may be one of the only opportunities for the body to work through those feelings.

    One study hypothesized that stress and trauma from childhood can cause recurring nightmares later in life.Nielsen T. (2017). The stress acceleration hypothesis of nightmares. DOI: 10.3389/fneur.2017.00201 Anxiety and depression can cause nightmares, as well.Pagel JF. (2000). Nightmares and disorders of dreaming. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0401/p2037.html These nightmares may include situations related to self-worth, disease relapse, and for some, even panic attacks.

    2. PTSD

    Up to 71 percent of people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experience nightmares.Levrier K, et al. (2016). Nightmare frequency, nightmare distress and the efficiency of trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder. DOI: 10.5812/atr.33051 PTSD is one of the primary causes of recurring nightmares in adults.

    One of the most common symptoms of PTSD is “re-experiencing,” or having flashbacks to traumatic event or events. Sometimes these flashbacks can manifest as nightmares. For people with PTSD, recurring nightmares can have a variety of negative effects, including:

    • contributing to or worsening PTSD symptoms
    • contributing to or worsening depression
    • reducing sleep quality

    The content of these nightmares can vary from person to person. For some people, these dreams are replicative nightmares in which the original trauma is replayed over and over again.How trauma can affect your dreams. (n.d.). https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/how-trauma-can-affect-your-dreams For others, the nightmares are symbolic to the emotions and feelings of the original trauma.

    3. Underlying medical conditions

    Certain sleep disorders can lead to recurring nightmares. Sleep apnea is a condition characterized by interrupted breathing during sleep. Narcolepsy is a disorder of the nervous system that causes severe daytime drowsiness, hallucinations, and sleep paralysis. Conditions such as these can affect the quality of sleep and may be an underlying cause of recurring nightmares.

    4. Medications

    Certain medications, such as antidepressants, blood pressure medications, and other drugs used to treat specific conditions, can cause nightmares. One older study from 1998 found that the most common nightmare-causing drugs included sedative and hypnotic drugs, beta blockers, and amphetamines.Thompson DF, et al. (1999). Drug-induced nightmares. DOI: 10.1345/aph.18150

    5. Substance abuse

    There are many symptoms of withdrawal that occur from substance abuse, including nightmares. These nightmares may be more intense at the onset of withdrawal but usually taper off within a few weeks of sobriety. Alcohol withdrawal most commonly causes nightmares.

    Although nightmares and night terrors may seem similar, they’re quite different experiences. Nightmares are scary, vivid dreams that usually cause the person to awaken immediately. These dreams are often easily remembered.

    Night terrors are hard to wake up from. A person may experience extreme agitation, such as flailing about, screaming, or even sleepwalking. Despite these physical reactions, people who experience night terrors usually sleep through them.

    Night terrors and nightmares happen during different stages of sleep. When you doze off, you’ll typically move through four stages of sleep. In stages one and two, you’re in a light state of sleep. In stages three and four, you slip into a deeper sleep.

    Roughly every 90 minutes, you enter what is often referred to as the fifth stage of sleep, which is rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Night terrors generally happen when you’re in non-REM sleep, while nightmares occur during REM sleep.

    In many cases, treating recurring nightmares involves treating the underlying condition.

    Depression and anxiety

    Treating conditions such as depression and anxiety, can help to resolve the thoughts and feelings that may be leading to nightmares. Some of the treatment options for these conditions may include:

    • psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
    • medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
    • support groups
    • relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing
    • regular exercise

    Sleep conditions

    Treatment for sleep conditions, such as sleep apnea and narcolepsy, may differ. Sleep apnea is generally treated with breathing machines, medications, lifestyle changes, and in some cases, even surgery.

    Narcolepsy is most often treated with long-term medications, such as stimulants and certain antidepressants.

    PTSD

    If nightmares are caused by PTSD, it’s important to seek professional treatment. There are specific treatments that can be used for PTSD nightmares, such as imagery rehearsal therapy and visual-kinesthetic dissociation.

    Imagery rehearsal therapy involves recalling the nightmare (or nightmares) when awake and changing the ending so that the dream is no longer threatening. Visual-kinesthetic dissociation therapy is another technique used to help rewrite traumatic memories into a new memory that is less traumatizing.Gray R. (2011). NLP and PTSD: The visual-kinesthetic dissociation protocol. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/239938915_NLP_and_PTSD_The_Visual-Kinesthetic_Dissociation_Protocol

    In addition to treating anxiety and depression, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) may also be used for treating nightmares caused by PTSD.

    In one recent study, researchers investigated whether using CBT for PTSD would also help to alleviate trauma-induced recurring nightmares.Levrier K, et al. (2016). Nightmare frequency, nightmare distress and the efficiency of trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder. DOI: 10.5812/atr.33051 Participants of the study received CBT for 20 weeks. The researchers found that after 20 weeks of CBT, 77 percent of participants no longer experienced recurring nightmares related to their PTSD.

    In the case of nightmares caused by PTSD, medication may be used as part of a treatment protocol for the overall disorder. However, outside of PTSD, it’s rare for medication to be used in the treatment of recurring nightmares.

    One of the ways you can reduce recurring nightmares is to create healthy sleep habits by improving your bedtime routine.

    1. Create a sleep schedule. A sleep schedule can help to make sure that you’re getting enough sleep throughout the night. It can also provide some routine stability if you’re experiencing recurring nightmares due to stress or anxiety.
    2. Ditch the electronics. A huge part of getting better sleep is making sure that your body is ready to sleep. The blue light from electronics is known to suppress melatonin, the sleep hormone, making it harder to fall and stay asleep.
    3. Avoid stimulants. Taking stimulants before bed can make it more difficult to fall asleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine can all negatively affect your sleep. Healthy sleep tips. (n.d.). https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-tools-tips/healthy-sleep-tips
    4. Set the stage. You should make sure that your bed, pillows, and blankets are comfortable. In addition, decorating your bedroom with familiar, comforting items can help create a safe space to fall asleep.

    When you experience recurring nightmares, you may find it difficult to fall back asleep again. Here are a few methods you can use to calm yourself down after waking up from a nightmare.

    • Practice deep breathing. If you wake up scared or anxious, deep breathing, also called diaphragmatic breathing, can help to slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure.
    • Discuss the dream. Sometimes, discussing the dream with a partner or friend can help to alleviate some of the anxiety it may have caused. It can also be a good way to reflect on the fact that it’s only a dream, and nothing more.
    • Rewrite the dream. Part of CBT involves rewriting your thoughts and feelings. If you can rewrite the nightmare into something that’s less scary or disturbing, you may find yourself able to fall back asleep again.

    If recurring nightmares are impacting your ability to get good sleep or causing you increased anxiety or depression throughout the day, seek help.

    If your nightmares are related to stress, anxiety, or depression, make an appointment with a health professional for treatment and support. If you don’t already have a mental health professional, the Healthline FindCare tool can help you find a physician in your area. The American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, and Anxiety and Depression Association of America all have resources that you can use to find a mental health professional near you.

    If your nightmares are related to an underlying sleep condition, your healthcare provider may want to order a sleep study. A sleep study is a test that’s commonly performed at an overnight testing facility. The results of the test can help your doctor determine if you have a sleep disorder that may be leading to your recurring nightmares.

    Recurring nightmares usually have an underlying cause. Sometimes, this cause can be related to stress or anxiety, medication use, or even substance abuse.

    If you feel that recurring nightmares are affecting your quality of life, reach out to a doctor or mental health professional. Once you treat the cause of the recurring nightmares, you may be able to reduce or eliminate them for good.

    Last medically reviewed on January 28, 2019

    Recurring Nightmares: Causes, Treatments, and More
Adult Nightmares: Causes and Treatments

There can be a number of psychological triggers that cause nightmares in adults. For example, anxiety and depressioncan cause adult nightmares. Post …

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on May 12, 2021

When you wake up terrified from a disturbing nightmare, you might think you're the only adult who has them. After all, aren't adults supposed to outgrow nightmares?

While it's true nightmares are more common among children, one out of every two adults has nightmares on occasion. And between 2% and 8% of the adult population is plagued by nightmares.

Are your nightmares causing you significant distress? Are they interrupting your sleep on a regular basis? If so, it's important to determine what's causing your adult nightmares. Then you can make changes to reduce their occurrence.

Nightmares are vividly realistic, disturbing dreams that rattle you awake from a deep sleep. They often set your heart pounding from fear. Nightmares tend to occur most often during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, when most dreaming takes place. Because periods of REM sleep become progressively longer as the night progresses, you may find you experience nightmares most often in the early morning hours.

The subjects of nightmares vary from person to person. There are, though, some common nightmares that many people experience. For example, a lot of adults have nightmares about not being able to run fast enough to escape danger or about falling from a great height. If you've gone through a traumatic event, such as an attack or accident, you may have recurrent nightmares about your experience.

Although nightmares and night terrors both cause people to awake in great fear, they are different. Night terrors typically occur in the first few hours after falling asleep. They are experienced as feelings, not dreams, so people do not recall why they are terrified upon awakening.

Nightmares in adults are often spontaneous. But they can also be caused by a variety of factors and underlying disorders.

Some people have nightmares after having a late-night snack, which can increase metabolism and signal the brain to be more active. A number of medications also are known to contribute to nightmare frequency. Drugs that act on chemicals in the brain, such as antidepressants and narcotics, are often associated with nightmares. Non-psychological medications, including some blood pressure medications, can also cause nightmares in adults.

Withdrawal from medications and substances, including alcohol and tranquilizers, may trigger nightmares. If you notice a difference in your nightmare frequency after a change in medication, talk with your doctor.

Sleep deprivation may contribute to adult nightmares, which themselves often cause people to lose additional sleep. Though it's possible, it has not been confirmed whether this cycle could lead to nightmare disorder.

There can be a number of psychological triggers that cause nightmares in adults. For example, anxiety and depression can cause adult nightmares. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) also commonly causes people to experience chronic, recurrent nightmares.

Nightmares in adults can be caused by certain sleep disorders. These include sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome. If no other cause can be determined, chronic nightmares may be a distinct sleep disorder. People who have relatives with nightmare disorder may be more likely to have the condition themselves.

Nightmares become much more than bad dreams when they have a significant effect on your health and well-being. Among people who experience nightmares, those who are anxious or depressed are more likely to be distressed about the experience and suffer even more psychological ill effects. Although the relationship is not understood, nightmares have been associated with suicide. Because nightmares may have a significant impact on your quality of life, it's important to consult a medical professional if you experience them regularly.

Sleep deprivation, which can be caused by nightmares, can cause a host of medical conditions, including heart disease, depression, and obesity.

If nightmares in adults are a symptom of untreated sleep apnea or post-traumatic stress disorder, the underlying disorders can also have significant negative effects on physical and mental health.

Fortunately, there are steps you and your doctor can take to lessen the frequency of your nightmares and the effect they are having on your life. First, if your nightmares are the result of a particular medication, you may be able to change your dosage or prescription to eliminate this unwanted side effect.

For people whose nightmares are caused by conditions such as sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome, treating the underlying disorder may help alleviate symptoms.

If your nightmares aren't illness- or medication-related, don't despair. Behavioral changes have proven effective for 70% of adults who suffer from nightmares, including those caused by anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

Imagery rehearsal treatment is a promising cognitive behavioral therapy for recurrent nightmares and nightmares caused by PTSD. The technique helps chronic sufferers change their nightmares by rehearsing how they would like them to transpire. In some cases, medications may be used in conjunction with therapy to treat PTSD-related nightmares, though their efficacy has not been demonstrated as clearly as that of imagery rehearsal treatment.

There are a number of other steps you can take on your own that may help reduce your nightmare frequency. Keeping a regular wake-sleep schedule is important. So is engaging in regular exercise, which will help alleviate nightmare-causing anxiety and stress. You may find that yoga and meditation are also helpful.

Remember to practice good sleep hygiene, which will help prevent the sleep deprivation that can bring on nightmares in adults. Make your bedroom a relaxing, tranquil place that is reserved for sleep and sex, so that you don't associate it with stressful activities. Also, be cautious about the use of alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine, which can remain in your system for more than 12 hours and often disrupt sleep patterns.

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Nightmare Meanings: 9 Common Bad Dreams And What They Mean

19-06-2018 · Even the most well-adjusted people have frightening or distressing dreams now and again. Sometimes, you might find yourself having unusually frequent

19-06-2018
Nightmare Meanings: 9 Common Bad Dreams And What They Mean

Even the most well-adjusted people have frightening or distressing dreams now and again. Sometimes, you might find yourself having unusually frequent nightmares or even repeatedly experience the same awful dream. In the worst cases, you can end up with disturbed sleep and images from your nightmares may haunt you for the rest of the day. But can you learn anything about yourself by thinking about the themes of these sorts of dreams? Sleep studies and psychological research suggest that you can and that your nightmares may, in fact, be a very useful guide to unmet needs and unresolved issues in your life.

If you've ever asked yourself “what do my dreams mean?”, this beginner's guide will help you get a handle on any underlying messages from your subconscious. We'll explore the nature of nightmares, and then look at what an expert dream analyzer would say about nine of the most common.

The Definition Of Nightmares

Not all negative dreams qualify as nightmares. To be nightmares, bad dreams need to be vivid experiences that make you feel sad or scared. Nightmares take place during the REM (rapid eye movement) phase of sleep, usually after you've been asleep for several hours. Often, it will feel like nightmares last for a particularly long time, and it's common to remember many of the details when you wake.

Nightmares are common in both childhood and adult life. You may experience more of them (or have nightmares that have a greater level of intensity) when you're facing a time of high stress.

If you have a nightmare disorder, you can end up avoiding sleep in order to escape these types of dreams, and you may begin to suffer from chronic exhaustion. If you're worried about the frequency or nature of your dreams, talk to your doctor; sleep specialists and therapists may be able to help with nightmare disorder treatment.

9 Nightmares And What They Mean

Nightmares come in thousands of different forms, and no two are entirely alike. When it comes to meanings, nightmares are often easier to analyze if you look at the key themes or events taking place.

However, a dream's meaning isn't always as obvious as you might think. As we go through nine of the most common bad dreams meanings, think about when you last had a dream like this (and what was going on in your life at the time). In retrospect, you'll likely be able to see connections between your nightmares and the things that were most troubling to you at the time.

1. Seeing The Dead

When you first start experimenting with an interpretation of your dreams, you are likely to think that seeing the dead is about missing a specific person or fearing for your own safety.

In some cases (e.g. when you dream about an uncle you lost in the last year), your mind really is just trying to process your grief. At other times (e.g. when you're waiting on the results of important medical tests), you might be struggling with an increased awareness of your own mortality.

However, it's also wise to look beyond the surface here. For example, dream specialists say that seeing dead people in your dreams can indicate a general difficulty with letting something go; that could be anything from a job to a relationship or a house.

So, if there is no particularly emotionally evocative content to your dream, think instead about something from which you might be afraid to move on.

2. Teeth Falling Out

When nightmares are explained, their meanings can sound baffling at first. Dreams about losing your teeth are a good example. A shockingly large number of people have had at least one nightmare in which their teeth began to fall out or were forcibly removed. Most of the research around this type of dream suggests that it relates to some type of underlying insecurity or anxiety. For example, perhaps you're about to leave your comfort zone for some reason. Or, maybe, you're feeling like you're falling short of expectations in some important part of your life.

On the other hand, nightmares about losing teeth can also be linked to insecurities about physical appearance. Perhaps you might have recently felt unattractive, or maybe you're having difficulty with the way you're changing as you get older.

Ask yourself what might be making you insecure, and come up with 3-5 things you can do to tackle this anxiety.

3. Partner Leaving

If you're in a generally happy relationship, the idea of your partner leaving might be one of the very worst things you imagine.

First, it's important to look at your relationship and consider what might be making you feel less secure. In some cases, the origin of your fears will be obvious (e.g. worries about infidelity). At other times, it might only be on reflection that you realize your fear you're not good enough for your partner. If the latter is the case, consider where these negative messages might be coming from in your past.

If you're not in a relationship but you dream that you are with a partner and are subsequently left, this can indicate that you're anxious about the possibility of never meeting the right person. However, there's always room to be proactive in looking for love; you just have to be willing to take a few calculated risks!

4. Getting Injured

There are lots of different ways you can be wounded in a dream. Your nightmare might involve anything from a painful cut to a disfiguring accident or to major burns. In all cases, the prevailing theory is that dreams about injuries are usually connected to feeling weak or powerless in some aspect of your life. This is particularly likely if you dream about having a broken leg or another major fracture.

Ask yourself where you might be feeling weak, and why. If you work on the source of weakness, you're less likely to have this nightmare again in the future.

As with nightmares about teeth, dreaming that you're injured in a way that has a huge impact on your looks can also signal insecurities about your appearance. For example, perhaps you are worried that someone only values you for your looks (and that if you didn't have them, you would not be worthy of love).

5. Being Trapped

If you have a phobia of being trapped, you're not alone. As well as being a common fear, this is also a frequent nightmare for many people, and it can mean a variety of different things. Sometimes, it merely reflects your phobia, in the same way, that dreaming of spiders might relate to your irrational fear of these insects.

(Do you have a phobia? Click here to read our 6 top tips on overcoming an irrational fear.)

That being said, nightmares about being physically trapped can also be a sign that you feel psychologically trapped in some way.

You might feel trapped in an unfulfilling relationship, or you may feel hemmed in by debt, limited at work, or stuck in a particular location. As with the above nightmares, addressing the “stuckness” in your waking life can stop the dreams.

And if you can't change your circumstances, perhaps changing your perspective on them might be enough. Challenge yourself to think of 5 good things about the place you're currently at in life.

6. Falling

Just as dreaming about flying is one of the most commonly reported positive dreams, many people experience awful nightmares about falling. Whether you fall down from something, fall out of a plane or just find yourself falling with no explanation, you can wake up with a racing heart and a deep feeling of helplessness.

Often, the sources of these nightmares will be a degree of anxiety you feel in your waking life; worries about being out of control in some way, with an underlying feeling that a negative outcome is inevitable.

Just remember that no matter what your circumstances, there's always room to exercise your agency and work towards something better. When you've figured out what makes you feel out of control, look for at least one thing you can control. And if there truly is nothing you can change, consciously turn your energy towards a different area of your life; one you can influence.

7. Being Chased or Attacked

If you speak to psychologists who specialize in dreams, they'll tell you that the most frequently reported nightmares involved being chased or attacked. You might be running from monsters, hurt by people you know, or in peril due to the actions of strangers.

In all such cases, the underlying theme is most likely to be fear; often of confrontation, and what it could mean.

This could be a highly personal type of confrontation (e.g. one with a partner), a professional confrontation with high stakes (e.g. one with a boss), or it might even be that you're scared of any and all forms of conflict.

When you're being chased, what this tells you is that you're trying to evade conflict, but that deep down you know it's likely something you have to face. The key is to face it on your own terms and to give some serious thought to the main points you want to make to the other person.

If your sleep is affected by this, why not consider a self-hypnosis to improve sleeping.

8. Nudity

The classic nudity dream involves suddenly finding yourself naked in front of your old high school class, or during a work presentation. This is a nightmare that can sound funny in the abstract, but when experienced, is very humiliating and degrading. The message from these sorts of dreams is that you're afraid of being judged (whether by one person or more broadly).

And if you have this nightmare on a regular basis, it could be that fear of judgment is actually holding you back.

It is only when you learn to live in an authentic way that you can truly find and follow your purpose. If you spend all your time trying to please others, you lose sight of what you really want. It can be helpful to consider that you likely give a great deal more thought to the question of how people see you than these people themselves actually give to judging you!

9. Missing Important Events

Finally, missing important events is common nightmare fuel. It could be an exam, your wedding, a job interview, a medical appointment or anything else that matters a great deal to you.

Regardless of what the event is, the nightmare will likely revolve around you feeling stressed, mortified, and sad. Unsurprisingly, the theme here is about expectations and your worries that you might not be able to live up to some such expectations.

If you frequently dream about missing important events, ask yourself what expectations make you feel anxious.

Are they personal or professional? Life-long or recent? Answering these questions will give you a clue as to whether you need to do some self-reflective work on your early life or rather just need to take a critical look at the present. It can also be useful to think about the contrast between expectations and reality. Do you think you have realistic expectations of yourself, or are you a perfectionist?

Do You Have Vivid Dreams Every Night? Here's What It May ...

Moreover, some people have the ability to have vivid dreams every night. Dreams. Strictly speaking, no one yet fully understands why it is that people dream, much less why they have vivid dreams at night. The current theory is that dreams help our long-term memory, to the point where some people now think dreams are part of the mechanism to sort through and discard any memories which are not ...

Are you one of the people with vivid dreams every night? Read on.

You probably know that sleep is something we do to rest and recharge. It is very important in healing, too, which further tells people that the body completely shuts down during the process.

We have known for a while now that the opposite is true. While the body may be asleep, the brain is still very much awake. What happens during this time is dreaming – the brain shows us imagery that it has collected throughout its life.

Some people remember all their dreams; others don’t. At the same time, some people have the ability to recall every detail about their dreams, and it is this which is called vivid dreaming. Moreover, some people have the ability to have vivid dreams every night.

Dreams

Strictly speaking, no one yet fully understands why it is that people dream, much less why they have vivid dreams at night.

The current theory is that dreams help our long-term memory, to the point where some people now think dreams are part of the mechanism to sort through and discard any memories which are not valuable. Whatever the reason for dreaming, most people feel refreshed afterwards, even if they do not remember it.

Dreaming takes place during REM sleep, which makes up around twenty-five percent of your nightly rest. REM cycles come around every ninety minutes and can last between twenty and twenty-five minutes.

The average adult requires between seven and nine hours of sleep a night to be at peak health, which means that there is a lot of potential for vivid dreams.

When it comes to dreams, scientists found that people were most likely to remember the last dream in their REM cycle. This does not apply to vivid dreams since they are intense enough to be remembered no matter their place in the cycle.

Vivid dreams can be good and bad, realistic or completely fantastical – it all depends on how you take them.

Nobody knows what causes vivid dreams every night, but there are some theories:

You might be…stressed

Stress is definitely something that can cause you to have vivid dreams frequently or even every night. It doesn’t matter what it is that causes the stress, be it a near-death experience, work troubles, family politics, or the like.

These types of problems can often lead to extremely vivid dreams every night, many of which can be very negative and intense. Nightmares can be triggered by seemingly the smallest amounts of stress, although interestingly, what people have found is that the vivid dreams are not necessarily bad, and they are not necessarily linked to the business at hand.

You might be…abusing drugs

This can refer to either the drug abuse itself or the withdrawals from said drugs. Vivid dreams have been linked to the use and abuse of such drugs as Lariam, the various types of barbiturates, anti-depressants and narcotics.

Alcohol is another drug that causes vivid dreaming. Unfortunately, these types of vivid dreams are more likely to be unpleasant, leading people to be disturbed.

The withdrawal from many drugs, especially when abusive behaviours have been present, has a corresponding effect on brain chemistry. While your brain reacts to the changes that are taking place, you might find that you have vivid dreams at night as a side effect.

You might be…suffering from indigestion

Interestingly, certain types of food seem to cause vivid dreams. Of course, if you are having vivid dreams every night, then it might be time to consult a doctor since it could be the result of food intolerance.

However, vivid dreams are also associated with certain foods, such as spicy food, or fatty foods. Protein is something that works to cut vivid dreams out of your system.

When vivid dreams are your reality every night, it could be from a number of reasons, There could be too much vitamin B6 in your system, or you could have low blood sugar. Either of these is something that needs to be checked out if you have vivid dreams every night.

You might be…suffering from a sleep disorder

Sleep disorders come in a variety of forms. They cover disordered sleeping, such as when you have jet lag, are moving too quickly from time zone to time zone, and when you change your sleep schedule in any significant ways.

Actual sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy and (interestingly) insomnia, can also lead to vivid dreams on a regular basis.

You might be…suffering from an undiagnosed health condition

There are several health conditions that go above and beyond normal stress, which can lead to vivid dreaming every night. These can include normal depression and anxiety, but they can also include schizophrenia and other more major health concerns.

Physical health problems have also been known to lead to frequent vivid dreams at night, including heart disease and cancer.

You might be…pregnant

Pregnancy causes a lot of changes within a woman’s body, particularly during the first trimester. Many women have reported that they experience vivid dreams at night during the early stages of their pregnancy.

References:

  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com
  2. https://www.bustle.com

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the power of misfits
What’s Causing Those Freaky Dreams?

Everyone dreams every night -- even if we don't remember our dreams. Tom Scammell, MD, associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, says no ...

Whether it’s falling off a cliff or public nudity, find out what may be causing those vivid, crazy dreams.

Medically Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on July 22, 2010

Consider this freaky dream. You're at a black-tie gala in a fancy hotel banquet room with lots of other people. You're all having a good time eating dinner, dancing, and talking. When it's time to go, you look for your purse, but it's gone. As you anxiously search for it, a fast-moving river appears out of nowhere, bisecting the room. Your purse is floating on the river, but you can't reach it. It is moving too swiftly. When you awaken, you're filled with a sense of panic.

Now if you plugged the dream into an online dream analyzer, such as you might find at Freakydreams.com, you'd learn that a purse is a symbol for wealth and resources, a hotel represents transition, and a river connotes emotion. Since you have been living through a kitchen remodeling -- with its attendant financial stresses and upheavals -- this dream echoes and amplifies what's going on in your waking life.

Human beings dream, and so do, scientists believe, most mammals and some birds. On the most basic level, a dream is the experience you have of envisioned images, sounds, or other sensations while you sleep. They are an internal mental process. But dreams are actually much more than that.

Sigmund Freud's theory was that your dreams are an expression of what you're repressing during the time you are awake. And Carl Jung believed that dreams provide messages about "lost" or "neglected" parts of our selves that need to be reintegrated. Many dreams simply come from a preoccupation with the day's activities. But some offer rich, symbolic expressions -- an interface between the conscious and the unconscious that can fill in the gaps of our self-knowledge and provide information and insight.

In his book The Three "Only" Things: Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence, and Imagination, Robert Moss writes, "Dreams are open vistas of possibility that take us beyond our everyday self-limiting beliefs and behaviors. Before we dismiss our dream lover, our dream home or our dream job as unattainable -- 'only a dream' -- we want to examine carefully whether there are clues in the dream that could help us to manifest that juicy vision."

Everyone dreams every night -- even if we don't remember our dreams.

Tom Scammell, MD, associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, says no one knows why we dream. "There is a strong movement in the research community to research how sleep improves memory and learning," Scammell says. "One speculative possibility is that dreaming allows you the opportunity to practice things you may or may not ever have to do, like running away or fighting off a predator."

Three or four times a night, you have a period of sleep that lasts approximately 90 minutes called REM -- rapid eye movement -- sleep. It is during REM sleep that your brain is more active. And according to Scammell, it's then that conditions are right for "story-like" dreams that are rich in action, complexity, and emotion.

"You are most likely to recall dreams if you wake at the end of a REM episode," says Scammell. "Americans, who are chronically sleep-deprived, probably miss out on some REM sleep. This builds up pressure for REM sleep. So when you're catching up on your sleep, you may have more REM sleep with more intense dreams."

Scientists have long debated whether dreams have meaning. But those who work with their dreams, either independently or with the aid of dream interpreters, believe that understanding dreams can provide meaningful clues to feelings, thoughts, behaviors, motives, and values.

Artists, entrepreneurs, inventors, and scientists often get creative ideas from dreams. Jeff Taylor dreamed up monster.com. Jack Nicklaus had a dream of a new golf grip. And Nobel laureate and scientist Wolfgang Pauli called dreams his "secret laboratory."

Kelly Sullivan Walden is a certified clinical hypnotherapist and dream coach. In her book I Had the Strangest Dream...: The Dreamer's Dictionary for the 21st Century, she divides dreams into eight categories:

  • Processing
  • Venting (nightmares)
  • Integration
  • Breakdown/breakthrough
  • Recurring
  • Precognitive
  • Prophetic
  • Wish fulfillment

The most common, she says, are recurring and venting dreams.

Moss gives an example of a predictive dream: "One of the biggest oil discoveries in history ... resulted from a dream of a retired British colonial official living in Kuwait in 1937. Colonel Dickson's dream revealed a specific location near an unusual sidr tree in the Burqan hills. The Kuwait Oil Company, which had been drilling dry holes far away, was persuaded to move a rig to the location identified from the dream and hit a gusher."

Processing dreams can be used to diagnose and solve physical and emotional problems.

"Some of our dreamscapes are living dioramas of what is going on inside our bodies," explains Moss. "The ancient Greek physician Galen used dreams to diagnose patients' complaints. A friend of mine was alerted to a problem when her dead father appeared to her in a dream, accompanied by a doctor and yelled 'Get to a doctor at once! You have breast cancer!' She acted on that dream and believes that it helped save her life."

Eva Van Brunt is the West Coast media manager at the law firm DLA Piper. She thinks pregnancy is contributing to the intensity and vividness of her dreams. "It's been remarkable -- and a little annoying. Last night I dreamt I was in the security line at an airport and couldn't find my license. I woke up in an utter panic, and it took a few moments to realize the dream was not real."

But she's also found her vivid dreams helpful.

"A few days ago, I couldn't find my camera anywhere in my house. I grew quite anxious and ended up looking for it until bedtime without success. Eventually I got to sleep. Next thing I know, I am having a very vivid dream." The dream, she says, was about a concert she and her husband were at a month earlier. She was walking up to the gate and saw a no cameras sign and found herself getting flustered because she had one in her purse. Her husband suggested she put the camera in an inside zipper pocket of her purse because it likely wouldn't get searched. "In the dream, that's what I did. And it's also what I had done on the night of the concert." The next morning, she found the camera in the inner pocket of her purse. "The only thing I can think," she says, "is that my body triggered the memory to alleviate the anxiety."

What are we to make of the crazy dreams of adults?

Cognitive scientist and Duke University professor Owen Flanagan is the author of Sleep, Dreams & the Evolution of the Conscious Mind. He has written that "Bizarreness will increase ... the more you have on your mind."

Bert. O. States, professor emeritus of dramatic arts at the University of California, Santa Barbara, agrees. In a paper called "Dream Bizarreness and Inner Thought," he writes, "Dreams are a psychical prism through which reality somehow gets refracted -- as opposed to reflected."

Deidre Barrett is the immediate past president of the International Association of the Study of Dreams and author of Committee of Sleep. She says all dreams are a little strange by waking thought standards. "But artists and scientists report dreams we call bizarre or weird as quite positive or interesting or having creative potential."

Moss tells WebMD, "Crazy dreams may actually be crazy like a fox, using wild dramas and special effects to get us to remember and pay attention to something we have been blocking out -- or simply to lighten up."

All of us can recall strange dreams. But interpreting and understanding them can be tricky.

Some of the most common dreams include teeth falling out (indicating a possible fear of aging or death), falling (loss of confidence or threat to security), or public nudity (feelings of vulnerability or exposure of weakness). These are examples of archetypal dreams that exist across time, culture, and people.

But most dreams are intensely personal. They reflect the underlying thoughts and feelings of the dreamer. Symbols -- images or objects with obvious meaning in daily life -- serve as metaphors, representing something partially known. A lion in a dream, for example, can mean something different to a circus performer than to a teen who claims it as her favorite stuffed animal. By examining each dream element and looking for parallels between associations, you can decipher a dream's meaning.

"Even if it doesn't initially make sense to you, contemplate the dream, meditate on it, marinate in it," suggests Sullivan Walden. "Pretend you are on a treasure hunt. Your interest in uncovering the mystery of what your dreams are telling you will lead you to the gold that is waiting for you."

Barrett says that you can explore dreams on your own, with a peer-led dream group, or with friends. "We are often blind to our own issues and associations. But someone else can see things objectively."

Moss recommends you play the 'What Part of Me' game -- pretending that everything in the dream is a part of you and notice what its condition or behavior may be saying to you about yourself. "In your dream house, for example, if there's a problem with the plumbing or a room you have never explored, what could that be saying about a part of you that needs some TLC or a part of your potential that is waiting to be recognized and opened up."

Another technique he offers is to listen for puns and double entendres. "If there's a train on the tracks in your dream, could it be prompting you to think about what 'track' you are on, what 'line' you are following? Say your dream features shoes. A shoe has a 'sole,' which sounds like 'soul,' so maybe the condition of your footwear in a dream says something about the state of your vital energy."

Recurring dreams can continue for days, weeks, months, and even years.

Barrett says the majority of people over a lifetime have recurring dreams. "They are more important, on average, than other dreams. They are probably your unconscious trying to tell you something, a more significant issue."

She says there are two key clusters of recurring dreams. Most of them are nightmares, though some are positive or neutral in nature.

"The single likeliest [dreams] to get locked in are posttraumatic dreams, where you are reliving something that happened while you were awake," she says. Soldiers or victims of violence may experience such recurring dreams. "The details unfold like they do in real life but often go one step further. The thing you are most afraid of in real life presents in the dream."

The other type of recurring dream is one where you haven't experienced the trauma in your waking life. "These dreams include monsters and surreal, impossible settings," she says. "They are much more metaphoric. Sometimes symbolism is obvious, sometimes it's quite a puzzle."

Should we be concerned about recurring themes? Barrett says only if the content is troubling. In the case of disturbing posttraumatic stress dreams, she recommends seeking help from a therapist. "They will diminish over time."

Some people can remember several dreams a night. Others recall dreams only occasionally or not at all.

"People differ greatly in dream content, both the intensity and recall," says Scammell. Interestingly, according to Barrett, women and younger people report greater dream recall, as do those who sleep for longer periods of time.

Dreams are by their nature, uncontrollable. But there are things you can do to increase your dream retention:

  • Get enough sleep. Those who sleep for longer periods of time enjoy more REM sleep, resulting in more dreams and possibly greater memory of them.
  • Employ the power of suggestion. Experts recommend that before you go to sleep, remind yourself that you want to remember your dreams.
  • Keep a journal. Have a pen and paper or a recorder at your bedside so you can log your dreams when you awaken before hopping out of bed. If not immediately recorded, dreams become elusive and difficult to retrieve.
  • Get curious. When you first wake up, lie still, stay quiet, and see if you can recall a dream. It may flood over you. Mull it over. Having an open mind, reading about dreams, and discussing them actively with friends and family may encourage future dreaming.
  • Limit drug and alcohol intake. Sleep and, by extension, dreams are affected by alcohol. And medications, including antidepressants, can induce crazy dreams or even nightmares. Talk to your doctor about the effects of drugs on your dreams.
© 2008 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. View privacy policy and trust info
Why Do I Have Bad Dreams Every Night?

15-12-2021 · Nightmares caused by stress and fear Nightmares often arise when you are under a lot of stress. Perhaps you have too much work, or you feel tense or uneasy because you are expected to do too much. Fear of failure and uncertainty may, without a doubt, result in recurring bad dreams. 2. Nightmares caused by trauma

15-12-2021
reason of bad dreams

Small traumas experienced during the day, old traumas, inner conflict, or even digestive problems can be the source of nightmares. Fortunately, most people rarely get it. But some people face the problem of having nightmares every night. Often these are recurring nightmares. What do these bad dreams hide? What are the causes behind them? Is it possible to avoid nightmares every night? Let’s try to find our answers!

What Is A Recurring Nightmare? 

Have you ever asked yourself: what is a recurring nightmare?  It is a terrifying dream in which the dreamer experiences feelings of helplessness, extreme anxiety, sorrow, etc. According to researchers, more than half of individuals experience occasional nightmares. Some people, however, suffer more from frequent nightmares. These are referred to as recurring nightmares. As reported in the same research, children are more likely than adults to have recurring nightmares

Many nightmares contain similar themes and motifs, yet their content varies. Regardless, these dreams frequently result in similar emotions when you wake up, such as anger, despair, guilt, and anxiety. These thoughts and emotions might make it hard to fall asleep again. Even bad dreams every night can affect a person’s daily life. To be able to control these nightmares and better comprehend “why do I have recurring nightmares?”, you should first understand the reasons behind them.

4 Reasons Of Having Bad Dreams Every Night

The brain processes what you have experienced during the day, at night. As a result, nightmares are one way of dealing with your experiences. Nightmares occur when you are worried or have gone through a traumatic experience. This is also why children have more nightmares than adults, since they catch a large number of fresh impressions in a short period of time. Let’s look at some of the most common causes of recurring nightmares, as well as some of the treatment methods for some of the underlying conditions.

1. Nightmares caused by stress and fear

Nightmares often arise when you are under a lot of stress. Perhaps you have too much work, or you feel tense or uneasy because you are expected to do too much. Fear of failure and uncertainty may, without a doubt, result in recurring bad dreams

2. Nightmares caused by trauma

 An untreated trauma or a dramatic event may be a reason for your recurring nightmare meaning. In this case, it is called post-traumatic stress disorder, and it may result in contributing to or worsening PTSD symptoms. Reliving this traumatic experience each time could make the nightmare even more intense for those who could not get over their traumas.  

3. Nightmares caused by drugs or alcohol

Some medications like antidepressants, as well as illness or high fever, might cause nightmares as a side effect. Excessive drug and alcohol consumption often leads to sleep disturbances as well.

4. Nightmares during pregnancy

Research shows that pregnant women have more nightmares than women who are not. Are you a future mom? These vivid dreams are probably due to a change in the hormonal balance or to the anxieties you have. You should see these dreams as a perfectly normal thing, and should not be afraid of these bad dreams. Even after birth, you may still have some nightmares.

The most important feature of recurring nightmares is that while having these dreams, the anxiety and fear they create do not subside in time, even though you know that it is a nightmare, and you will wake up soon. In order to overcome this fear, you first need to know what the content of the dream was. In many cases, treating recurring nightmares involves treating the underlying reasons. To be able to find the underlying reasons, you should remember your nightmares. bad dreams every night meanings can vary from person to person. You should start by writing down your nightmares in a dream journal. In order not to forget the details, keep a pen and paper by your bed and write down all the details as soon as you wake up. Alternatively, you can download “Dreambook Journal”, an application where you may track and analyze your dreams to view important points. Recurring nightmares are often the result of fear or anxiety. To understand the situation, person or event caused by your fear, you should analyze the content of your dream with an objective view. Compare the notes you take on different days and determine if there has been a change in your dreams. Even reading your dream through your phone and analyzing it will help you to ease your fears.

What Causes Nightmares? 7 Common Triggers

10-04-2019 · Depression: Mood issues related to such life changes as divorce or break-up, death of a loved one, financial woes, and career concerns can lead to nightmares in some of us. Eating before bedtime. That late snack increases metabolism, causing the brain to become more active, leading to more dream time.

10-04-2019

You may remember, as a kid, occasionally waking up in a cold sweat, startled out of your slumber by one of those frighteningly vivid nightmares. Perhaps the experience still pops up from time to time; bad dreams may be more common in children, but adults aren’t immune to them. Around 85 percent of adults report having at least one nightmare in the past year, while 8 to 29 percent of us have monthly nightmares. Either way, those startling dreams beg the question, “What causes nightmares?”

It would help to understand what nightmares are. Unfortunately, there’s more mystery than quantifiable fact surrounding nightmares. For now, here’s what we do know about these “stories” that play out in our minds while we sleep: They’re “lengthy, elaborate dreams with imagery that evokes fear, anxiety, or sadness,” as Psychology Today puts it. “The dreamer may wake up to avoid the perceived danger.”

Nightmares are unique to each of us, they’re personal, and they’re so fleeting that we often don’t remember much about them. And there are any number of factors that trigger them. What causes nightmares for you, however, may not have the slightest effect on anyone else.

HOW COMMON ARE NIGHTMARES?

While nightmares can be disturbing for a child, they’re a normal part of our development. And we don’t necessarily outgrow them. According to Sleep.org, some 50 percent of adults experience nightmares.

What Causes Nightmares

So what causes nightmares? Here are seven common triggers:

  1. Anxiety and stress: Worried about work? Stressing about a relationship? Such common issues can manifest themselves in sleep-depriving nightmares.
  2. Depression: Mood issues related to such life changes as divorce or break-up, death of a loved one, financial woes, and career concerns can lead to nightmares in some of us.
  3. Eating before bedtime. That late snack increases metabolism, causing the brain to become more active, leading to more dream time. And a study published by International Journal of Psychophysiology reported that spicy food and junk food (candy bars, ice cream, and other sugary treats) trigger more brainwaves. A study published in The Journal of The Mind and Body showed that seven of 10 participants had nightmares after eating junk food just before bedtime.
  4. Lack of sleep: Overtired from sleeplessness? That very condition could cause even more sleeplessness in the form of disturbing nightmares—a vicious circle.
  5. Sleep disorders: Restless leg syndrome, twitching while sleeping, sleep apnea—all of these types of conditions can bring on nightmares.
  6. Medications: Some prescriptions (antidepressants, for example) affect brain chemicals, so nightmares you’ve been having could be related to medications you’re on.
  7. Withdrawal: Giving up medications (including sleeping pills and antidepressants) or substances (including alcohol) also can result in nightmares.

Haunted by Nightmares?

The Academy of Sleep Medicine describes nightmares as “recurrent episodes of awakening from sleep with recall of intensely disturbing dream mentation, usually involving fear or anxiety, but also anger, sadness, disgust, and other dysphoric emotions.”

If you’re worried that nightmares are a warning of some sort, relax. Don’t take them literally. In nightmares, we feel like we have no control over the imaginary scenes that are playing out, but they’re just that: imaginary. However, they do often reflect fears or obsessions.

According to Dreams.co.uk, the 10 most common bad dream themes are:

  1. Our teeth falling out
  2. Being chased
  3. Being unable to find a toilet
  4. Being naked in public
  5. Being unprepared for an exam
  6. Flying
  7. Falling
  8. Being in an out-of-control vehicle
  9. Finding an unused room
  10. Being late

Are Nightmares Bad for Our Health? The Surprising Answer

If nightmares are recurrent enough, they can develop into what’s known as “nightmare disorder.” The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders defines nightmare disorder as “repeated awakenings with recollection of terrifying dreams, usually involving threats to survival, safety, or physical integrity.”

NIGHT TERRORS VS. NIGHTMARES

Nightmares aren’t the same as night terrors. The latter condition, more common in children, is characterized by screaming, thrashing, and panic. For more, see our post “What Are Night Terrors?”

Fortunately, nightmare disorder is rare. However, there’s no doubt that recurring nightmares also may cause fatigue. We may have difficulty falling back asleep after nightmares because of their disturbing nature. In a classic domino effect, the fatigue can carry over into our work performance and/or interfere with family or social life.

But there’s a flip side: Research also shows that bad dreams actually may be helpful in getting us to move beyond a traumatic event. Nightmares can serve as an emotional release from anxiety that may be weighing on our minds; in fact, they’re normal reactions to stress we’ve been experiencing. “We think nightmares are so common that they have some purpose to process stressors,” Anne Germain, director of the Sleep and Chronobiology Center at the University of Pittsburgh, told CNN in 2017.

Being haunted even by traumatic events may be helpful, research shows, and experts think they could actually be beneficial. “Nightmares in the first few weeks after a traumatic event have not been associated with health problems,” reported CNN’s Carinna Storrs.

One study illustrates that more than 20 percent of women who were victims of sexual or physical assault were experiencing nightmares about the event three months later. Another study shows that survivors of serious car and motorcycle accidents also were having nightmares months later.

This article was originally published in 2018. It is regularly updated. 

Nightmare disorder - Symptoms and causes - Mayo Clinic

This content does not have an English version.This content does not have an Arabic version. A nightmare is a disturbing dream associated with negative feelings, such as anxiety or fear that awakens…

This content does not have an English version.

This content does not have an Arabic version.

A nightmare is a disturbing dream associated with negative feelings, such as anxiety or fear that awakens you. Nightmares are common in children but can happen at any age. Occasional nightmares usually are nothing to worry about.

Nightmares may begin in children between 3 and 6 years old and tend to decrease after the age of 10. During the teen and young adult years, girls appear to have nightmares more often than boys do. Some people have them as adults or throughout their lives.

Although nightmares are common, nightmare disorder is relatively rare. Nightmare disorder is when nightmares happen often, cause distress, disrupt sleep, cause problems with daytime functioning or create fear of going to sleep.

  • Book: Mayo Clinic Guide to Raising a Healthy Child

Symptoms

You're more likely to have a nightmare in the second half of your night. Nightmares may occur rarely or more frequently, even several times a night. Episodes are generally brief, but they cause you to awaken, and returning to sleep can be difficult.

A nightmare may involve these features:

  • Your dream seems vivid and real and is very upsetting, often becoming more disturbing as the dream unfolds.
  • Your dream storyline is usually related to threats to safety or survival, but it can have other disturbing themes.
  • Your dream awakens you.
  • You feel scared, anxious, angry, sad or disgusted as a result of your dream.
  • You feel sweaty or have a pounding heartbeat while in bed.
  • You can think clearly upon awakening and can recall details of your dream.
  • Your dream causes distress that keeps you from falling back to sleep easily.

Nightmares are only considered a disorder if you experience:

  • Frequent occurrences
  • Major distress or impairment during the day, such as anxiety or persistent fear, or bedtime anxiety about having another nightmare
  • Problems with concentration or memory, or you can't stop thinking about images from your dreams
  • Daytime sleepiness, fatigue or low energy
  • Problems functioning at work or school or in social situations
  • Behavior problems related to bedtime or fear of the dark

Having a child with nightmare disorder can cause significant sleep disturbance and distress for parents or caregivers.

When to see a doctor

Occasional nightmares aren't usually a cause for concern. If your child has nightmares, you can simply mention them at a routine well-child exam. However, consult your doctor if nightmares:

  • Occur frequently and persist over time
  • Routinely disrupt sleep
  • Cause fear of going to sleep
  • Cause daytime behavior problems or difficulty functioning
Request an Appointment at Mayo Clinic

Causes

Nightmare disorder is referred to by doctors as a parasomnia — a type of sleep disorder that involves undesirable experiences that occur while you're falling asleep, during sleep or when you're waking up. Nightmares usually occur during the stage of sleep known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. The exact cause of nightmares is not known.

Nightmares can be triggered by many factors, including:

  • Stress or anxiety. Sometimes the ordinary stresses of daily life, such as a problem at home or school, trigger nightmares. A major change, such as a move or the death of a loved one, can have the same effect. Experiencing anxiety is associated with a greater risk of nightmares.
  • Trauma. Nightmares are common after an accident, injury, physical or sexual abuse, or other traumatic event. Nightmares are common in people who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Sleep deprivation. Changes in your schedule that cause irregular sleeping and waking times or that interrupt or reduce the amount of sleep you get can increase your risk of having nightmares. Insomnia is associated with an increased risk of nightmares.
  • Medications. Some drugs — including certain antidepressants, blood pressure medications, beta blockers, and drugs used to treat Parkinson's disease or to help stop smoking — can trigger nightmares.
  • Substance misuse. Alcohol and recreational drug use or withdrawal can trigger nightmares.
  • Other disorders. Depression and other mental health disorders may be linked to nightmares. Nightmares can happen along with some medical conditions, such as heart disease or cancer. Having other sleep disorders that interfere with adequate sleep can be associated with having nightmares.
  • Scary books and movies. For some people, reading scary books or watching frightening movies, especially before bed, can be associated with nightmares.

Risk factors

Nightmares are more common when family members have a history of nightmares or other sleep parasomnias, such as talking during sleep.

Complications

Nightmare disorder may cause:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness, which can lead to difficulties at school or work, or problems with everyday tasks, such as driving and concentrating
  • Problems with mood, such as depression or anxiety from dreams that continue to bother you
  • Resistance to going to bed or to sleep for fear you'll have another bad dream
  • Suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts

Request an Appointment at Mayo Clinic
  1. Zak R, et al. Nightmares and nightmare disorder in adults. https://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 6, 2021.
  2. Nightmare disorder. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. American Psychiatric Association; 2013. https://dsm.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed April 6, 2021.
  3. Kotagal S. Parasomnias of childhood, including sleepwalking. https://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 6, 2021.
  4. AskMayoExpert. Parasomnias. Mayo Clinic; 2020.
  5. Parasomnias. Merck Manual Professional Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic-disorders/sleep-and-wakefulness-disorders/parasomnias. Accessed April 6, 2021.
  6. Morgenthaler TI, et al. Position paper for the treatment of nightmare disorder in adults: An American Academy of sleep medicine position paper. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 2018; doi:10.5664/jcsm.7178.
  7. Gieselmann A, et al. Aetiology and treatment of nightmare disorder: State of the art and future perspectives. Journal of Sleep Research. 2018; doi:10.1111/jsr.12820.
  8. Nightmares. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. http://www.sleepeducation.org/sleep-disorders-by-category/parasomnias/nightmares. Accessed April 6, 2021.
  9. Olson EJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. April 11, 2021.
newhealthadvisor.org

06-06-2019 · It could be that the isolated nerve impulses from the pons in REM sleep are being interpreted by the cortex while we sleep so that a story is created out of this random brain activity. Why Do I Dream So Much? Scientists do not know why some people dream a lot and others do not. However, it is true that there are those who have dreams that last for a longer time during the night and are more …

06-06-2019

Everyone dreams, and there are many types of dreams, some of which are not remembered after awakening. Dreams represent images and stories we create in our mind during sleep, and can be very vivid and make you feel afraid, sad, or happy. They may seem rational or be extremely confusing. You may ask: why do I dream so much? It may be that you have lots of REM sleep, which is the time when dreaming is most prevalent.

Dreaming and Sleep

Most people dream at least two hours every night, although the exact reason we dream is not completely understood. Sigmund Freud had a lot to say about dreaming. He believed that dreams represented our unconscious needs and desires. It was only in the early 1950s that scientists identified REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep state in babies. After that, there was more research on sleep and the phenomenon of dreaming. They discovered that most of the dreams we have happen during the REM stage of sleep.

Some scientists came to the belief that we dream because the brain is trying to find meanings in signals received when we are in REM sleep. The cortex of the brain is the part that organizes environmental information while we are awake. It could be that the isolated nerve impulses from the pons in REM sleep are being interpreted by the cortex while we sleep so that a story is created out of this random brain activity.

Why Do I Dream So Much?

Scientists do not know why some people dream a lot and others do not. However, it is true that there are those who have dreams that last for a longer time during the night and are more vivid than others’. It could mean that there is a great emotional burden some people are experiencing so that they actually have nightmares. It is not considered dangerous to dream excessively or to have really vivid dreams.

You may be dreaming a lot because you have a lot to think about. According to Freud, dreams happen because we have inner conflicts that need working out in our subconscious. Other scientists believe that dreams are a way to organize or categorize our thoughts and memories. It is suspected that we have about four or more dreams per night but many people don’t remember them.

However, some factors may be associated with excessive dreaming:

Worrying and Depression

There are several reasons why you might ask yourself “why do I dream so much”. It’s possible that you are depressed. People who suffer from depression tend to dream more often because they experience more emotional arousal. Depression is associated with strong emotions and heavy rumination. It causes excessive worry about things that aren’t easily solved. These unresolved issues need to go somewhere and they sometimes are acted out in our brains. If we can’t solve the problems during the day, our brain attempts to solve them in our sleep through dreaming.

Pregnancy

Women tend to dream more often during pregnancy. The number of dreams goes up, especially those that are vivid or unusual. While this isn’t a pleasant experience, having these types of dreams may be lucky. A study out of Israel revealed that women who had scarier dreams also had a decreased risk of postpartum depression. Another study in Italy showed that women who had upsetting dreams often had shorter labors.

Sleep Disorders Related to Dreams

There is a condition known as REM behavior disorder or RBD. People who have this disorder don’t just left wondering “why do I dream so much?” Instead they tend to physically act out their dreams. They will move their legs around or get out of bed to act out whatever they are dreaming of. They can engage in unusual behaviors such as screaming, shouting, talking, punching, or hitting people in their sleep. People with RBD also have dreams during the REM sleep, but lack the muscles paralysis experienced by normal people during this phase.

People who have excessive dreaming can suffer from nightmare disorder as well. This involves having a dream that is negative in nature so that the person experiences fear or anxiety when dreaming. Nightmares are extremely common and they are not dangerous. They only become problematic if they interrupt your sleep or make it difficult for you to go to sleep. You can be diagnosed with nightmare disorder if you have recurrent nightmares that interfere with your daily functioning. Nightmare disorder usually starts in teens and can last throughout a person’s life.

How Can I Improve My Sleeping?

If you ask yourself “why do I dream so much?” there are ways you can learn to sleep better. Some of these include:

  1. Maintain a regular schedule. Try to get to sleep at the same time every night and awaken at the same time in the morning. This sets a specific sleeping and waking cycle so you sleep more easily at night.
  2. Eat and drink moderately before bedtime. You should never go to bed straightly after a big meal or when you are hungry. These can interfere with your sleep. Also, you shouldn’t drink too much before sleeping or you will have to get up during the night to urinate.
  3. Have a nighttime ritual. Wind down every night in the same way. It might mean that you take a nice bath before retiring or that you read books or listen to music before going to bed. This can make the shift from daytime to nighttime much easier for you. Try not to use television to fall asleep as this may interfere with your sleep quality.
  4. Keep the environment comfortable. Make sure the room is dark, cool and silent. Try using a fan, earplugs or a shade to keep the environment more suitable for you to sleep. You need to also have a comfortable pillow and mattress.
  5. Avoid taking naps. If you take a long nap during the day, you will be less likely to fall asleep at night. If you must nap, keep it short—less than thirty minutes. If you are a night shift worker, you need to sleep during the day. You should keep the shades drawn so that your sleep isn’t interrupted by sunlight.
  6. Exercise during the day. If you exercise during the day, you will have a better quality of sleep. You need to exercise at least five hours before go to sleep as exercising too close to bedtime will be too energizing.
  7. Lessen stress. If you live a stressful life, you are less likely to be able to sleep well. Try managing your stress during the day so that you can sleep better at night. Set aside any worries you might have for the next day.
So What Causes Bad Dreams?

05-07-2014 · We may dream about simple, everyday things that we feel insecure about, like our performance at work or how our next date will go. These typical issues can often be bound up with powerful emotions in our dreams. Individuals with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder often dream about their traumatic event, including war, car crash, rape, or terrorism. The extreme levels of fear and stress these individuals …

05-07-2014

so what causes bad dreams

We all have bad dreams from time to time. They are simply a normal part of life. If we listen to our dreams, even the bad ones, they may provide us with clues to help us overcome our fears.

So Why Do We Have Bad Dreams?

If you want to turn your bad dreams in to a positive experience, it is important to understand what causes bad dreams. The stresses and anxieties of our daily lives are often translated into our dream material. This may even be true of past traumas, like the death of a loved one or the divorce of parents at a very young age.

Dream material doesn't have to be from the past to make it into our bad dreams. We may dream about simple, everyday things that we feel insecure about, like our performance at work or how our next date will go. These typical issues can often be bound up with powerful emotions in our dreams.

Individuals with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder often dream about their traumatic event, including war, car crash, rape, or terrorism. The extreme levels of fear and stress these individuals experience around the event is translated into their dream material and plagues them at night. Knowing what causes bad dreams is the first step in overcoming their presence in our lives.

What Do Bad Dreams Mean?

what do bad dreams meanEven if we don't consciously feel burdened by past traumas, they may make their ways into our dreams. This is a sign that we have unresolved tension around these issues, and our bad dreams are actually trying to communicate with us so that we can let those tensions go.

Dreams about being abandoned or being alone may indicate that we are having feelings of isolation and unhappiness in waking life. Dreaming about past opportunities that weren't fulfilled, like being offered a spot on a professional baseball team but choosing to go to college instead, may indicate that we are filled with regret and need to let go of the past. Even the dreams about every day occurrences can be telling us something; very often it is that we just need to relinquish control and relax.

So what do bad dreams mean? They mean that there is an issue or memory causing tension in our psyche. If we can find out what it is and let it go, our bad dreams will often decrease or go away altogether.

Having Bad Dreams Every Night

While occasional bad dreams are normal, having them every night indicates that there is an extreme level of stress or overwhelm that needs to be dealt with. Nightmares can be trying, but they are an important way to learn about ourselves and to help resolve inner issues.

Recurring bad dreams are common in young children who are undergoing stress, like being bullied at school or experiencing the divorce of a parent. The emotions that these children are unable to express during the day come up in their dreams at night. This is true of adults as well.

In order to work with the content of bad dreams, it is important to ask yourself what they mean. The disturbing feelings experienced in nightmares are often a rehashing of feelings experienced during the day, so acknowledging those waking feelings and letting them go is a powerful way to quell nightmares. Making a practice of replaying the nightmare in your mind and consciously changing the ending of the dream is another effective way to end the loop of fear and stress to create a new way of relating to the content.

How to Analyze Your Bad Dreams

If you have bad dreams, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What emotions do I feel during my bad dreams? Do I ever feel those emotions in the daytime? During what circumstances?
  • Do my bad dreams contain people, places, or events from my past? If so, how do I relate to those details?
  • For bad dreams about the past; how can I let go of past events to move forward with my life?
  • For bad dreams about something happening in the present; how can I work with my current situation to provide relief? Is there an alternative outcome I can create?

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Vivid Dream Causes: Why They Happen and How to Stop Them

26-06-2018 · Sleep disorders. Sleeping issues that cause a lack of sleep, such as insomnia and narcolepsy, can increase one’s risk of experiencing vivid dreams. Changes to …

26-06-2018

What are vivid dreams?

While we think of sleep as a time for recharging the body, the brain is actually quite active during sleep — dreaming. Our dreams can be soothing or scary, mysterious or helpful, and realistic or fantastical.

Sometimes we wake up and have no idea that we’ve dreamed, while other times, we can closely recall our dreams because they were so intense. These are known as vivid dreams.

Brain scientists aren’t sure why humans dream in the first place, but they think it has something to do with memory.

Dreaming might help the brain eliminate any unnecessary information or memories while processing and storing what’s important. Some people feel more refreshed after having had slept and dreamed, even if they do not remember dreaming.

People are most likely to remember the last dream they’ve had in their sleep cycle. But it’s possible to remember a vivid dream long after it’s occurred if it seemed very intense.

Vivid dreams can be positive or negative, realistic or fantasy. Scientists know that most heavy dreaming occurs during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep normally cycles every 90 minutes during a night of sleep and may last 20 to 25 minutes.

About 25 percent of an adult’s night of sleep is spent in REM cycles. The average adult should get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night for optimal health. That’s a lot of time for dreaming!

So, what causes vivid dreams? Scientists aren’t completely sure. But they think the following factors may play a part.

Stress or anxiety

Difficulties real and imagined can cause a person to experience stress and anxiety in their daily life. Problems with friends, family, school, or work can trigger intense dreams as can big events like getting married or buying a house.

Stressed caused by traumatic events, such as a death of a loved one, sexual abuse, or a car accident can also cause vivid dreams. Anxiety, in particular, is associated with an increased risk of disturbing and intense nightmares.

Sleep disorders

Sleeping issues that cause a lack of sleep, such as insomnia and narcolepsy, can increase one’s risk of experiencing vivid dreams.

Changes to your sleep schedule, such as flying overseas (and going to sleep at a different time) or getting less sleep than usual, can also increase this risk.

Medications

There are some medications that have been reported to contribute to vivid dreams. These medications include many antidepressants, beta blockers, blood pressure medications, Parkinson’s disease drugs, and drugs to stop smoking.

Substance abuse

Using alcohol in excess, using recreational drugs, or experiencing a withdrawal from drugs can trigger vivid dreams, often nightmares.

Other health disorders

In addition to stress and anxiety, other mental health conditions, such as depression and schizophrenia, are associated with vivid dreams. Physical illnesses, like heart disease and cancer, have also been associated with vivid dreams.

Early pregnancy

Pregnancy can trigger changes in the body’s hormone levels, sleep patterns, and emotions. Many pregnant women say they experience vivid dreams, especially during the early days of their pregnancy.

Normally, vivid dreams are nothing to worry about. Sometimes they may only affect you during a certain part of your life.

But negative vivid dreams, especially if they last for weeks or months, can be emotionally disturbing and disruptive to your sleep. And that can cause health problems.

Some common side effects of vivid dreams include:

  • Daytime sleepiness. This can cause concentration and memory problems that can affect your productivity at school or work. It can even affect your ability to carry out everyday tasks, such as driving or taking a shower. Even the smallest tasks can become dangerous if you get distracted.
  • Mood problems. Vivid dreams can be emotionally draining, causing depression or anxiety symptoms. This can be an especially concerning problem if your vivid dreams persist over time.
  • Resisting sleep. You may find that you consciously or subconsciously avoid going to bed or falling asleep because you fear you’ll have another bad dream.
  • Suicidal attempts or thinking. Some people have reported suicidal thoughts (ideation) secondary to troubling dreams. This is extremely serious. If you have attempted or are considering suicide, get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Try the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. It’s important to get help right away.

It isn’t always possible to pinpoint an exact cause of vivid dreams. In many cases, these dreams will go away over time.

But if your vivid dreams are causing you emotional distress or physical problems, you might benefit from medical treatment or lifestyle modifications.

Schedule an appointment with your doctor or a sleep specialist to try to determine what treatments or lifestyle modifications are right for you.

Here are some of the common treatments for vivid dreams.

Medical intervention

If your vivid dreams are caused by an underlying mental or physical health condition, you can reduce your risk of vivid dreams by treating that condition.

Staying healthy

Eating well, maintaining a healthy weight, getting enough sleep, maintaining a regular sleep schedule, drinking enough water, and looking after your mental health can help prevent vivid dreams.

Coping with stress and anxiety

Everyone experiences stress and anxiety, but some people are better at coping with it than others. If you feel that your stress and anxiety levels are out of control, you might want to consider:

  • meditation
  • deep breathing
  • relaxation techniques
  • art therapy
  • exercise
  • other activities that can ease your stress

Another major thing you can do is to make sure you always reserve some time for relaxation during the day so you don’t feel overwhelmed. A racing mind can result in vivid dreams and sometimes nightmares.

Imagery rehearsal therapy

This treatment is often used for people experiencing vivid dreams, especially nightmares, as a result of trauma. This therapy, done with a mental healthcare professional, involves changing the ending to a nightmare you remember when you’re awake until it no longer becomes threatening.

Your mental healthcare provider will ask you to continue playing over the new, nonthreatening ending to the dream in your mind. This therapy is designed to reduce a person’s frequency of vivid dreams — especially nightmares.

Medication

Most doctors don’t recommend use of medication to treat vivid dreams. However, in the case of nightmares induced by trauma, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, a doctor may consider prescribing sleeping medication or anti-anxiety medication to help induce sleep.

How to Stop Having Nightmares Every Night

How to Stop Having Nightmares Every Night. Nightmares can generated great anguish, stealing minutes and even hours of sleep leaving us completely nervous, and in some cases are so real...

How to Stop Having Nightmares Every Night

Nightmares can generated great anguish, stealing minutes and even hours of sleep leaving us completely nervous, and in some cases are so real that they make us face our worst fears. Falls, the death of a loved one, persecution, being late somewhere and being paralyzed are the recurring themes of such dreams. Prevention is possible so here at OneHowTo.com we give you some tips to discover how to stop having nightmares every night .

Steps to follow:

1

There are several reasons why we can have nightmares, such as traumatic situations, health conditions and high anxiety. If you want to know.

2

One of the main causes of nightmares is stress, so it is important to make an effort to reduce anxiety in our lives, so they can not interfere with our sleep.

How to Stop Having Nightmares Every Night - Step 2

3

Stimulants such as coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks and even alcohol before bed can increase our chances of having nightmares, so avoid consuming them at night.

How to Stop Having Nightmares Every Night - Step 3

4

Have a light dinner, as too heavy a dinner could generate physical discomfort, which interferes with the quality of your sleep, and can lead to nightmares. Eatinc heavily will also make your brain more active at night, thus making your imagination vere towards nightmares more frequently.

How to Stop Having Nightmares Every Night - Step 4

5

If there is noise at night, for example the sound of air conditioning, heating, pipes etc. at home, it is recommended to sleep with earplugs. Although you are probably not aware of the noise, the brain can detect it and being an annoying disturbance, it can turn into a nightmare.

How to Stop Having Nightmares Every Night - Step 5

6

Ther are exercises and relaxation techniques that can help you stop nightmares. Physical activity will help you sleep better, while disciplines such as yoga or meditation are a great help to release tension.

How to Stop Having Nightmares Every Night - Step 6

7

Children between 5 and 12 years experience nightmares more commonly , among other things because they are very impressionable. Prevent your child from watching TV before bedtime and from being too excited such as watching something which generates fear or letting them be present in an argument etc.

How to Stop Having Nightmares Every Night - Step 7

8

Make sure you get your 8 hours of sleep per day, as sleep deprivation can also cause recurring nightmares, creating a vicious circle that will make it more difficult to get the amount of rest you really need. Also make sure you go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.

How to Stop Having Nightmares Every Night - Step 8

9

Make sure you don't have a sleep disorder such as sleep apnoea. It has been proved that people with this kind of disorder are more prone to nightmares. Hypnagogic hallucinations and sleep paralysis can also cause nightmares that seem even more real. Consult a specialist for help.

How to Stop Having Nightmares Every Night - Step 9

10

There are techniques to help you stop nightmares. The first thing you need to understand is that nightmares happen in your head, so your own psyche has a lot to do with what happens in your dreams. Before going to sleep, make sure you remember that if you have a nightmare you can change the ending into something good. Think of the perfect ending to your dream while you fall asleep to have better ones.

If you have recurring nightmares it's important to analyze how it is connected to your real life, as it may be connected to your own anxiety or fear. Once you have understood where it's coming from and understand your nightmare you'll find an ending to that recurring nightmare.

How to Stop Having Nightmares Every Night - Step 10

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If nightmares have been initiated following a medical treatment, it is advisable to visit a specialist to determine the cause of this response. There are many antidepressants and blood pressure related drugs that can also cause nightmares in adults. Similarly if, far from being occasional, it becomes very frequent it is advisable to seek expert help.

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to How to Stop Having Nightmares Every Night, we recommend you visit our Mental health category.

Tips

  • You may want to purchase an air freshner or add flowers to your bedroom, as it is said that nice smells can favour good dreams.
Nightmares in Children: Causes and Prevention

Some medications may also cause nightmares or disturbing dreams. Which children are more likely to get nightmares? Most children experience at least one nightmare. Chronic or very frequent nightmares happen less often. Nightmares in children can happen at any age, but they usually start between the ages of 3 and 6, and decrease after age 10. After age 12, girls are more likely than boys to ...

An estimated 10%-50% of children aged 3-6 years have nightmares that can seem terrifyingly real. Here are ways to help your child cope with and reduce the risk of having these bad dreams — and when you'll need to call the doctor.

Nightmares in children are scary or frightening dreams that usually wakes them up. These dreams usually occur in the last third of the night, when we have more rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. They can involve fear or anxiety, and other emotions like anger, sadness, embarrassment or disgust.

For children, nightmares seem very real to children and they may have trouble returning to sleep after a nightmare. Some kids may also resist bedtime because they want to avoid bad dreams.

What causes nightmares in children?

The exact cause of nightmares isn’t known. They’re more likely when kids are overtired or experiencing stress. Children who have experienced traumatic events may have frequent nightmares. Some medications may also cause nightmares or disturbing dreams.

Which children are more likely to get nightmares?

Most children experience at least one nightmare. Chronic or very frequent nightmares happen less often.

Nightmares in children can happen at any age, but they usually start between the ages of 3 and 6, and decrease after age 10. After age 12, girls are more likely than boys to have nightmares.

Types of nightmares differ by developmental stage. Younger kids are likely to have nightmares about being separated from their caregivers or seeing a monster. Older kids are likely to have nightmares related to scary movies, or upcoming stressors like starting a new school.

Can I reduce my child's risk of having nightmares?

Steps to take to reduce your child's likelihood of nightmares include:

  • Make sure they get enough sleep. Kids often need more sleep than they regularly get (check out recommendations from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine for optimal hours for each age group). Enough sleep can cut down on the number and intensity of nightmares.
  • Keep the bedtime routine light and happy. In the 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime, don’t let your child watch scary movies or TV shows, or read frightening bedtime stories. Try to avoid material that may be upsetting.
  • Talk about the nightmare during the day. Work to see if there is a theme to the nightmares – especially if they are occurring frequently. The dreams may be about school, worry about family or other issues that are bothering them. Work to identify stressors in your child's life, and talk about them.
  • Comfort and reassure your child. This is a time when comfort and cuddling is appropriate. Stay with your child for a short period of time following the nightmare. Most will still be tired and able to return to sleep soon. Other tips:
    • Encourage your child to go back to sleep in their own bed. Avoid excessive attention or pampering. But let your child snuggle with any favorite soft toy or security blanket through the rest of the night.
    • Avoid keeping bright lights on in the bedroom, but a night light can bring comfort.
    • Consider leaving the bedroom door open to show your kids that home is safe and you’re close-by.
  • Work out ways to overcome nightmares. Together you and child can find creative ways to help them outgrow nightmares. Read stories about getting over nighttime fears. Draw pictures of nightmares and then tear them up and throw them away as a symbolic gesture. Whatever creative solution you think may work is worth trying.

Strategies for overcoming nighttime fears

Fear of the dark, monsters in the closet or simply anxiety about going to bed – all are relatively common in young children at some point during their childhood. How you, as a parent or any caregiver, address your child's fears and offer reassurance will affect their ability to fall and stay asleep.

Some tips to help your child overcome nighttime fears:

  • What is your child afraid of? Begin by identifying the fear. Listen to your child. Ask open-ended questions that allows them to tell you what makes them scared at bedtime. Don’t make fun of your child's fears. What may seem funny or trivial to you is very real to your child.
  • Reassure your child's safety. If your child has a hard time being separated from you, be reassuring, but then tuck your child back into their own bed, not yours! Be gentle yet firm about staying in bed.
    • If your child calls out, ask again what’s wrong, then assure them everything is OK, they’re safe, nothing will bother them — and that they can sleep comfortably alone in their bed all night. This helps them to trust their own bed is a safe place. It’s better to comfort your child in their own room than to let them leave their bedroom and sleep elsewhere.
    • Another option is to promise you’ll regularly check in on them, beginning at two to five minutes, then every 10 minutes, then every 15 minutes, etc., until they’re asleep. Show you’re there to watch over them and they’re not alone.
  • Work on building up your child's self-confidence and coping skills. During daytime hours, work on activities that help build self-confidence. For example, have your child talk about their bedtime fears and experiences. You may be able to discuss alternative ways to respond to these fears or cope with them that may help your child feel less afraid at night.
  • Don’t forget positive reinforcement and/or reward programs. This can take the shape of a sticker program (turned in for a favorite treat). Breakfast treats, small toys or other special prizes are just a few ways to reward your child. Use positive phrases: "You are doing a great job of staying in bed." And remember to encourage your child to discuss their fears with you in the daytime.

Sleep terrors

Some children who have nightmares may also have sleep terrors, which differ from nightmares. Sleep terrors are most likely to happen during the first third of the night when child is in a deep sleep. They are not awake during these episodes. Sleep terrors usually last five to 10 minutes and can be very alarming. Your child may shout, scream, kick and flail, sit up suddenly and appear terrified. Despite the intensity of sleep terrors, children don’t remember it happening in the morning, unlike a nightmare.

Don’t try to wake, calm or soothe a child during a sleep terror because it increases the risk of another episode later in the night. Sleep terrors are very distressing to caregivers, but the child isn’t aware that they’re happening. Remember that the child is actually still asleep. Don’t talk with your child about sleep terror in the morning. This may make them more anxious that something frightening is happening at night without them knowing.

If your child seeks comfort and shows clear signs of being awake — speaking in a way that you can understand them or walking with their eyes open — then they probably had a nightmare. You may help soothe them back to sleep. If the child isn’t showing those signs, then wait before responding because they may stay asleep through the sleep terror.

When should I call my child’s doctor?

Consider calling your doctor if:

  • Your child's bedtime fear and anxiety continue, are severe, or grow worse.
  • Your child's fears began after a known traumatic experience or event and persist well after the event is over.
  • Your child's fear interrupts daytime activities.
  • Your child's nightmares are very distressing and repetitious or psychological issues are involved. In such cases, psychological techniques like desensitization and relaxation strategies may work. In adolescents, guided dream imagery training may help.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/09/2020.

References

  • American Academy of Pediatrics. Nightmares and Night Terrors in Preschoolers. (https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/preschool/Pages/Nightmares-and-Night-Terrors.aspx) Accessed 9/21/2020.
  • National Sleep Foundation. Nightmares in Children. (https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/nightmares-in-children) Accessed 9/21/2020.
  • American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Recharge with sleep: Pediatric sleep recommendations promoting optimal health. (https://aasm.org/recharge-with-sleep-pediatric-sleep-recommendations-promoting-optimal-health/) Accessed 9/21/2020.
  • National Sleep Foundation. Night Terrors: When to Talk With a Doctor. (https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/night-terrors-when-talk-doctor) Accessed 9/21/2020/
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Why Am I Having Weird Dreams?

20-07-2021 · Post-traumatic stress disorder can also induce nightmares. PTSD is a condition where some shocking and stressful events continue to haunt you long after their occurrence. Survivors of traumatic events with PTSD are more likely to get vivid dreams. …

20-07-2021

Have you ever dreamt of falling off a cliff or robbers chasing you? 

You might wake up feeling anxious and disturbed. But why do you get weird dreams?

Nightmares are common in kids. But grownups also are haunted by them. Research shows that about 29% of adults experience disturbing dreams. Several reasons might lead to this condition. We will take you through them in this article.

What Do Dreams Mean?

According to Sigmund Freud, dreams indicate your repressed thoughts when you are awake. So, your dreams are the expression of those thoughts you push at the back of your mind while awake. It might be a lofty desire or socially unacceptable behavior.

Another psychologist Carl Jung argued that dreams tell you about the neglected parts of yourself. Thus, they boost your self-awareness and provide insights into your mind.

Dreams can therefore act as an excellent bridge between your conscious and unconscious mind. It is not a wise idea to ignore them as insignificant. Your strange dreams might try to give you a signal. You never know.

Girl riding giant dragonfly to the moon in dreams

Causes of Weird Dreams

You must have wondered, “Why are my dreams so weird?” Experts are yet to find a definite answer. But here are some exciting reasons that might lead you to have nightmares.

1. A heavy and spicy dinner

What you eat impacts your sleep. If you have a spicy dinner, you might have trouble falling asleep. As a result, you might get some crazy dreams.

Your meal size also matters. For instance, you gobble up tonnes of delicacies at your friend’s birthday party. What would be the effect? You might end up tossing and turning in your bed. That is the ideal condition for disturbing dreams.

Does eating late cause weird dreams? Well, having your dinner late will not give enough time for digression. Thus, you will go to bed with incomplete digestion. It can raise your body temperature and prevent you from getting sound sleep, causing unpleasant dreams.

A lot of events in daily life cause you anxiety. Quarrels with friends, office politics, and financial difficulties are some of them. They might even give you scary dreams. 

A study conducted with 147 participants shows a direct relationship between anxiety, depression, stress, and nightmares. Thus, the more stressed out you are in your wakeful life, the higher the chances of getting bad dreams.

Post-traumatic stress disorder can also induce nightmares. PTSD is a condition where some shocking and stressful events continue to haunt you long after their occurrence. Survivors of traumatic events with PTSD are more likely to get vivid dreams. And those can be the exact recollections of the events.

3. Spending too much time on your phone or TV

If you love binge-watching your favorite shows before sleeping, you might get weird dreams every night. Watching a TV show might be an excellent way to relax after a tiring day. But the blue light emitted from your devices can do the foul play.

Children often struggle to fall asleep after watching something scary. That is because they are unable to differentiate between the real and virtual worlds. Do you remember those haunting fictional characters from your childhood? Some of them could send shivers down your spine.

Studies, however, show that even adults find it hard to sleep after watching horror movies and shows. Thus, scary events strike us hard, whether they are in the virtual or real world.

Limiting your screen time before going to bed might be a good idea. Substance Abuse

Alcohol and drug addiction can lead to dreams and nightmares. Too much alcohol consumption can mess up your sleep and take you to the land of not-so-pleasant dreams.

Using recreational drugs or even experiencing a withdrawal from drugs can lead to strange dreams.

4. Taking sleep supplements

Sleep supplements like melatonin can help you fall asleep in no time. However, they are one of the leading causes of weird dreams.

A 2015 case report looked at the effects of melatonin on a person who has insomnia. It shows that the person started having nightmares while consuming the drug. However, it stopped as soon as they discontinued the medicine.

Experts are yet to find a definite answer to this. However, it might be because melatonin induces a stronger REM cycle, leading to intense dreams. But more research needs to be done on the effects of melatonin on your dreams.

Natural sleep aids are far better. Dump supplements and take magnesium for sleep instead.

5. Getting off medicines

Suppose you are taking antidepressants and the doctor suggests discontinuing them. That might have several side effects including vivid weird dreams.

Antidepressants alter the level of neurotransmitters in your brain. So, stopping these medicines all of a sudden will affect how these neurotransmitters behave. And, that can influence your dreams.

6. Pregnancy

Many women report having weird dreams during pregnancy. It might be because pregnancy causes several hormonal changes in the body. That, in turn, can lead to emotional disturbances, causing unpleasant dreams.

How to Stop Having Weird Dreams?

If you are thinking about how to stop having weird dreams, here are some superb tips for you.

Manage your stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety are like your loyal partners in everyday life. However, you have to cope with them well. Here’s how you can cope with stress like a pro.

  • Deep breathing
  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Going for walks
  • Connecting with nature
  • Indulging in your hobbies

You should also get enough rest every day. That will prevent your mind from getting overwhelmed with too many thoughts.

Eat healthy

A healthy and balanced diet will solve half of your problems in life. So, cut down on those unnecessary carbs. You can include more fruits and vegetables in your diet. That will keep you energetic and fresh throughout the day. Also, make sure you drink a lot of water and stay hydrated.

What are the foods that cause weird dreams? Well, oily and spicy stuff or anything hard to digest can affect your dreams.

You have tried everything under the sun. But you are still wondering, “Why are my dreams so weird and random?” Then it is time for you to seek medical help. Some physical or mental health problems might be troubling you.

Your doctor will be able to guide you best about solving your problem. They don’t usually recommend medication. However, if the problem is due to stress and anxiety, they might suggest some antidepressants or mood uplifters.

Final Word

You must never ignore your dreams. They can make you aware of an underlying condition. And, when you take care of it, you can lead a better life.

Now that you know why do we have weird dreams, you can work towards preventing them.

Read our blog here and know how to drift off to sleep easily.

FAQs

We dream during REM ( rapid eye movement ) sleep. It is because the brain stays super active during this phase. Moreover, dreams are the expressions of our repressed thoughts and desires.

Eating late might make it hard to digest your food. You will have trouble sleeping. And, that is when you can get strange dreams.

Taking melatonin supplements can cause weird dreams. However, more research is required to arrive at a definite conclusion.

Research shows that COVID 19 can affect the consciousness of patients. It can lead to confusion, clogged memory, and impair your sleep patterns.

If you eat just before bed, your body will have a tough time digesting the food. Hence, you won’t be able to sleep well and can get disturbing dreams.

Dreams: Why We Dream & How They Affect Sleep

30-10-2020 · Debate continues among sleep experts about why we dream. Different theories about the purpose of dreaming include: Building memory: Dreaming has been associated with consolidation of memory, which suggests that dreaming may serve an important cognitive function of strengthening memory and informational recall.

30-10-2020

Dreams are one of the most fascinating and mystifying aspects of sleep. Since Sigmund Freud helped draw attention to the potential importance of dreams in the late 19th century, considerable research has worked to unravel both the neuroscience and psychology of dreams.

Despite this advancing scientific knowledge, there is much that remains unknown about both sleep and dreams. Even the most fundamental question — why do we dream at all? — is still subject to significant debate.

While everyone dreams, the content of those dreams and their effect on sleep can vary dramatically from person to person. Even though there’s no simple explanation for the meaning and purpose of dreams, it’s helpful to understand the basics of dreams, the potential impact of nightmares, and steps that you can take to sleep better with sweet dreams.

What Are Dreams?

Dreams are images, thoughts, or feelings that occur during sleep. Visual imagery is the most common, but dreams can involve all of the senses. Some people dream in color while others dream in black and white, and people who are blind tend to have more dream components related to sound, taste, and smell.

Studies have revealed diverse types of dream content, but some typical characteristics of dreaming include:

  • It has a first-person perspective.
  • It is involuntary.
  • The content may be illogical or even incoherent.
  • The content includes other people who interact with the dreamer and one another.
  • It provokes strong emotions.
  • Elements of waking life are incorporated into content.

Although these features are not universal, they are found at least to some extent in most normal dreams.

Why Do We Dream?

Debate continues among sleep experts about why we dream. Different theories about the purpose of dreaming include:

  • Building memory: Dreaming has been associated with consolidation of memory, which suggests that dreaming may serve an important cognitive function of strengthening memory and informational recall.
  • Processing emotion: The ability to engage with and rehearse feelings in different imagined contexts may be part of the brain’s method for managing emotions.
  • Mental housekeeping: Periods of dreaming could be the brain’s way of “straightening up,” clearing away partial, erroneous, or unnecessary information.
  • Instant replay: Dream content may be a form of distorted instant replay in which recent events are reviewed and analyzed.
  • Incidental brain activity: This view holds that dreaming is just a by-product of sleep that has no essential purpose or meaning.

Experts in the fields of neuroscience and psychology continue to conduct experiments to discover what is happening in the brain during sleep, but even with ongoing research, it may be impossible to conclusively prove any theory for why we dream.

When Do We Dream?

On average, most people dream for around two hours per night. Dreaming can happen during any stage of sleep, but dreams are the most prolific and intense during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage.

During the REM sleep stage, brain activity ramps up considerably compared to the non-REM stages, which helps explain the distinct types of dreaming during these stages. Dreams during REM sleep are typically more vivid, fantastical, and/or bizarre even though they may involve elements of waking life. By contrast, non-REM dreams tend to involve more coherent content that involves thoughts or memories grounded to a specific time and place.

REM sleep is not distributed evenly through the night. The majority of REM sleep happens during the second half of a normal sleep period, which means that dreaming tends to be concentrated in the hours before waking up.

Do Dreams Have Meaning?

How to interpret dreams, and whether they have meaning at all, are matters of considerable controversy. While some psychologists have argued that dreams provide insight into a person’s psyche or everyday life, others find their content to be too inconsistent or bewildering to reliably deliver meaning.

Virtually all experts acknowledge that dreams can involve content that ties back to waking experiences although the content may be changed or misrepresented. For example, in describing dreams, people often reference people who they recognize clearly even if their appearance is distorted in the dream.

The meaning of real-life details appearing in dreams, though, is far from settled. The “continuity hypothesis” in dream research holds that dreams and waking life are intertwined with one another and thus involve overlapping themes and content. The “discontinuity hypothesis,” on the other hand, sees thinking during dreams and wakefulness as structurally distinct.

While analysis of dreams may be a component of personal or psychological self-reflection, it’s hard to state, based on the existing evidence, that there is a definitive method for interpreting and understanding the meaning of dreams in waking, everyday life.

What Are Types of Dreams?

Dreams can take on many different forms. Lucid dreams occur when a person is in a dream while being actively aware that they are dreaming. Vivid dreams involve especially realistic or clear dream content. Bad dreams are composed of bothersome or distressing content. Recurring dreams involve the same imagery repeating in multiple dreams over time.

Even within normal dreams, there are certain types of content that are especially identifiable. Among the most recognizable and common themes in dreams are things like flying, falling, being chased, or being unable to find a bathroom.

What Are Nightmares?


In sleep medicine, a nightmare is a bad dream that causes a person to wake up from sleep. This definition is distinct from common usage that may refer to any threatening, scary, or bothersome dream as a nightmare. While bad dreams are normal and usually benign, frequent nightmares may interfere with a person’s sleep and cause impaired thinking and mood during the daytime.

Do Dreams Affect Sleep?

In most cases, dreams don’t affect sleep. Dreaming is part of healthy sleep and is generally considered to be completely normal and without any negative effects on sleep.

Nightmares are the exception. Because nightmares involve awakenings, they can become problematic if they occur frequently. Distressing dreams may cause a person to avoid sleep, leading to insufficient sleep. When they do sleep, the prior sleep deprivation can induce a REM sleep rebound that actually worsens nightmares. This negative cycle can cause some people with frequent nightmares to experience insomnia as a chronic sleep problem.

For this reason, people who have nightmares more than once a week, have fragmented sleep, or have daytime sleepiness or changes to their thinking or mood should talk with a doctor . A doctor can review these symptoms to identify the potential causes and treatments of their sleeping problem.

How Can You Remember Dreams?

For people who want to document or interpret dreams, remembering them is a key first step. The ability to recall dreams can be different for every person and may vary based on age. While there’s no guaranteed way to improve dream recall, experts recommend certain tips:

  • Think about your dreams as soon as you wake up. Dreams can be forgotten in the blink of an eye, so you want to make remembering them the first thing you do when you wake up. Before sitting up or even saying good morning to your bed partner, close your eyes and try to replay your dreams in your mind.
  • Have a journal or app on-hand to keep track of your dream content. It’s important to have a method to quickly record dream details before you can forget them, including if you wake up from a dream in the night. For most people, a pen and paper on their nightstand works well, but there are also smartphone apps that help you create an organized and searchable dream journal.
  • Try to wake up peacefully in the morning. An abrupt awakening, such as from an alarm clock, may cause you to quickly snap awake and out of a dream, making it harder to remember the dream’s details.

Remind yourself that dream recall is a priority. In the lead-up to bedtime, tell yourself that you will remember your dreams, and repeat this mantra before going to sleep. While this alone can’t ensure that you will recall your dreams, it can encourage you to remember to take the time to reflect on dreams before starting your day.

How Can You Stop Nightmares?

People with frequent nightmares that disturb sleep should talk with a doctor who can determine if they have nightmare disorder or any other condition affecting their sleep quality. Treatment for nightmare disorder often includes talk therapy that attempts to counteract negative thinking, stress, and anxiety that can worsen nightmares.

Many types of talk therapy attempt to reduce worries or fears, including those that can arise in nightmares. This type of exposure or desensitization therapy helps many patients reframe their emotional reaction to negative imagery since trying to simply suppress negative thoughts may exacerbate nightmares.

Another step in trying to reduce nightmares is to improve sleep hygiene, which includes both sleep-related habits and the bedroom environment. Healthy sleep hygiene can make your nightly sleep more predictable and may help you sleep soundly through the night even if you have bad dreams. Examples of healthy sleep tips include:

  • Follow a stable sleep schedule: Keep a steady schedule every day, including on weekends or other days when you don’t have to wake up at a certain time.
  • Choose pre-bed content carefully: Avoid scary, distressing, or stimulating content in the hours before bed since it may provoke negative thoughts during sleep.
  • Wind down each night: Exercising during the day can help you sleep better at night. In the evening, try to allow your mind and body to calmly relax before bed such as with light stretching, deep breathing, or other relaxation techniques.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine: Drinking alcohol can cause more concentrated REM sleep later in the night, heightening the risk of nightmares. Caffeine is a stimulant that can throw off your sleep schedule and keep your brain wired when you want to doze off.
  • Block out bedroom distractions: Try to foster a sleeping environment that is dark, quiet, smells nice, and has a comfortable temperature. A supportive mattress and pillow can make your bed more inviting and cozy. All of these factors make it easier to feel calm and to prevent unwanted awakenings that can trigger irregular sleep patterns.

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Why Do We Have Recurring Nightmares?

28-01-2019 · Recurring nightmares mean that you have frequent nightmares that are either exactly the same content, or unfold with similar themes. They can be caused by things like depression, anxiety, PTSD ...

28-01-2019

Medically reviewed by Shilpa Amin, M.D., CAQ, FAAFPWritten by Eleesha Lockett, MS on January 28, 2019

Nightmares are dreams that are upsetting or disturbing. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, over 50 percent of adults report having occasional nightmares.Nightmares – Risk factors. (n.d.). http://sleepeducation.org/sleep-disorders-by-category/parasomnias/nightmares/risk-factors However, some people have nightmares that occur more frequently. These are called recurring nightmares. Recurring nightmares tend to happen more often in children than adults.Bad dreams, nightmares, and night terrors: Know the difference. (n.d.). https://www.sleep.org/articles/what-is-a-night-terror/

Not all recurring nightmares are the same each night. Many nightmares follow similar themes and tropes but may differ in content. Regardless, these nightmares often cause similar emotions once you wake up, including:

These thoughts and feelings can make it hard to get back to sleep again.

Recurring nightmares often have an underlying cause. In this article, we’ll explore the common causes for recurring nightmares, as well as treatment options for some of the underlying conditions.

Nightmares can occur for a number of reasons, but here are five of the most common.

1. Stress, anxiety, or depression

Stress is one of the emotions that many people have trouble channeling in a productive manner. Because of this, dreams may be one of the only opportunities for the body to work through those feelings.

One study hypothesized that stress and trauma from childhood can cause recurring nightmares later in life.Nielsen T. (2017). The stress acceleration hypothesis of nightmares. DOI: 10.3389/fneur.2017.00201 Anxiety and depression can cause nightmares, as well.Pagel JF. (2000). Nightmares and disorders of dreaming. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0401/p2037.html These nightmares may include situations related to self-worth, disease relapse, and for some, even panic attacks.

2. PTSD

Up to 71 percent of people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experience nightmares.Levrier K, et al. (2016). Nightmare frequency, nightmare distress and the efficiency of trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder. DOI: 10.5812/atr.33051 PTSD is one of the primary causes of recurring nightmares in adults.

One of the most common symptoms of PTSD is “re-experiencing,” or having flashbacks to traumatic event or events. Sometimes these flashbacks can manifest as nightmares. For people with PTSD, recurring nightmares can have a variety of negative effects, including:

  • contributing to or worsening PTSD symptoms
  • contributing to or worsening depression
  • reducing sleep quality

The content of these nightmares can vary from person to person. For some people, these dreams are replicative nightmares in which the original trauma is replayed over and over again.How trauma can affect your dreams. (n.d.). https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/how-trauma-can-affect-your-dreams For others, the nightmares are symbolic to the emotions and feelings of the original trauma.

3. Underlying medical conditions

Certain sleep disorders can lead to recurring nightmares. Sleep apnea is a condition characterized by interrupted breathing during sleep. Narcolepsy is a disorder of the nervous system that causes severe daytime drowsiness, hallucinations, and sleep paralysis. Conditions such as these can affect the quality of sleep and may be an underlying cause of recurring nightmares.

4. Medications

Certain medications, such as antidepressants, blood pressure medications, and other drugs used to treat specific conditions, can cause nightmares. One older study from 1998 found that the most common nightmare-causing drugs included sedative and hypnotic drugs, beta blockers, and amphetamines.Thompson DF, et al. (1999). Drug-induced nightmares. DOI: 10.1345/aph.18150

5. Substance abuse

There are many symptoms of withdrawal that occur from substance abuse, including nightmares. These nightmares may be more intense at the onset of withdrawal but usually taper off within a few weeks of sobriety. Alcohol withdrawal most commonly causes nightmares.

Although nightmares and night terrors may seem similar, they’re quite different experiences. Nightmares are scary, vivid dreams that usually cause the person to awaken immediately. These dreams are often easily remembered.

Night terrors are hard to wake up from. A person may experience extreme agitation, such as flailing about, screaming, or even sleepwalking. Despite these physical reactions, people who experience night terrors usually sleep through them.

Night terrors and nightmares happen during different stages of sleep. When you doze off, you’ll typically move through four stages of sleep. In stages one and two, you’re in a light state of sleep. In stages three and four, you slip into a deeper sleep.

Roughly every 90 minutes, you enter what is often referred to as the fifth stage of sleep, which is rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Night terrors generally happen when you’re in non-REM sleep, while nightmares occur during REM sleep.

In many cases, treating recurring nightmares involves treating the underlying condition.

Depression and anxiety

Treating conditions such as depression and anxiety, can help to resolve the thoughts and feelings that may be leading to nightmares. Some of the treatment options for these conditions may include:

  • psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • support groups
  • relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing
  • regular exercise

Sleep conditions

Treatment for sleep conditions, such as sleep apnea and narcolepsy, may differ. Sleep apnea is generally treated with breathing machines, medications, lifestyle changes, and in some cases, even surgery.

Narcolepsy is most often treated with long-term medications, such as stimulants and certain antidepressants.

PTSD

If nightmares are caused by PTSD, it’s important to seek professional treatment. There are specific treatments that can be used for PTSD nightmares, such as imagery rehearsal therapy and visual-kinesthetic dissociation.

Imagery rehearsal therapy involves recalling the nightmare (or nightmares) when awake and changing the ending so that the dream is no longer threatening. Visual-kinesthetic dissociation therapy is another technique used to help rewrite traumatic memories into a new memory that is less traumatizing.Gray R. (2011). NLP and PTSD: The visual-kinesthetic dissociation protocol. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/239938915_NLP_and_PTSD_The_Visual-Kinesthetic_Dissociation_Protocol

In addition to treating anxiety and depression, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) may also be used for treating nightmares caused by PTSD.

In one recent study, researchers investigated whether using CBT for PTSD would also help to alleviate trauma-induced recurring nightmares.Levrier K, et al. (2016). Nightmare frequency, nightmare distress and the efficiency of trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder. DOI: 10.5812/atr.33051 Participants of the study received CBT for 20 weeks. The researchers found that after 20 weeks of CBT, 77 percent of participants no longer experienced recurring nightmares related to their PTSD.

In the case of nightmares caused by PTSD, medication may be used as part of a treatment protocol for the overall disorder. However, outside of PTSD, it’s rare for medication to be used in the treatment of recurring nightmares.

One of the ways you can reduce recurring nightmares is to create healthy sleep habits by improving your bedtime routine.

  1. Create a sleep schedule. A sleep schedule can help to make sure that you’re getting enough sleep throughout the night. It can also provide some routine stability if you’re experiencing recurring nightmares due to stress or anxiety.
  2. Ditch the electronics. A huge part of getting better sleep is making sure that your body is ready to sleep. The blue light from electronics is known to suppress melatonin, the sleep hormone, making it harder to fall and stay asleep.
  3. Avoid stimulants. Taking stimulants before bed can make it more difficult to fall asleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine can all negatively affect your sleep. Healthy sleep tips. (n.d.). https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-tools-tips/healthy-sleep-tips
  4. Set the stage. You should make sure that your bed, pillows, and blankets are comfortable. In addition, decorating your bedroom with familiar, comforting items can help create a safe space to fall asleep.

When you experience recurring nightmares, you may find it difficult to fall back asleep again. Here are a few methods you can use to calm yourself down after waking up from a nightmare.

  • Practice deep breathing. If you wake up scared or anxious, deep breathing, also called diaphragmatic breathing, can help to slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure.
  • Discuss the dream. Sometimes, discussing the dream with a partner or friend can help to alleviate some of the anxiety it may have caused. It can also be a good way to reflect on the fact that it’s only a dream, and nothing more.
  • Rewrite the dream. Part of CBT involves rewriting your thoughts and feelings. If you can rewrite the nightmare into something that’s less scary or disturbing, you may find yourself able to fall back asleep again.

If recurring nightmares are impacting your ability to get good sleep or causing you increased anxiety or depression throughout the day, seek help.

If your nightmares are related to stress, anxiety, or depression, make an appointment with a health professional for treatment and support. If you don’t already have a mental health professional, the Healthline FindCare tool can help you find a physician in your area. The American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, and Anxiety and Depression Association of America all have resources that you can use to find a mental health professional near you.

If your nightmares are related to an underlying sleep condition, your healthcare provider may want to order a sleep study. A sleep study is a test that’s commonly performed at an overnight testing facility. The results of the test can help your doctor determine if you have a sleep disorder that may be leading to your recurring nightmares.

Recurring nightmares usually have an underlying cause. Sometimes, this cause can be related to stress or anxiety, medication use, or even substance abuse.

If you feel that recurring nightmares are affecting your quality of life, reach out to a doctor or mental health professional. Once you treat the cause of the recurring nightmares, you may be able to reduce or eliminate them for good.

Last medically reviewed on January 28, 2019

axahealth.co.uk

There is no doubt that a period of stress will increase the chances of nightmares. Life events such as bereavement, personal illness, relationship problems or work pressures, to name but a few, are all likely to have an impact on your dreams so it's important to identify the stressors in your life and make changes where possible to reduce your anxiety levels.

Bad dreams or nightmares occur in the REM (rapid eye movement) part of sleep. They are usually linked to what's going on in your life at the time and reflect your current emotional state of mind.

There is no doubt that a period of stress will increase the chances of nightmares. Life events such as bereavement, personal illness, relationship problems or work pressures, to name but a few, are all likely to have an impact on your dreams so it's important to identify the stressors in your life and make changes where possible to reduce your anxiety levels.

AXA Health's mental health hub has lots of information, tips and techniques you can try to help you de-stress. Our article on self-care is another useful resource to help you switch off and enjoy valuable downtime.

Caffeine and alcohol can also sometimes cause nightmares, so consider cutting down your intake if applicable. Click on the links for help with these.

Medications such as sleeping pills and certain antidepressants can also be a contributing factor to nightmares. If you think this may apply to you, your GP may be able to suggest alternative medicines that don't cause this side-effect. 

In rarer situations, the causes of nightmares may be due to obstructive sleep apnoea, migraines or restless legs syndrome.

If your bad dreams continue it's worth getting checked out by a GP to find out what's causing them in your case and how they might be prevented.

Answered by the Health at Hand team 

5 Reasons Why You're Having Weird Dreams

17-01-2026 · Nightmares or odd dreams can happen at anytime, and can feel a little disturbing. Here, a few of the common reasons adults tend to have weird dreams.

17-01-2026

You’re well past the point in your life where you’re scared of the dark. So why are you still plagued by frightening nightmares—or just plain bizarre dreams?

It’s true that nightmares and disturbing dreams prove most common in young kids. But they plague plenty of grown-ups, too: Up to 29% of us report having nightmares once a week, according to findings in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

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Experts know that dreams happen during REM sleep, the period of sleep when your brain is highly active. But they still can’t say for sure why we dream. Or just as important, what influences whether our dreams are chill and happy (riding a horse on the beach—woohoo!) or strange and scary (running from a threatening figure through the woods—oh no!).

But when it comes to the content of those unpleasant dreams, there are plenty of theories.

5 Surprising Factors That Can Cause Weird Dreams

1. You ate a huge, spicy meal for dinner.

Certain foods can impact how easily (or not) you drift off to dreamland. But foods that cause a fitful night’s sleep don’t just leave you tossing and turning. They might make for a crazy night of dreams, too.

Anecdotally, plenty of people report having weirdly vivid dreams after dining on something spicy or heavy. Some experts suspect that this could be because fiery foods raise your body temperature, which can cause you to have worse sleep. If you’re slightly more conscious, you might be more likely to remember your dreams more clearly, Stanford University sleep expert Emmanuel Mignot told the Wall Street Journal.

Anytime your food inhibits deep sleep, such as large meat-heavy meals, you may be more likely to remember your zany dreams.

Other experts chalk the effect up to meal size. The more you eat, the harder your body has to work to digest all of that food—a process that can make it harder to achieve restful sleep, University of Chicago psychiatrist Lisa Medalie told NBC News.

2. You’re taking sleep supplements.

Popping a melatonin supplement might help you fall asleep more easily. But it can also cause you to have super vivid dreams or nightmares.

In fact, one small study, published in Sleep and Hypnosis, found that college students (especially women) who took 6 mg melatonin before bed were more likely to rate their dreams as bizarre compared to those who took a placebo pill.

Experts aren’t entirely sure why, but it could be that melatonin leads to more intense REM cycles, which could kick your dreams into high gear. Instead, natural sleep aids are recommended over supplements like melatonin.

3. You’re going off your meds.

Specifically, antidepressants. If you and your doctor decide that you should stop taking them, lower your dose, or switch to another prescription, there’s a good chance that your dreams will be affected. Especially if you nix the medications quickly instead of slowly tapering off.

This tends to happen because antidepressants work by altering levels of neurotransmitters—or chemical messengers—in your brain. Stopping meds can affect how those neurotransmitters behave, which can result in strange or disturbing dreams, say from Harvard Health experts.

Thankfully, the weirdness should stop once your body adjusts.

4. You binged on TV before bed.

In addition to blue-light disruption, the imagery from watching TV can influence your sleeping experience.

Sure, catching up on your favorite shows might seem like a great way to unwind before turning in. But once you fall asleep (which might take a while, thanks to the blue light emitted by your laptop or tablet), your dreams could be pretty strange.

Studies on children find that watching media before bed significantly ups the risk of nightmares. Some experts say that could be because little kids have trouble telling the difference between what’s real and what’s fake, so the stuff on TV is more likely to scare them.

But adults might not be immune to what they see on the screen at night, either. In a British survey of 2,000 adults, over 60% reported being more likely to have bad dreams after watching a scary or gruesome show.

5. You’re super stressed out.

There’s no shortage of research documenting the nightmare-inducing effects of posttraumatic stress disorder, and some findings estimate that 90% of people suffering from PTSD report having disturbing dreams.

But even higher than normal levels of everyday stress might be enough to trigger nightmares in some people. Generally, research shows that anxiety and mood problems are linked to higher rates of nightmares.

In these cases, taking steps to better manage your stress might be all that you need to keep nightmares at bay. But if you’re dealing with chronic nightmares, or your nightmares are impacting your ability to get a restful night’s sleep, talk with your doctor.

Dreams Aren’t the Only Sleep-Disturbing Culprit

As we covered above, plenty of factors can contribute to weird and uncomfortable dreams, ranging from stress to diet.

However, there are even more things to consider when trying to get a better, deeper 8-hours of sleep each night.

Most things you’ve probably heard of, such as limiting the amount of blue light before bedtime to avoiding spicy foods and sugary or caffeinated drinks.

However, the quality of your mattress matters as well. It isn’t as common knowledge, but the best mattress for you could depend on your sleep style. For example, the best mattress for side sleepers tends to be a softer bed, as the extra cushion helps contour to side sleepers’ hips and shoulders.

Why You Don't Have Dreams, According to Sleep Experts

11-03-2020 · According to sleep experts, the reason why you don't have dreams could have two different answers. You might be sleeping through your dreams, causing …

11-03-2020

It's Sleep Awareness Week from March 8 to March 14, and Allure is talking all things rest, from what happens when we don't get enough to how to make the most out of our time between the sheets.

"I had a wild dream last night." It's a phrase I hear from friends at least a couple of times per week, and the roundtable conversation that ensues is one that I'm rarely able to participate in. Because here's the thing: I don't really dream. As a kid, I had plenty of vivid dreams, many of them nightmares that I can recall in detail to this day. But for some reason, the second I became a teenager, they all but ceased entirely. Now, at the age of 25, being able to remember a dream — or even getting that gut feeling I've had a dream at all — on any given morning is a rarity for me.

My rigid internal clock forces my body into sleep and forces it back awake at almost the same time every night and day, regardless of whether I'm using an alarm. I imagine that the moments just after I've fallen asleep look similar to the way they do for you: an endless black abyss. Sleep takes hold of me quickly, and when it happens all I see is that darkness for what feels like a few moments before I'm waking back up. My brain rarely wanders off into other territories during sleep, at least to my knowledge.

When I admit this to people, it's automatically written off as some sort of quirky trait, but I've always been curious and a little bit worried about it. Vivid dreams are often thought of as a source of inspiration or a characteristic of naturally creative people — it can feel strange to lack that when you pay your rent by putting words to metaphoric paper.

Every now and then I wonder: If I'm not dreaming, is there something inherently wrong with me? Is it possible to sleep wrong, and am I doing that? Can not dreaming lead to cognitive issues for me in the future? I asked sleep experts to help me piece together the answers so I can finally put those worrying thoughts to bed.

So, what's the point of dreaming, anyway?

My concerns about the fact that I rarely recall having dreams is hinged to one foundational question: Does dreaming serve any physical or mental benefit that the sleep itself doesn't? According to Rafael Pelayo, a clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine, doctors have gathered evidence surrounding multiple hypotheses about this. Dreaming, he says, has multiple functions, according to research, but he likens the primary and most recently discovered one to the tiny wastebasket that sits underneath your office desk and gets emptied after you've left for the night.

tandurust.com

26-10-2015 · After a bad night dream when a person especially a child wakes up he becomes fully conscious of his surrounding, he only needs to be comforted by his parent. Bad dream can be of anything, it can be of scary images of monsters, animals, ghosts, accidents, injury etc. Most of the time children outgrow bad dreams with passage of time.

26-10-2015

Dreams are part of our life. Everyone some time or the other might have dreams, may be a good dream or a frightening dream that may have awakened a person during nighttime. Dreams occur during the REM stage of our sleep. Often bad dreams are remembered more than the pleasant dreams. Bad dreams are also called nightmares.

Most bad dreams cause a feeling of fear, sadness and depression. The emotional feeling after a nightmare can leave us in a state of panic for several days. Bad dreams can cause rapid heart rate and breathing, but seldom a person screams or wakes up from bed. Children as well as adults both may experience bad dream, but it is more common in children between the ages of 5 to 12 years.

After a bad night dream when a person especially a child wakes up he becomes fully conscious of his surrounding, he only needs to be comforted by his parent. Bad dream can be of anything, it can be of scary images of monsters, animals, ghosts, accidents, injury etc. Most of the time children outgrow bad dreams with passage of time.

What Causes Dreams And Nightmares?

The exact cause of nightmares is not known. Bad dreams are more common in children as compared to adults. Only 2 to 10 percent of adults suffer from bad dreams. Some of the triggers that are seen to cause bad dreams are being too tired, improper sleep, disturbed sleep, stress and anxiety. Bad dreams in children can be triggered from day time fearsome or anxious situations or moving to new neighborhood, conflict between parents, divorce, death in family, etc.

Hereditary factors are also suspected to play a role in bad dreams. If your parent or sibling suffers from frequent episodes of nightmares then you are more susceptible to it. Hereditary factor is commonly seen in children. Psychological factors such as day time fear, anxiety, mental stress and strain, unresolved conflicts, past psychological trauma etc are also responsible for bad dreams.

It is more common in blind individuals as compared to people with normal vision. According to a study there is an association with embarrassing situation during daytime that results in bad dreams at night in blind people. Mentally retarded children also suffer from frequent nightmares although the reason is not known. A bad dream is also common in people with high fever. Medications or withdrawal of certain drugs can produce nightmares.

How To Get Rid Of Bad Dreams At Night?

Nightmares that occur seldom in lifetime are considered normal. Everyone has history of few episodes of bad nightmares or good nightmares; however, if it occurs repeatedly than it is cause of concern. Sometimes bringing change in daily activities, proper sleep for 7 to 8 hours can reduce nightmares.

Change in diet, reducing stress and exercising daily can reduce the frequency of bad dreams in some people. Below are useful tips to get rid of bad dreams.

  • Keep aside your anger and anxiety when you sleep. Resolve your problems before you sleep. Avoid being angry before you sleep.
  • Avoid taking coffee, alcohol and tea right before bed time.
  • Avoid eating meat and fatty foods that take longer time to get digested at night.
  • Children should avoid watching horror movies, or reading scary stories as this may result in bad dreams in sleep.
  • Reduce your stress by daily exercise, medication and other alternative therapies.
  • Avoid sleeping on your back as it increases sleep apnea which is one of the causes triggering bad night dreams.
  • A good aroma in your bedroom will prevent bad nightmares. Keep aromatic oils and flowers in your bedroom.

mayoclinic.org

This content does not have an English version.This content does not have an Arabic version. There are no tests routinely done to diagnose nightmare disorder. Nightmares are only considered a disorder…

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There are no tests routinely done to diagnose nightmare disorder. Nightmares are only considered a disorder if disturbing dreams cause you distress or keep you from getting enough sleep. To diagnose nightmare disorder, your doctor reviews your medical history and your symptoms. Your evaluation may include:

  • Exam. You may have a physical exam to identify any conditions that may be contributing to the nightmares. If your recurrent nightmares indicate underlying anxiety, the doctor may refer you to a mental health professional.
  • Symptoms discussion. Nightmare disorder is usually diagnosed based on your description of your experiences. Your doctor may ask about your family history of sleep problems. Your doctor may also ask you or your partner about your sleep behaviors and discuss the possibility of other sleep disorders, if indicated.
  • Nocturnal sleep study (polysomnography). If your sleep is severely disturbed, your doctor may recommend an overnight sleep study to help determine if the nightmares are connected to another sleep disorder. Sensors placed on your body will record and monitor your brain waves, the oxygen level in your blood, heart rate and breathing, as well as eye and leg movements while you sleep. You may be videotaped to document your behavior during sleep cycles.
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  • Polysomnography (sleep study)
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Treatment

Treatment for nightmares isn't usually necessary. However, treatment may be needed if the nightmares are causing you distress or sleep disturbance and interfering with your daytime functioning.

The cause of the nightmare disorder helps determine treatment. Treatment options may include:

  • Medical treatment. If the nightmares are associated with an underlying medical condition, treatment is aimed at the underlying problem.
  • Stress or anxiety treatment. If a mental health condition, such as stress or anxiety, seems to be contributing to the nightmares, your doctor may suggest stress-reduction techniques, counseling or therapy with a mental health professional.
  • Imagery rehearsal therapy. Often used with people who have nightmares as a result of PTSD, imagery rehearsal therapy involves changing the ending to your remembered nightmare while awake so that it's no longer threatening. You then rehearse the new ending in your mind. This approach may reduce the frequency of nightmares.
  • Medication. Medication is rarely used to treat nightmares. However, medication may be recommended for severe nightmares associated with PTSD.
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Lifestyle and home remedies

If nightmares are a problem for you or your child, try these strategies:

  • Establish a regular, relaxing routine before bedtime. A consistent bedtime routine is important. Do quiet, calming activities — such as reading books, doing puzzles or soaking in a warm bath — before bed. Meditation, deep breathing or relaxation exercises may help, too. Also, make the bedroom comfortable and quiet for sleep.
  • Offer reassurances. If your child is struggling with nightmares, be patient, calm and reassuring. After your child awakens from a nightmare, respond quickly and soothe your child at the bedside. This may prevent future nightmares.
  • Talk about the dream. Ask your child to describe the nightmare. What happened? Who was in the dream? What made it scary? Then remind your child that nightmares aren't real and can't hurt you.
  • Rewrite the ending. Imagine a happy ending for the nightmare. Encourage your child to draw a picture of the nightmare, "talk" to the characters in the nightmare or write about the nightmare in a journal. Sometimes a little creativity can help.
  • Put stress in its place. If stress or anxiety is an issue, talk about it. Practice some simple stress-relief activities, such as deep breathing or relaxation. A mental health professional can help, if needed.
  • Provide comfort measures. Your child might feel more secure if he or she sleeps with a favorite stuffed animal, blanket or other comfort object. Leave your child's door open at night so that he or she won't feel alone. Leave your door open, too, in case your child needs comfort during the night.
  • Use a night light. Keep a night light on in your child's room. If your child wakes up during the night, the light may be reassuring.

Preparing for your appointment

If nightmares cause concerns about sleep disturbance or underlying conditions, consider seeing a doctor. The doctor may refer you to a sleep specialist or a mental health professional.

Keeping a sleep diary for two weeks before your appointment may help your doctor understand more about your sleep schedule, factors affecting your sleep and when nightmares occur. In the morning, record as much as you know of bedtime rituals, quality of sleep, and so on. At the end of the day, record behaviors that may affect sleep, such as sleep schedule disruptions, alcohol intake and any medications taken.

You may want to bring a family member or friend along, if possible, to provide additional information.

What you can do

Before your appointment, make a list of:

  • Any symptoms experienced, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for the appointment
  • Key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes
  • All medications, vitamins, herbs or other supplements being taken, and the dosages
  • Questions to ask the doctor to help make the most of your time together

Some questions to ask the doctor may include:

  • What is likely causing these symptoms?
  • What are other possible causes?
  • What kinds of tests are needed?
  • Is the condition likely temporary or chronic?
  • What is the best course of action?
  • What are the alternatives to the primary approach you're suggesting?
  • Are there any restrictions that need to be followed?
  • Do you recommend seeing a specialist?
  • Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can have? What websites do you recommend?

Don't hesitate to ask other questions during your appointment.

What to expect from your doctor

The doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Be ready to answer them to reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:

  • When did symptoms begin?
  • How often do the nightmares occur, and what are they about?
  • What is the usual bedtime routine?
  • Is there a history of sleep problems?
  • Does anyone else in your family have sleep problems?
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Symptoms & causesDoctors & departments
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  1. Zak R, et al. Nightmares and nightmare disorder in adults. https://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 6, 2021.
  2. Nightmare disorder. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. American Psychiatric Association; 2013. https://dsm.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed April 6, 2021.
  3. Kotagal S. Parasomnias of childhood, including sleepwalking. https://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 6, 2021.
  4. AskMayoExpert. Parasomnias. Mayo Clinic; 2020.
  5. Parasomnias. Merck Manual Professional Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic-disorders/sleep-and-wakefulness-disorders/parasomnias. Accessed April 6, 2021.
  6. Morgenthaler TI, et al. Position paper for the treatment of nightmare disorder in adults: An American Academy of sleep medicine position paper. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 2018; doi:10.5664/jcsm.7178.
  7. Gieselmann A, et al. Aetiology and treatment of nightmare disorder: State of the art and future perspectives. Journal of Sleep Research. 2018; doi:10.1111/jsr.12820.
  8. Nightmares. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. http://www.sleepeducation.org/sleep-disorders-by-category/parasomnias/nightmares. Accessed April 6, 2021.
  9. Olson EJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. April 11, 2021.
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© 1998-2021 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved.

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How To Avoid Nightmare - Top 5 Tips To Stop Bad Dreams

26-08-2021 · Sometimes these bad dreams can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night or awake the next morning with feelings of distress. While having a scary dream on occasion isn’t abnormal, some people may want to avoid the stress and negative emotions they generate. Navigation. Sleep Stages . What is a Nightmare? What Causes Bad Dreams? How to Stop Nightmares. Frequently Asked …

26-08-2021

The good news is there are proactive steps you can take to help prevent nightmares. According to the Mayo Clinic, these suggestions can be useful for both adults and children.

Having a relaxing bedtime ritual such as drinking herbal tea or meditating could help you avoid having nightmares by providing your mind a way to wind down, especially from negative thoughts.

Illustration of a Man Sleeping Tight after a Cup of Tea

Whether it’s you or your child having disturbing dreams, it’s good to have someone around to say everything’s okay. For adults, a significant other, friend, or relative could be a good source of support.

Experts suggest talking about your bad dream and reminding yourself – or your child – that’s it’s not real.

Learn More: Why Do People Dream

Another option is changing the outcome. Instead of the scary ending that left you feeling frightened, write down an alternative, happy ending to your bad dream. This could be particularly helpful for kids who may feel more traumatized after a nightmare.

When you notice your negative dreaming is linked to stressful thoughts and worries, find ways to manage those feelings. Practices that incorporate mindful, deep breathing such as yoga and mediation are popular for coping with stress. You may consider talking with a therapist as well.

Kids could benefit from objects that provide comfort such as a stuffed animal or special blanket. As an adult, you may not have a stuffed animal, but holding a pillow could offer solace. Individuals who sleep with a partner may also benefit from cuddling at night, as research shows that physical affection[5] helps release hormones that can improve your mood and help you feel more relaxed.

Night lights are also a popular way to help kids feel reassured during the night.

In the event frequent nightmares are affecting your quality of sleep and overall health, you should consider discussing the issue with your doctor, who may be able to recommend some medical or mental health treatments.

Illustration of A Tired Man at the Doctors Office
What do violent dreams mean? Are yours rooted in fear ...

19-03-2019 · it’s 3:30, the same time time i wake up mid sleep every night due to disturbing and violent dreams, but the only reason i know it was so violent is because i had been searching why my dreams are becoming more frequently violent and vivid, and at the time i was searching i remembered the entire dream, but now i just have a few images and sounds. every night its a completely different dream ...

19-03-2019
  • Dreams are often puzzling and cause us to question their root cause—especially when the dreams feature violence and keep us up at night.
  • As it turns out, there are several common causes of violent dreams, one being the fear of violence.
  • Another common source of violent dreams is your mere thinking about violence; did you just watch a violent movie or video game? Your brain is processing these violent acts.
  • You might also have violent dreams after starting a new medication, as they alter the biochemistry in your brain.
  • Finally, your violent dreams could be rooted in a traumatic experience: if you were exposed to violence in your childhood, you’re more likely to have these violent dreams throughout your lifetime.

Have you ever wondered what your dreams mean? The contents of our dreams can be quite perplexing—especially when they have no apparent relation to what’s going on in our lives. Take, for example, a recurring dream I used to have when I was a kid: It was always my birthday, and I’d be wandering around my backyard. My friends and family were scattered about, playing on the slide, the swings, and in the bounce house. Then, all of a sudden, a clown would pop up with a big needle in hand. He was dressed as a doctor and insisted on giving me the shot. I did my best to run away, but he’d always catch me and prick me with the needle, prompting me to wake up.

At the time, this dream was terrifying. Every night, I was scared to go to bed, in fear of having this violent dream again. Sometimes, this fear came true. But finally, about a year later, I stopped having this nightmare—and realized that it was rooted in my fear of getting shots at the doctor. While this isn’t your typical act of violence, the possibility of injury and pain fit the bill for me and obviously scared me to my core. But violent dreams aren’t always explained by a fear of violence. Let’s delve deeper into this cause, and several alternative explanations, with the help of Licensed Psychologist Dr. Chris Cortman:

1. Fear of violence.

First, let’s talk further about the fear of violence. As Cortman explains, we often dream about our biggest fears, which for me, meant dreaming about clowns with big needles: “Our worst fears often show up in our dreams. Men who are afraid of going bald will lose their hair time and again in their dreams. People who are afraid of getting lost will lose their way in their dreams,” he says. “I used to strike out, drop passes, and miss free-throws in my dreams because of my love of athletics and fear of failure. People are frequently exposed to violence on TV and in movies and are very afraid of such. There is a real possibility that this fear will surface in their dreams.”

2. Violence is on the mind.

Another simple explanation is that violence is on your mind—as our dreams are often composed of recent thoughts or events. “When it comes to dreams, always remember that they are born from the material inside the dreamer’s head. That is, I will never dream about your uncle Stephen, and you will never dream about my first grade teacher, Ms. Davis,” Cortman explains. “That said, dreams are way of taking unnecessary material from our minds and bringing it to the curb to be tossed out. Before that happens, it is very likely that things that have nothing to do with one another will be thrown in the same blender and come out together.”

3. New medication.

Another lesser known cause of violent or aggressive dreams is the start of a new medication. “Medications can definitely contribute to violent dreams. I remember patients telling me when they got on a brand-new antidepressant, they dreamed that they angrily drove somebody over in their car,” he says. “Medications alter the biochemistry of the brain and therefore can influence dreams.”

4. Traumatic experience.

Finally, your violent dreams might be rooted in trauma. In other words, your dreams can contain contents that reflect your violent past: “Violence can occur in someone’s dreams because they have been exposed to violence in their childhood: watching dad hit mom in a drunken rage, etc. People from rough neighborhoods may have a lot of dreams of violence because they were exposed to the sound of gunfire and screaming in their neighborhoods,” he explains. “Whatever has not been digested may repeat on you. That’s true for the stomach, but also for the mind.”

Tagged With: aggression biochemistry dreaming dreams fears

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Stress Dreams: Why Do We Have Them ― and How to Stop ...

09-05-2019 · Stress can also cause hyperarousal, which can upset the balance between sleep and wakefulness. Advertising Policy Being stressed is associated with poor …

09-05-2019
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Contributors: Michelle Drerup, PsyD, DBSM and Alexa Kane, PsyD.

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There are a lot of areas of sleep that science and medicine can understand and explain. But dreams are an entirely different territory, as the question ‘why we dream’ remains largely unanswered.

Vivid and frequent dreaming is often left open to interpretation through things like dream dictionaries and discussing with friends. Did that dream about your ex-boss really mean you have pent-up guilt and anxiety about your last job? Frequently having stress or anxiety-ridden dreams is usually a red flag for real life stress and the role it’s playing on your body. If you’re constantly waking up panicking in a cold sweat over a dream, it’s time to get your thoughts and stress in order.

Stress: we all have it, but it doesn’t have to control us

Stress is an emotional, physical or mental tension that results from something that’s outside of us.

Some of the bigger stressors or stressful life events include moving to a new place, changing roles at school or work, relationship issues or losing a family member. Stress can cause sleep difficulties, including insomnia, by making it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. This impacts the quality of rest. Stress can also cause hyperarousal, which can upset the balance between sleep and wakefulness.

Being stressed is associated with poor sleep in general, and may trigger more frequent dreams. So it’s not uncommon to experience a distressing dream prior to a big event like a job interview, taking an exam or an important appointment.

And although there’s limited research about controlling the content of dreams, anxiety dreams can generally be a result of increased stress during our day-to-day lives. Daily stress can also increase the frequency of these dreams.

The good news? You have a great deal of control over your stress. If you learn to better manage stress in your life, you’ll likely decrease anxiety-ridden dreams and improve your sleep.

Here are four simple strategies to help your mind and body relax before turning in for the night:

  • Spend time winding down before bed: This can be thought of as a “buffer zone,” which is a period of time to allow the activating processes in the brain to wind down and allow your sleep system to take over. It’s generally a good rule of thumb to start about an hour before bedtime. During this time, engage in relaxing activities that you enjoy like reading or listening to music.
  • Schedule “worry time”: If you’re finding it difficult to control your worrying prior to bedtime, scheduling a specific time when you’re allowed to worry may help. Find a time that’s convenient for you and write down your concerns. Limit the time to a specific amount and stick to it by planning something to do afterward. For example, you can plan 15 minutes in the evening, before your favorite TV show.
  • Think of your bedroom as a place just for sleep, sex and pleasant activities: Try to limit the time you spend in bed worrying or being anxious. If you find yourself lying awake in bed stressed out, leave the bedroom and spend time in another room until you feel sleepy.
  • Practice relaxation techniques: There are other ways to relax while getting ready for bed, such as breathing exercises, guided imagery and progressive muscle relaxation movements. (You can even check out free apps that help guide you through these exercises.) These techniques can be some of the most critical aspects of stress management and you can use them close to bedtime or throughout your day.

When you wake up panicking at 3 a.m.

We’ve all been there – a nightmare or stress dream causes you to wake up. The next thing you know you’re lying there overthinking your finances and everything you have to do the next day.

When this happens, what can you do to get back to sleep?

  • Stop watching the clock: Counting the minutes will only heighten your distress. Turn your alarm clock around and don’t pick up your phone.
  • Try to relax your body: Use a relaxation strategy that helped prior to bed to relax your body and mind.
  • Get out of bed: If you can’t fall back to sleep after a stressful dream, then try getting out of bed to help decrease the frustration. Don’t spend time in bed hopelessly trying to get back to sleep or interpreting your dream. (If your dream caused you anxiety, you may find yourself attempting to interpret it. But this can further increase the worry. This process will result in your brain associating your bed with stress and not sleeping well.)  Once you leave your bed, find an activity that is uninteresting or boring. When you start to get drowsy, go back to bed.

Since dreams obviously aren’t measurable, there’s no real answer to what meaning they hold in our day-to-day life. But we do know that we generally have control over daily stress, which can trigger weird or anxiety-clad dreams. Learning to control the crazy and manage your stress is your best defense to help you sleep peacefully.

Having frequent nightmares

16-10-2014 · Some people have nightmares after having a late-night snack, which can increase metabolism and signal the brain to be more active. A number of medications also are known to contribute to nightmare frequency. Drugs that act on chemicals in the brain, such as antidepressants and narcotics, are often associated with nightmares. Non-psychological medications, including some blood pressure ...

16-10-2014

ghost bad dream

I had a dream that I was in a small kitchen which was a complete mess. Under the sink were many black shoppers with some animals tied inside them. I realized in the dream that someone is doing black magic, and I also saw that lady.

Then I tried to clean the kitchen and while cleaning by mistake I moved one of the black shoppers. As a result it opened and there was a black cat inside it. It woke up and had really scary dark blue eyes. It then stared into my eyes and jumped on me to attack, and I ran away.

Then I was on the balcony with my boyfriend, and he demonstrated to me how a girl was murdered. So he held my hands and kept lowering me from the rooftop until I was low enough to jump safely. But when I was on the floor, the girl who he was telling me about and the cat were there to attack me. That's when I woke up. I really want to know this dream's meaning.

I am having worse kinds of dreams than this. I used to have many nightmares four years ago when I shifted to this house, but then I moved out. Now I'm back here and having these kind of dreams again, and I feel scared and depressed all the time.

-rashk

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Tagged as: bad dreams, dream interpretation, meanings, nightmares

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Night terrors and nightmares

25-10-2017 · Nightmares usually occur later in the night and cause strong feelings of terror, fear, distress or anxiety. Your child may wake up and be able to remember and describe the dream to you. Nightmares in children can be caused by a frightening experience, such as watching a scary …

25-10-2017

Many children experience nightmares and night terrors, but most grow out of them. They don't cause any long-term psychological harm to your child.

Night terrors are very different from nightmares.

A child having night terrors may scream and thrash around, and may not recognise you if you try to comfort them.

This behaviour occurs on waking abruptly from deep, non-dream sleep.

Your child won't be fully awake during these episodes and will have no memory of it the next morning.

Nightmares occur from dream sleep (REM sleep). Your child may wake up from the nightmare and, depending on their age, may be able to remember and describe the bad dream to you.

Both night terrors and nightmares in children are described in more detail below, along with advice about what you should do.

Night terrors are common in children aged between 3 and 8 years old.

A child who experiences night terrors may scream, shout and thrash around in extreme panic, and may even jump out of bed.

Their eyes will be open, but they're not fully awake.

The episodes usually occur in the early part of the night, continue for several minutes (up to 15 minutes), and sometimes occur more than once during the night.

Why they happen

Night terrors are more common in children with a family history of night terrors or sleepwalking behaviour.

A night terror attack may be triggered by anything that:

  • increases how much deep sleep your child has, such as tiredness, fever or certain types of medication
  • makes your child more likely to wake from deep sleep, such as excitement, anxiety, sudden noise or a full bladder

What you should do

The best thing to do if your child is having an episode of night terrors is to stay calm and wait until they calm down.

Don't intervene or interact with them, unless they're not safe. Night terrors can be frightening to witness, but they don't harm your child.

You shouldn't attempt to wake your child when they're having an episode. They may not recognise you and may become more agitated if you try to comfort them.

Your child won't remember the episode the next morning, but it may still help to have a general chat to find out if anything is worrying them and triggering the episodes.

It'll also help if they have a relaxing bedtime routine.

Try not to discuss the episodes with your child in a way that worries them as this may increase their anxiety.

If the night terror episodes are frequent and occur at a specific time every night, you may find that waking your child breaks the cycle.

Wake your child 15 minutes before the anticipated time of the episode every night for 7 days.

This can disrupt their sleep pattern enough to stop the episodes without affecting sleep quality.

When you should seek help

Most children eventually grow out of night terrors. But talk to your GP if they're occurring several times a night or most nights.

Your GP will be able to check whether something that's easily treatable is causing the episodes.

For example, large tonsils could be causing breathing problems at night and waking your child.

In a small number of children who have frequent episodes of night terrors, referral to a specialist service may be needed.

Nightmares are common in children aged 3 to 6 years old. Most children grow out of them.

Nightmares usually occur later in the night and cause strong feelings of terror, fear, distress or anxiety.

Your child may wake up and be able to remember and describe the dream to you.

Nightmares in children can be caused by a frightening experience, such as watching a scary film, or by something that's worrying them.

What you should do

Talk to your child to find out whether anything is worrying them that could be triggering their nightmares.

As with night terrors, making sure your child has a relaxing bedtime routine will also help.

Take your child to see your GP if they're having repeated nightmares (a series of nightmares with a recurring theme).

If your child's nightmares are being caused by a stressful past experience, they may need counselling.

Nightmares and night terrors are usually associated with children, but they can sometimes also affect adults.

There are many possible causes of adult nightmares, but they're often linked to stress, trauma or an existing mental health condition.

They can also occur after taking certain types of medication, such as antidepressants.

Sometimes a condition that affects sleep can be a trigger for night terrors.

For example:

  • obstructive sleep apnoea 
  • restless legs syndrome 
  • migraines 

Nightmares don't usually cause any physical harm, but they can be disturbing or upsetting. They may also prevent you getting a good night's sleep.

See your GP if you're having regular nightmares that are affecting your sleep and day-to-day life.

If your nightmares are caused by a particular traumatic event, your GP may recommend psychological treatment, such as counselling.

Page last reviewed: 10 August 2018
Next review due: 10 August 2021

letusfindout.com

11-09-2008 · There are many reasons why people have nightmares. It can be due to traumatic events in life for e.g. death of a close friend or relative, a severe accident or other shocking event. It also happens because of certain medications or illness and also the withdrawal of some medicines. Nightmares can happen because of stress, tension. Other causes of nightmares are sleep disorders, excessive ...

11-09-2008
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Nightmares are the bad dreams that disturb us and awake us from the sleep. Nightmares can vary from the person to person but the most common one is that a person feels chased by the other. Different emotions develop during the nightmares some feel sad other can feel anger or depressed but generally people feel anxiety and fear.

There are many reasons why people have nightmares. It can be due to traumatic events in life for e.g. death of a close friend or relative, a severe accident or other shocking event. It also happens because of certain medications or illness and also the withdrawal of some medicines. Nightmares can happen because of stress, tension. Other causes of nightmares are sleep disorders, excessive consumption of alcohol. In children nightmares are more common than the adults. It occurs in the age of three or four and seven or eight. No need to worry for the nightmares in the children because it is just a phase of their growth and in this way they are learning to deal with their fears and problems. They dream mostly about the animals. There are some people who experience nightmares totally unrelated to their lives which show that these people have a good creative mind.

Nightmares are different from night terrors. Night terrors occur in the NREM stage of sleep. It Results in screaming and thrashing about in bed while nightmares occur in REM stage of sleep. It results in the fear and anxiety but not in screaming and other symptoms as in night terrors. Moreover nightmares are rarely remembered. Nightmare acts as a “psyche relief” as all the fear and feelings from our subconscious mind is expelled out in the form of nightmares.

Depending on the cause of nightmare we can prevent it like if it is due to some medication then consultation is required with the doctor. No treatment is required in the case of children. What you can do is to talk with them about their bad dreams and make them sure that it was only a dream nothing like that will happen in the reality. This will surely help them.

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Nightmares: 6 Steps to Stop Scary Dreams

For months, my 10-year-old, Jane, had nightmares nearly every night. She'd wake up screaming for me, I'd run to her room, and she'd beg me to stay with her …

For months, my 10-year-old, Jane, had nightmares nearly every night. She'd wake up screaming for me, I'd run to her room, and she'd beg me to stay with her because she was too frightened to be alone. Wasn't she too old for this?

Most of her nightmares were about scary dolls. She'd seen a commercial on the Disney Channel for a movie about a creepy doll—reminiscent of Chucky—and couldn't get the image out of her mind. Whenever Jane woke up from a nightmare, she'd see her American Girl doll and get even more scared. Then she'd hear noises and worry that robbers were breaking into our apartment.

Every time, I would reassure her that her bad dreams weren't real, but they kept happening. Needless to say, we were both exhausted. At bedtime, she'd always say, "Dolls are fake and no one's here, right?" and insist that I respond, "Dolls are fake and no one's here." My heart was breaking for her. As far as I could tell, she was a happy, well-adjusted kid, with no major source of stress. Was she suffering from underlying anxiety?

As an editor at Parents, I'm lucky to have access to some of the country's top experts. So I set out to figure out what was going on.

Dark thoughts To my surprise, Jane wasn't too old to be having frequent nightmares. In fact, they're most common in kids ages 6 to 10. While preschoolers have an active imagination and worry about monsters under their bed, older children incorporate real-life fears—such as being kidnapped or shot—into their dreams, says Parents advisor Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., associate director of the Sleep Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. One study by Dutch researchers found that 96 percent of 7- to 9-year-olds reported having nightmares, as compared with 68 percent of 4- to 6-year-olds and 76 percent of 10- to 12-year-olds: Nearly 70 percent of the kids said that their dreams were about something they'd seen on TV.

Nightmares happen during REM sleep, and many kids don't wake up after them. However, the dreams can rouse a child in part because they trigger the body's fight-or-flight response that elevates heart rate. Any source of stress—even being overtired—can increase the risk of nightmares. So bad dreams can be a self-fulfilling prophesy: Stressing out about whether you're going to have a nightmare makes you more likely to have one.When a child wakes up feeling afraid, his house can seem scary and that can make it even tougher for him to fall back to sleep alone, says psychologist Dawn Huebner, Ph.D., author of What to Do When You Dread Your Bed, a children's book that was eventually helpful to Jane. A child may have a hard time distinguishing between dreams and reality, and resist trying to fall asleep because he thinks he'll go back into the bad dream.

"The function of dreams seems to be to make sense of our experiences during the day," says Dr. Huebner. If your child has a bad dream now and then, he's just working through something, and it's part of normal developmental anxiety. But if he's having nightmares more days than not for several weeks, think about possible sources of stress at home or at school that you could help him address. Then follow these steps to help him develop the skills he needs to fall asleep on his own.

Girl Sleeping Next to Creepy Mask

Be understanding. If your child has a bad dream, it's natural to tell her, "It's not real—go back to bed," says psychiatrist Robin Berman, M.D., a Parents advisor and author of Permission to Parent. "But to her, it seems very real." Soothe your child and validate how she feels. You might say, "I can imagine that would be really scary, but there's no bad guy in your room."

Set the stage for sleep. Children who go to bed too late are more likely to have nightmares. School-age kids need ten to 11 hours of sleep. Electronics—which inhibit production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin—should be turned off a half hour before bedtime, when it's best to do a calm activity such as playing a board game, taking a bath, or going outside to look at the stars, suggests Dr. Huebner.

Practice relaxing. A calm body and mind have an easier time falling and staying asleep. Jane learned how to do "circle breathing," a technique in Dr. Huebner's book. You imagine your breath is traveling in through your right nostril and out of the left nostril. The next breath goes in through the left nostril and out the right. Go back and forth, as if you're breathing in a circle.

Having a new stuffed animal may help your child feel safer in bed. A study of Israeli children during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon War by researchers at Tel Aviv University found that children who were given a "Huggy Puppy" had fewer nightmares and other stress-related symptoms than kids put on a waiting list. The children were either told that they should protect the puppy or that the puppy would protect them.

Don't avoid what's scary. When Jane was terrified of her American Girl doll, she asked me to turn its face around—and I did. But that was a mistake; turns out, I was just confirming for her that the doll was indeed frightening. Instead of shielding your child, help her gradually learn to tolerate whatever she's afraid of. The point is, the more she thinks about or sees the thing that scares her, the less scary it will become. Dr. Huebner suggests explaining that it's like chewing a piece of gum: At first, the flavor is very strong, but if you keep chewing it the flavor disappears.

Spend 15 minutes a day focusing on dolls, dogs, or whatever her nightmare theme is. She could print out a picture of a doll and cut it into a puzzle, have a tea party with her dolls, and read a book about dolls. That said, you shouldn't expose your child to new images that could frighten her (and definitely not in the evening). Having CNN or a violent movie on can affect your child even if you don't think she's watching.

Retrain your child's brain. Bad dreams can simply become his mind's habit. After a nightmare or at bedtime, he should think about something happy and fun. "He can imagine that he's changing the channel away from his scary thoughts," says Dr. Huebner.

You can also help him learn to distinguish between fantasy and reality and approach the issue in a more logical way. If you look under the bed and say, "There are no monsters under here," you can actually make your child even more sure that they're real, says Dr. Berman. Instead, take out the calculator and count the total number of nights he's slept in his house, and then ask him, "How many times has a robber broken in?" If he's afraid of something like an earthquake or a fire, you can help him focus on solutions. Practice your family's fire escape plan, for example, and change the batteries in the smoke alarms together.

The next step is to encourage him to come up with a new ending to his bad dream that's silly, magical, or empowering. "Just thinking about the revised dream will make him less likely to have the nightmare," says Dr. Huebner. Perhaps the bad guy falls into a bathtub full of spaghetti or your child pushes the monster off a cliff. Jane decided that the scary doll in her dream would turn into chocolate and she'd eat it.

Consider outside help. If none of these strategies work after a few weeks—or your child's nightmares are making her scared during the day and interfering with her normal life—she could benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy. "In a few sessions, a child can learn techniques that turn things around dramatically, and she'll feel strong," says Dr. Huebner. "The anxiety resolves, and therapy turns out to be a positive thing rather than a stigma."

Sometimes there is no easy solution to bad dreams, and a child will just grow out of them, says Dr. Berman. That's what happened with one of her sons. "Nightmares often come out of nowhere, but they can go away out of nowhere too."