Article in brief: You might wake up in the middle of the night with your heart pounding from fear because of seeing a nightmare every once in a while. Nightmares, what are they? How serious can they get? And how would you get rid of them?
Nightmares are extreme dreams that take place during the deep stage of sleep when the brain’s activity is most intense. They usually occur during the late parts of night and result in feelings of fear, nervousness, and terror and might even awaken the dreamer from his sleep. Nightmares are known to be our brain’s normal reaction and only escape from life’s stresses. However, when a specific nightmare is repeated with a reoccurring theme every once in a while, it becomes referred to as “Dream Anxiety Disorder”.
Dream Anxiety disorder or Nightmare disorder as some might call it occurs mostly among little children. However, about 50% of adults suffer from it too. People who suffer from nightmare disorders usually have a detailed recollection of the dreams they experience and become quickly alert when they wake up.
Causes might differ from one person to another, but one of the most common causes is eating right before going to bed. Eating before going to bed usually increases the body’s metabolism, which in its way increases the brain’s activity causing dreams to occur more often. Also, fresh withdrawal from drugs like sleeping pills and alcohol might cause nightmares as a body’s reaction from missing a certain drug. Illnesses like fever and breathing disorders might also cause repetitive nightmares because of the illness’s effect on the brain. Other causes like stress, anxiety, and bereavement play a role in the creation of nightmares and their regular repetition.
Nightmares have very significant effects on our body. They cause sleep deprivation, which is the cause for many long lasting diseases like obesity and Type 2 diabetes. It is also one of the main reasons behind increasing the risk of cardiovascular illnesses since it raises the heart rate’s variability. Irritability, memory loss, hallucinations, and cognitive impairment are also resulted from repetitive nightmares.
The first thing you should do if you experience repetitive nightmares is talk about it to some close friends or trustful family members. Most of the time, nightmares are just your body’s way to get rid of its repressed feelings, and talking about it would really help you get rid of those. Follow a healthy routine and try not to eat directly before sleep. It would also help if you tried not to use your phone or Internet before going to bed. That helps you get to sleep faster and have a more restful and deep one.
- Psychology Today: Nightmares. Retrieved Sunday May 14, 2014 from: http://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions/nightmares
- Sadock, Benjamin J., and Virginia A. Sadock, eds. Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry. 7th ed. Vol. 2. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2000.