What are Nightmares?
Nightmares are vividly realistic, scary dreams that jolt a person awake from deep sleep. They tend to make a person’s heart pound and sweat from fear. Nightmares tend to occur most often during Rapid Eye Movement(REM) sleep. REM is when majority of a person’s dreaming takes place. Periods of REM sleep become gradually longer as the night prevails; this is why people might find themselves experiencing nightmares in the early morning hours.
There are different reasons due to which a person experiences nightmares. The subjects of nightmares differ from one person to another. However, there are some common nightmares that many people do experience. For example, a lot of adults have nightmares about not being able to run fast or quickly enough to get out of a dangerous situation or sometimes they dream about falling from a great height.
A lot of people have often seen themselves drowning in water andscreaming for help but no one helps. If a person has gone through a traumatic event, such as an attack or a tragic accident they often tend to see recurrent nightmares about that experience and this may occur repeatedly.
Most people are confused between nightmares and night terrors. They think that nightmares and night terrors are the same thing but they are not. Although nightmares and night terrors both cause people to wake up in great fear, they vary. Night terrors usually occur in the first few hours after falling asleep. They are experienced as feelings, not dreams, so people do not recall as to why they are terrified or scared when they get up. Nightmares are common amongst children but one out of every two adults has nightmares on occasion. It has been found out that two percent and eight percent of the adult population is influenced by nightmares.
What Causes Nightmares?
Nightmares in adults are usually quick and spontaneous but they can also be caused by a number of elements and underlying disorders. Following is a list of the most common causes of nightmares:
- It is found that people who have late night snacks end up having nightmares. Eating something late into the night increases the metabolism rate and signals the brain to be more active.
- A number ofmedications are also known to cause nightmares. Drugs that act on chemicals in the brain, such as Antidepressantsand Narcotics are usually linked with nightmares. Non-psychological medications including some blood pressure medications can also cause nightmares in adults.
- Suddenly stopping from taking medications and substances, including Alcohol and Tranquilizers may cause nightmares due to withdrawal. If you notice a difference in your nightmare frequency after a change in medication, please consult your doctor immediately.
- Sleep Deprivation may also contribute to adult nightmaresand these nightmares usually cause people to lose extra sleep. It may be referred as a nightmare disorder but it has not been confirmed yet whether it is right to refer it as a nightmare disorder or not.
- There are a number of psychological factors that may trigger nightmares in adults especially. For example, Anxiety and Depression are the main factors contributing to adult nightmares. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) also commonly causes a person to experience chronic, recurrent nightmares which means that they have nightmares repeatedly.
- Certain sleeping disorders are also somewhat blamed for nightmares in adults. These include Sleep Apnea and Restless Leg Syndrome. If no other cause can be determined, chronic nightmares may be a distinct sleep disorder. It has also been found that nightmares are sometimes a result of genetics. If having nightmares runs in the family, then there is a high possibility that you may end having nightmares very often.
How to Treat Nightmares in Adults?
There is also good news for everyone who is having a hard time with nightmares. While nightmares are extremely discomforting, there are various steps that you and your doctor can take to reduce their frequency and the effects they have on your life. Following is a list of treatments and precautions that you can follow to eliminate nightmares from your life:
- First, if your nightmares are the result of particular medications or drugs, you may want your doctor to know as he can change your dosage or prescription to eliminate these unwanted side effects. For people whose nightmares are caused by sleeping disorders such as Sleep Apnea or Restless Legs Syndrome, treating the underlying disorder may help reduce the frequency of your nightmares.
- If your nightmares are not due to illness or medical related then this is where behavioral changes play a role. Behavioral changes have proven effective for 70% of adults who suffer from nightmares including those caused by Anxiety, Depression, andPTSD.
- Imagery Rehearsalis an effective treatment. It can be described as a promising cognitive behavioral therapy for recurrent nightmares and nightmares caused by PTSD. The technique helps chronic patients change their nightmares by rehearsing how they would like them to feel. In some cases, medications may be used simultaneously with therapy to treat PTSD-related nightmares, though their efficiency has not been demonstrated as clearly as that of Imagery Rehearsal Treatment.
- There are a number of other steps that you can take on your own that may help reduce your nightmare frequency. For example, keeping a regular sleeping pattern is important. So is keeping yourself healthy and active by exercising regularly. This will help eliminate anxiety and stress which is often a major cause of nightmares. A lot of people have found that yogaand meditation are extremely helpful in reducing thefrequency of nightmares.
- Make certain to provide yourself with comfortable sleeping conditions and develop a pre- bedtime routine. Make your bedroom a comfortable place that is reserved for sleep and sex so that you do not associate it with stressful activities. Furthermore, control the use of substance such as Alcohol, Caffeine, and Nicotine, which can remain in your system for more than 12 hours and often disturb sleep patterns.