Have you ever woken up during the wee hours of the night, sweating and panicking? If so, you’ve experienced nightmares. As the name suggests, these are dreams that are scary or distributed. While it’s true that nightmares are more common among children, one out of every two adults has reported having occasional nightmares. The unsettling dreams are usually associated with feelings of anxiety or fear that awaken you from your sleep.
Almost everyone has nightmares from time to time. But the factors contributing to the condition differ. They can range from daily life stressors to traumatic experiences. If you’re experiencing nightmares more than once or twice weekly, that means you might have a nightmare disorder.
Here are some of the key reasons that contribute to chronic nightmares:
1. Stress, anxiety, or depression: Nightmares can be triggered by certain mental health issues, such as stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety come from everyday things, which can contribute to sadness, tension, or worries. People with chronic stress are more likely to develop nightmare disorders.
2. Certain drugs and medication: Nightmares can be the result of a reaction to certain medications. Some drugs including blood pressure medications, antidepressants, and Alzheimer’s disease drugs can trigger nightmares.
3. Traumatic experiences: Nightmares are common after an incident, injury, physical or sexual abuse, or other traumatic events. It can also be a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. It can also lead to insomnia. When nightmares are caused by PTSD, it’s important to seek professional treatment.
4. Horror shows: Watching scary movies or shows, especially before bed, or reading horror stories can cause you to have bad dreams. Suspense shows or scary media can also cause stress and anxiety for some people.
5. Eating before bed: Eat nothing before going to bed. Eating increases brain activity and raises the body’s metabolism, which can cause nightmares and dreams.
6. Sleep deprivation: Having sleep disorders can interfere with adequate sleep. Thus, it can be associated with having nightmares.
One thing you need to understand here is that nightmares aren’t the same as sleepwalking, which causes a person to walk around and sometimes talk during sleep. In fact, nightmares differ from night terrors, also known as sleep terrors. Therefore, the treatment of these problems will differ from each other.
Here are the ways to treat chronic nightmares
1. Psychotherapy: Also known as talk therapy, it is a way to address mental health disorders and sleep problems. There are numerous types of talk therapies such as image rehearsal therapy, lucid dreaming therapy, hypnosis, or progressive deep muscle relaxation. These therapies can significantly improve your condition.
2. Treatment of mental health conditions: It’s important to identify the cause behind nightmares. Treating stress, anxiety, depression, or PTSD can help to resolve the thoughts and feelings that may be causing nightmares.
3. Establish a sleep routine: Maintaining a regular sleep schedule is the key to staving off nightmares. Also, treating sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome can improve sleep, thus alleviating bad dreams.
4. Practicing meditation: Stress can be reduced by practicing yoga and meditation. These relaxing techniques include breathing exercises, which may help to get rid of nightmare symptoms.
5. Review your medications: If your nightmares are the result of particular medications, your doctor can help by changing your dosage or prescription to eliminate these unwanted side effects.
6. Talk or write it out: Talking about your dreams and writing down your worries to get them all out of your mind can be healthy to solve the problem of nightmares and stress in general.
7. Avoid watching scary content: This might seem obvious but watching a frightening movie or reading a scary book can lead to nightmares. So, consider avoiding these types of content.
If you feel that you are experiencing recurring nightmares, reach out to a doctor or mental health professionals.