Nightmares are dreams that are vividly realistic and cause strong emotive response from the brain. These emotions are usually fear, horror or sadness. Nightmares are usually cut short at the most fearful zones that the victim cannot bear no more. At this point, the subject will usually wake up from sleep.
In modern English, the word nightmare also suggests female horse. In old English however, the word “mare” suggests a flying mythological demon which visits and torments people in frightening dreams. This demon was thought to be female.
Nightmares cause lack of sleep in many ways. For one, they wake the individual from sleep. The person may find it difficult to go back to sleep for fear of the nightmare reoccurring. In deed, the person may prefer staying awake than sleeping. Poor sleeping patterns will affect the person’s productivity during the day. In severe cases, the person may be afraid of darkness as they relate it to nightmares.
Nightmares and REM Sleep
Just like other dreams, nightmares occur during Rapid Eye Movement (R.E.M). REM tends to occur deep into sleep. It also tends to become longer as the night progresses. For this reasons, nightmares occur in the early morning.
Nightmares mostly affect children though they rarely occur among those below age 5. Incidences increase from age 5 but reduce in adulthood. However, it has been observed that about 2-8% of adults are affected.
About 75% of the topics in dreams are negative. The topics in nightmare can vary from one person to another. However, some topics are known to be common. For instance, nightmares of subjects not being able to run or fly high enough are reported by many people in the population. Another common topic is a person falling off a cliff or great height.
Causes of Nightmares
- Late-night snack which supplies energy to the brain making it be more active.
- Drugs such as narcotics and anti-depressant which have an effect on the brain’s chemicals.
- Withdrawal from narcotic and medicinal drugs.
- Lack of enough sleep leads to nightmares which in turn causes sleep deprivation. This can lead to what is called the nightmare cycle.
- Childhood and family issues: family problems that can be traced back to childhood, these include: divorce, parental neglect and lack of love.
- Life: current problems in your life, environment or world can lead to nightmare.
- Love relationships that are not going well or are stressful.
- Job stress and general job dissatisfaction.
- Stress and depression.
- Recent traumatic experience.
Nightmares: Treatment and Remedies
In his studies, Freud – considered to be the father of psychology- suggested that dreaming is re-experiencing past stressful event. Helping the subject cope with stressful current or childhood events can ease frequency of bad dreams.
They can also be eased by desensitization. In desensitization, the patient can try to think and picture the nightmare is a safe environment. Pictures and sound effects can be helpful here.
You should also avoid eating food especially sweet snack a few hours before bedtime. Take your supper early so that by the time to got to be most or all of the food is digested and converted into energy. This helps to avoid energizing the brain while asleep. In general, the best way to treat nightmares is to understand the cause and avoid or come to terms with it. It is important to make sure that the bedroom environment is comfortable for sleeping.