Transforming Nightmares into silent Dreams

Transforming Nightmares into silent Dreams

a beautiful girl sleeping

Dreaming is a very common but less understood aspect of each of our lives. Researchers have done a lot of studies to find the what causes dreams, what decides the content of a dream, what are the sleep stages where dreams occur the most etc. Though they have concluded few possibilities, are still unsure about the accuracy of what dreams actually represent or where do they originate from. Dreams and nightmares are both types of experiences that occur during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep.

People experience different types of dreams, some are good, some are bad, some are more impactful than others and some might not even matter to a person. Some dreams are so good that it can keep you cheerful throughout the day and some are so disturbing that it can make you feel anxious or uncomfortable throughout the day or a few.

Also Read: Influence of Horror Movies on Sleep and Dreams

Why do we remember some dreams and forget others?

This is a very common question that arises when it comes to dreams. Our sleep is divided into few stages based on its deepness. In those stages as well, it is categorized into REM sleep and Non REM sleep. Now, throughout the night we keep switching between REM and Non REM sleep. The dreams that takes place during REM sleep is remembered by the individual and the dreams that take place during Non REM are forgotten by the individual.

Is it Just a Bad Dream or a Nightmare?

It is very common for people to wake up due to a bad dream sometimes. However, frequent recurrence of such dream which starts impacting the daily life and functionality of an individual can be a matter of concern.

What is a Nightmare?

As we discussed, waking up due to a dream can be termed as a nightmare. These dreams are bad ones which can have few characteristics like threatening, weird, bizarre etc. something which is uncomfortable for people. There are two types of nightmares; first is post traumatic nightmare which results from trauma and another one is idiopathic nightmare which have no clear reason (Swaim, 2022). When people wake up from nightmares, they usually experience physical symptoms like increased heart rate, breathing etc. Nightmares mostly occur during the REM stage of sleep and therefore people tend to remember such dreams. Though both males and females experience nightmares, studies have reported that women are generally more likely to have nightmares compared to men. This situation is also very common among young children.

Also Read: PTSD: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Causes of Nightmares

There are a lot of factors that causes nightmares in people:

  • Stressful Situation: Stress and fear inducing situations may result in nightmares and might even develop nightmare disorder when stress in chronic. Some examples can be migrating to a new locality, getting divorced, losing a loved one and even workplace stress or financial stress can result in nightmares.
  • Mental Health Issues: PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is one of the mental health disorder which includes nightmares as a major symptom. Any other mental health condition causing disturbing dreams can be depression, generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder etc.
  • Medications & Drugs: Side effects of certain medications and drugs can result in such dreams due to their effect on the nervous system.
    A lot of other factors play an important role in causing such dreams like genetic predisposition, abnormal sleep patterns etc.
    Nightmares can also effect the overall sleep of an individual. People waking up from a nightmare can end up feeling anxious or uneasy and even struggle to go back to sleep resulting in sleep deprivation. Sometimes, the fear of experiencing such dreams can even make people not want to go to sleep eventually culminating insomnia. Such situations will hinder the normal functioning of people. Feeling sleepy during the daytime, unsettling moods, lack of concentration etc. which negatively effects the quality of one’s life.

Stopping Nightmares and Sleeping Better

Nightmares are experienced frequently by some and rarely or occasionally by others. In both the situations, building healthy sleeping habits can help a lot to get rid of them. Some of the important habits that might help you getting rid of nightmares are:

  • Maintaining a Good Sleep Environment: the room which you are sleeping in should be calm and soothing and should not produce any disruptions. Set up the temperature, which you are comfortable with, block lightings and the bedding should be done properly. These small things can help you improve the quality of your sleep.
  • Consistency in Sleep Schedule: It is very important to have a set bedtime so that your sleeping schedule remains stable and you go to bed on time.
  • Limiting Screen Time: Excess use of laptop, mobile phones, tablets or even television especially before sleeping causes harm. It will adversely affect the quality of your sleep. Especially, when you watch something disturbing or negative before going to sleep, it can lead to nightmares. Make a rule of no screen time one hour prior to bed (Suni, 2023).
  • Avoid Consumption of Alcohol and Caffeine: As we all know that intake of caffeine stimulates our brain which results in difficulty in falling asleep. Consumption of alcohol and lead to REM rebound which can worsen the nightmares in a person (Suni, 2023).

Treatment and Other Interventions

Some people experience very frequent nightmares and it can be said that they experience nightmare disorder. Professional interventions and treatment can help a person to reduce such nightmares and improve the quality of sleep as well as overall health.

Also Read: Psychology Behind Sexual Dreams

Psychotherapy or Therapeutic Intervention:

It plays a vital role in understanding and reappraising negative thought patterns of a person. There are various types of psychotherapy that can be helpful in case of nightmares.

One of the most prominent therapy used is Imagery Rehearsal Therapy which is a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It particularly addresses the issue of improving sleep quality by dealing with nightmares. In this, people revisit their nightmare while they are awake so that they can create an alternate happy ending of that nightmare. They rehearse this alternate ending everyday, mentally so that the nightmare in their sleep changes as well (Swaim, 2022). Some other therapies that can be used to reduce nightmares are Lucid Dreaming Therapy, Hypnosis, Exposure and Desensitization Therapy, Muscle Relaxation Techniques etc. Additional to these therapies, it is important for an individual to maintain a healthy sleep pattern and bedtime routine.

Also Read: The Psychology Behind Lucid Dreaming

Role of Medications:

Medications such as antidepressants, or antipsychotic drugs can be used that affects our nervous system and therefore helps in preventing nightmares. Although these medicines are beneficial for some patients, they also have side effects. For such reasons, it is important to have prescriptions before taking any such medicines.

*Note: Always seek guidance from qualified experts in the field of mental health before using any medications.


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