Sometimes you wake up sweating, or shaking. Lying frightened in the dark, you find yourself feeling an intensely negative emotion and you know you’ve just had a nightmare. You’re not alone. Most everyone, according to research, experiences a nightmare during their lifetime. These events cause an intense emotional response from the dreamer, described as either fear or horror. Let’s examine what they mean…
The word “nightmare” was originally used for the state of dreaming called “waking dreams,” which was associated with the REM part of sleep.
Some common nightmares contain elements of danger such as falling, drowning, becoming disabled, losing people’s loved ones, encountering strange and scary creatures, being murdered, caught or attacked, becoming frozen, trapped, or facing death in some awful way. An extremely common theme is that of being chased. Most adults dream of being chased by an unknown male figure, while children dream about being chased by an animal or scary fantasy person. Frequently nightmares play upon our fears, and act them out during sleep.
Sometimes, the cause of these types of dreams can be nothing more than what we ate before going to bed. Eating often causes an increase in the body’s metabolism and thus, brain activity, which can stimulate nightmares. Other times, the cause is post traumatic stress from an event that happened in waking life, such as being captured or tortured. The human body seems to use nightmares as a release for the pressures suffered by the dreamer. Meds, illness (such as high fever) and drugs are other causes for nightmares. Other common settings in which nightmares can occur are times of great insecurity, emotional turmoil, depression or guilt.
Science has proved that nightmares occur as often as once a month on average. However, children under the age of five, seem to be free of the occurrence. In other stages of life, nightmares occur as follows: they are most common in young children, occurring on average, once per week, very common in adolescents and less so in adults 25 and over.
Nightmares happen during REM sleep. This phase of sleep grows longer toward the later part of the dream cycle. So science says that the majority of nightmares occur from the middle of the night to waking.
Some excellent techniques for reducing the stress of nightmares are writing them down in detail, or creating a different, and happier ending. Others methods include talking to the major characters in the nightmare and asking them what they were attempting to do. The major idea is to calm yourself down, and to relax, so that you can better understand what your dreams were trying to tell you.
Sometimes nightmares occur when the psyche is trying to communicate something you should face up to in real life, but are just not “getting.” A reoccurring nightmare will try to present you with these “facts.”
Nightmares do not cause any physical harm other than disturbed sleep. However, if a nightmare is just “stuffed down” into our psyche without resolution, we may find ourselves being very moody, depressed or irritable the next day.
Surprisingly, many people are not disturbed at all by their nightmares, but rather find them very fascinating. These people tend to dismiss their nightmares as “just dreams.” This viewpoint, according to researchers, clearly illustrates that the way we view our nightmares is more important than the nightmares themselves.
So next time you find yourself with that awful feeling of fear in your stomach, after waking up in the middle of the night, get up, walk around and try to fill your mind with positive thoughts. Then sit down, record that dream and next day, consider what it might have been trying to tell you.
Has anyone had any nightmares they would like to share?