Living With Nightmares-What Are They?
Nightmares are frightening dreams that have the potential to be particularly disturbing to sleeper. With nightmares that boast enough intensity, sufferers have been roused from their deep slumber. Nightmares've been known to create feelings of anxiety and fear, and can even be an indicator of pre-existing medical condition (more on this later), but they can't actually hurt you. Unlike in the famed slasher flick series, A Nightmare On Elm Street, in which the film's vilian, Freddy Krueger had the supernatural ability to slash teenager's to death from the comfort of their very own dreams.
In fact, the character that Roseanne Barr carried into infamy may have been right in her observation of nightmares. While you are snoring, slobbering, and getting your Z's, your brain isn't actually clicked into off mode, instead, the brain travels through different patterns of sleep. One pattern of sleep is called the Rapid Eye Movement, or R.E.M sleep pattern. This is the period during which dreams take place. While you are sleeping, every ninety minutes, the brain alters between non-REM patterns and full REM mood, although as late night turns to early morning, the REM period of sleep becomes longer. This explains why dreams and nightmares often occur during the early hours of morning rather than during your short afternoon nap. And if you wake up during the REM period, it is easier to remember what you dreamt about without all of those fuzzy clouds that can accompany nightmares.
What Causes Nightmares?
Problems with nightmares have been linked to a number of very specific areas, but even bearing that fact in mind, it is still important to remember that it is naturally for everyone to experience nightmares at least every once and a while. Some of the common causes of bouts with nightmares include:
Death of a loved one
Certain prescription medications
While a few nightmares from time to time is nothing to be worried about, despite being unnerving, recurrent and persistent bouts with nightmares can be an indicator of serious medical conditions like acute stress disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. This type of nightmare requires medical treatment.
Nightmare Remedies for Recurrent Nightmares
You don't have to live with persistent nightmares, there are lots of ways to remedy the problem. Lucid dream practitioners count themselves as well-versed on helping sufferers battle recurrent battles with nightmares. And a new method called imagery rehearsal is also looking toward putting an end to frequent nightmares.
And For Those Nightmares That Aren't So Frequent...
Nightmares can be frightening (for that's sort of the whole point) even if they don't happen everynight. Check out a few steps for battling nightmares head-on:
Develop a healthy sleeping pattern
Sleep with a secure blanket or stuffed animal (Hey, you never know when Blankie might come in handy.)
Keep a nightlight nearby
Keep your door open