Nightmares from Within


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Although adults can suffer from nightmares, they are more typical in children, especially those between the ages of 3 and 6. Nightmares may partially reflect this vulnerability. Dreams are understood to be recent autobiographical episodes that become woven with past memories to create a new memory that can be referenced later, but nightmares are simply dreams that cause a strong but unpleasant emotional response. REM sleep is one example of a quiet period.

Management of nightmares in patients with posttraumatic stress disorder: current perspectives

It is a stage of sleep that is characterized by rapid eye movement, irregular heartbeat, and increased rates of respiration. REM sleep is discontinuous, chunked into four or five periods that together make up about 20 percent of our slumber. It is during these REM episodes that brain structures in the default network exert influence, and it is during REM sleep that vividly recalled dreams occur most often.

Nightmares tend to happen during the period of sleep when REM intervals lengthen; these usually occur halfway through slumber. As we prepare to awaken, memories begin to integrate and consolidate. We dream as we emerge from REM sleep. Because we tend to dream on the sleep-wake cusp, images imagined while dreaming, including the vivid, often terrifying images produced during nightmares, are remembered.

Sleeping beauty syndrome

Nightmares are often confused with night terrors, a phenomenon more likely experienced by children than adults and usually more dramatic than a nightmare. Night terrors are not technically dreams but are instead sudden fearful reactions that occur during transitions from one sleep phase to another. Night terrors often cause children to kick, scream, and thrash about, but, because night terrors do not occur during REM sleep, most children do not remember them. There is, however, either no content to the feeling of terror or there is a simple scary image.

There is not, however, the sort of narrative story you experience with dreams, including nightmares.

Nightmares and night terrors

Nightmares can arise for a number of reasons—stress, anxiety, irregular sleep, medications, mental health disorders—but perhaps the most studied cause is post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD. Nightmares are a common complaint among people suffering from PTSD and, in fact, are one of the criteria used for the diagnosis of the disorder. A study that analyzed data from the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study found that regular nightmares were reported by 52 percent of combat veterans but only by 3 percent of civilian participants.

Not only are nightmares more common in those with PTSD, they are more frequent, sometimes occurring several times a week.


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Nightmares usually take place during REM rapid eye movement sleep, with the details of the nightmare varying from person to person, from monsters to Monday mornings…. There are numerous triggers that can induce nightmares; for example, prescription and recreational drugs, previous lifetime trauma, even late night snacks are considered to be nightmare fuel. Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, have been labelled as contributing to the inception of nightmares.

Although not completely confirmed, sleep deprivation has also been referenced when discussing what causes nightmares.

Nightmares In Paradise (Ft. Kristiana)

So just how do you combat nightmares? The risk of nightmares brought on by medication can be minimised by speaking with your doctor, who will be able to advise on and help you change your dosage. Addressing any of the underlying problems resulting in a sleep disorder is also a good way of limiting these bad dreams.


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  • For nightmares that are caused by other factors than medication and sleep disorders, WebMD cites other methods for reducing the risk of nightmares such as behavioural changes and therapies, maintaining a constant sleep schedule, and regular exercise to relieve any stress or anxiety. One of the key ways of limiting nighttime terrors is to make sure that you have created the best and most hygienic sleeping environment possible.

    You must also ensure you are reducing the amount of noise and light in the bedroom as much as possible, as well as reducing your use of technology before you go to sleep.

    Management of nightmares in patients with posttraumatic stress disorder: current perspectives

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