We spend one third of our lives sleeping. It’s amazing really the worlds we could visit and the things we could see in our dreams. Most people either enjoy the experience or have an uneventful sleep, forgetting their dreams the second they wake up. On the other hand, sleep can be a very intense experience for others, where they’d fear bedtime due to the horrors it can bring to them. Sleep is essential and avoiding it is impossible. So what are nightmares and why do some people get them more frequently than others? More importantly, what should you do to prevent nightmares and enjoy a good night blissful sleep?
What Causes Nightmares Every Night?
We have all experienced with nightmares, and it’s usually very stressful and can completely ruin the night. You wake up covered in sweat and your heart is beating out of your chest and you wonder what could have possibly caused such an awful dream? Now imagine this same scenario every night. Imagine the exhaustion and the lack of sleep and the constant tiredness. What is the root cause of the issue?
Stress is one of the main causes of nightmares. Your awake lives are full of causes of stress and your brain is working nonstop trying to figure out a solution or a way out from an issue or obstacle. When you go to sleep, your brain doesn’t cease to work; it only works in different ways. Your dream might come as a manifestation of everything that is worrying you. If you’re bottling up your feelings about the stress in your life, dream land would be the outlet of your worst fears. The stress can come from a variety of places, but even when it seems you’re keeping it under control in the mornings, your brain complains of the burden and the weight at night. If you think of nightmares as your brain trying to tell you something, you might be able to respond properly and eventually manage a peaceful sleep.
Disturbed sleep can be another cause. Waking up far too many times in a few hours of sleep is tiring to the brain and a tired brain is an angry brain. If you’re having troubles sleeping or need sleeping pill for s good night rest, that might contribute to the nightmares. Generally, any medication you introduce to your body might have an effect on the quality of your sleep and consequently that of your dreams. Dreams happen in the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep (usually a little after you fall asleep or a little before you wake up), which explains the frequency of dreams (or nightmares) if you always have disrupted sleep.
What Causes Nightmares in Children?
Usually, when we think of nightmares, the first sector of people we think are affected by them is the little people: children. The reason why nightmares can be much harder on children is that they can barely tell between reality and dreams. What they see in a nightmare will still feel as real and as threatening in the darkness of their rooms after they wake up. Parents should pay serious attention to their children’s sleep time. If a child is too scared to sleep, it means less stamina and less energy for school work and normal daily activities, which in turn will negatively affect every aspect of the child’s life.
While the true cause of nightmares for children is still a mystery, it has been theorized for quite some time that it has something to do with their fear of darkness. Most children, and some adults, are scared of the dark. Not seeing everything around them allows their imagination to run wild, and they end up seeing what they’d rather not see in the dark. In this case, parents need to reassure their children. The process can take a while and a lot of trust to help the little ones make peace with the night, but it eventually works.
Children with active imagination are more likely to struggle with nightmares as well. This may not seem like it is going to be that hard of a battle, but it is. Children with active imagination see potentiality in every corner. It can be amazing in playtime, but it will probably make sleep a difficult task. They’d spend the night thinking of the serial killer they accidentally saw in a horror movie, or a monster beneath their bed, or the sounds in the kitchen at night. They’d keep their nightmares alive when they wake up. Dealing with active imagination can be exhausting, because whatever your child sees feels as real to them as reality goes.
Finally, nightmares are a normal experience in each child’s life. They’d wake up scared and run to their parents for comfort and they’ll learn along the road that it was just a dream and holds no value once they wake up. Occasional nightmares are normal and are no cause for concern. But if your child experiences daily nightmares or night terror, you must attend to the issue, have a conversation with your child, and seek professional help.
Curious about sleep disorders in children?
What Causes Nightmares in Adults?
Nightmares should not be a huge issue for adults. You already know what happens inside your head is a semi-movie. Some people actually manage to experience with their dreams or nightmares, playing games with their unconsciousness and exploring their brain. For others though, it’s never fun and it’s always horrifying.
As we mentioned before, stress and anxiety are one of the main causes of sleep troubles. But another more time-specific cause is trauma. People experience much more nightmares after traumatic events. An accident, death of a loved one, an attack, wars, or sickness are all sources of great stress and emotional vulnerability. Nightmares will represent the fear and the insecurity a person is constantly feeling. For the nightmares to stop, they would have to address the main issue.
Some of the other minor causes are nightmares are a common occurrence for you and are making it harder for you to sleep or focus in your awake hours, we recommend seeing a professional.
Nightmare disorder, also known as parasomnia, is a type of sleeping disorders characterized by the frequent occurrence of unpleasant dreams. The dreams are often very vivid and the general feeling that controls the dreamer is fear for their life or that of their loved ones. The frequency of the nightmares disturb their sleep and they never manage to sleep for full hours, which can be extremely exhausting in the following morning.
Most people tend to forget their dreams or nightmares as they wake up, but for people with the disorder, the nightmare is very detailed and the feelings are intense that it is difficult to let go of. Another common feature is the inability to go back to sleep quickly and the evident signs of anxiety: pounding heartbeat and sweating. Sleeping disorders still have a long way and a lot of scientific attention to be fully figured out.
Have you ever experienced sleep paralysis?
How to Stop Nightmares?
Making the nightmares stop is the top priority for anyone whose life has seriously been affected by the lack of sleep and the constant exhaustion. We cannot go a day without sleeping and if that says anything, it says that the quality of sleep is important to look after.
Try to pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you. Watch for patterns and recognize what triggers a nightmare and what doesn’t. Most importantly, try to avoid the stimulants, be it caffeine or heavy meals before bed. Relax and allow yourself a few minutes of serenity before. Sleeping right after a gore movie or, in most cases, the news is not advised.
Your psychiatrist might help you realize the root cause of your bad dreams. Either you’ll have to finally make peace with a past trauma or you’ll have to go easy on yourself with current issues. In all cases, conversation and professional help can make it better. Doctors can also provide medication that allows you a full night sleep or help you forget your dreams once you wake up.
Sleep can be enjoyable and refreshing. The world your brain constructs in the dream world is of your own making, and that’s a key concept in understanding how your sleeping brain works. With a little (or a lot) of exercise, you can manage to make a very educational and spiritual experience of sleep: be it lucid dreaming, where you’re basically aware and have free will in a dream, or a normal post-dreams journal that helps you understand more about yourself. If your nightmares occasional, consider it a chance to receive a message from the other end of your brain, and try to understand what your body is telling you. It’s probably struggling to cope with a new stress or an old memory. Pay attention and listen and do not freak out. And when so required, seek the assistance of a professional.
Interested in lucid dreams? Learn how to induce one here!