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Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night, sweating and horrified because you’ve had an intense nightmare? Although nightmares mainly affect children and decrease in frequency after the age of 10, %85 of adults still report having at least one nightmare within the last year. For some unlucky few, nightmares are so frequent that they dread sleeping. Such episodes of having regular nightmares may signify you have nightmare disorder, especially if the impact these nightmares have on your mood is so intense they affect your waking life. If you’re experiencing intense nightmares, you should consult a specialist to learn what causes these fierce, vivid nightmares and if there is a way to get rid of them.
Nightmares occur primarily during REM sleep, the sleep phase when your brain is most active. REM phases are discontinuous; they appear multiple times and get longer in the second half of your night’s sleep. While the exact cause of nightmares is unknown, experts believe various factors cause intense nightmares.
The most common cause of nightmares is stress. If you’re a person with high anxiety or just experiencing a stressful period in your life, you may be experiencing intense nightmares. Certain conditions like approaching exams, deadlines, and family or relationship issues may be triggering these nightmares. Some researchers think these nightmares may be a sign of your brain trying to deal with stress. Using stress reduction techniques or resolving your problems may help you get rid of your intense nightmares.
Research links particular medicine with an increase in nightmare frequency. So if your nightmares become more frequent after you’ve started a new drug, it might be the culprit. Sometimes, stopping certain medications abruptly also causes nightmares, so be sure to consult your doctor before starting or stopping any medicine.
Though it is not technically a medicine, many use melatonin supplements to fall asleep quickly. Melatonin is a hormone, but it is available as an over-the-counter supplement. Melatonin increases REM sleep duration, which increases the chances of having a nightmare.
Not having enough sleep causes your brain to overcompensate. This phenomenon is called REM rebound. If your brain tries to compensate for the lack of sleep by increasing REM duration, this may give your nightmares more chance of occurring.
Eating before bed
Though research is far from conclusive, some studies suggest that eating before bed increases nightmare occurrences. So if you suspect your late-night snacks may be causing your intense nightmares, it’s best to lay off eating a few hours before bedtime and observe if your nightmare situation alleviates.
Nightmares can be a real disturbance in your life. What causes nightmares are not known for sure, but there are specific methods you can apply in your daily life to combat intense nightmares. One of these methods is lucid dreaming. By learning how to lucid dream, you can realize you’re having a nightmare and have the control to stop it. The best way to practice lucid dreaming is to keep a dream journal. Dreambook is an online dream journal app, where you can keep a regular, detailed record of your dreams. Use Dreambook to save and reflect on your dreams so that you can combat nightmares and have a peaceful night’s sleep.