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Having woken up in a cold sweat from a nightmare, you probably think you're the only mature person with whom this happens. Such dreams spoil our next day. It is proved that about 4% of adults see bad dreams; among kids and teens this indicator is much worse and is roughly 70%.

Nightmares are sleep disorders and are called scientifically parasomnia; it is linked with the violation of REM sleep.

To date, there is no truly correct explanation of why people might dream nightmarish dreams. Nevertheless, numerous studies indicate that most often "owners" of nightmarish dreams are people who in real life are frequently exposed to serious psycho-emotional stress.

sleep disorder nightmares

According to researchers from one of the universities in New York, terrible dreams are the result of the brain trying to overcome stress and adverse emotions. Managing emotions takes place during the phase "REM sleep" which is the "refuge" of most dreams.

If you wish to make an appointment with the doctor - somnologist, he probably will tell you that dreams are a form of processing good or sad emotions and impressions that a person has to experience in the lifetime. When falling asleep our mind binds unpleasant memories to a specific context that helps dissipate the fears associated with a specific event.

Somnologists and neuroscientists have proven that during this transformation in certain parts of the brain, including in the limbic system, responsible for emotions and memory management, happens active brain activity.

So, when the process of emotional regulation fails, a person sees a nightmare instead of pleasant dreams.

Causes of nightmares in details

Conditions, which can be reasons for dreadful dreams: toxicomania, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, limiting personality disturbance and traumatic stress experience.

There are different kinds of usual bad dreams. Of particular note are bad dreams linked with PTSD. They appear in 80% of patients and this type of scary dreams is exposed to better diagnosis, as the stress that lies at the basis of the dreadful dreams, was obtain from a traumatic experience such as survival in a terrible road accident, being in a war zone, rape or loss of a loved one This type of parasomnia can accompany the person throughout life.

Recurring nightmares based on true painful occasions of the past. Scientists claim that reappearing dreams are kept in memory as a steady pattern. The sequence of events in such a dream is usually autobiographical. Unlike other memories such a nightmare fully recreates occasions of the past, making the person pass through the bad experience not only when sleeps but also during waking hours.

Severe stress can cause strange and terrible dreams. Thus an endless loop is formed, stress causes a life like dream and the nightmare have strong negative influence on human feelings after awakening.  Such a person wouldn’t feel refreshed and not get enough sleep.

Scary dreams may result from the influence of psychoactive substances that violate the function of neurotransmitter systems in the brain.

Another cause of nightmares is alcohol. The feeling of drowsiness which alcohol-based beverages cause quickly dissipates and happens premature awakening. It affects functioning of the brain not in the best way.

Thanks to some studies it became clear that eating, especially hard to digest food, just before going to sleep can enhance metabolism and brain activity and eventually provoke frightful dreams.

Some medicines, not excluding antidepressants, barbiturates and narcotics can have unpleasant adverse effects, which are expressed in the form of frightful dreams. Furthermore, sleep disorders can trigger ketamine, commonly used for anesthesia. Or Lariam a pharmaceutical medicine to combat malaria.

Diseases accompanied by fever and chills (flu, SARS, meningitis), often provoke nightmarish dreams. Such serious sleep disorders like sleep apnea or narcolepsy also can be the cause of nightmares.

How nightmares affect health?

Those who struggle with scary dreams and feel anxiety or depression are more prone to mental disorders and diseases. Although this is not the norm, but nightmares can lead to suicide.

Lack of sleep, can trigger the development of certain diseases, including cardiovascular problems, depression and overweight.

If scary dreams in adults are linked with apnea or post-traumatic stress, then these ailments can have serious consequences on overall well-being.

Who treats nightmares?

About 85% of people at least once a year see a nightmare. Some victims see scary dreams almost every night. In rare cases, one and the same nightmare haunt a person for life.

If you relate to these "lucky people", refer to a psychiatrist. Of course, most of scary dreams are not a sign of serious mental disorders. But the psychiatrist can give guidance how to effectively get rid of sleeping disorder.

In severe cases, the psychiatrist may prescribe MRI of the brain and prescribe antidepressants, sedatives or tranquilizers.

Tangible effects have non-medicamentous forms of treatment, sessions of psychoanalysis, hypnosis and other methods.

Signs that require visit to the psychotherapist or somnologist:

  • You have great problems falling asleep
  • Cannot sleep longer than a half an hour
  • Wake up a few times a night, and then are unable to fall asleep
  • Recurring events of awakening and feeling anxiety, dread, anger, unhappiness, aversion and other adverse emotions linked with what you just dreamed about
  • Awakening with a feeling of confusion, instantly comes very clear memory of what you just dreamed about
  • The existence of real events of the past, which bring disturbing emotions and resonate with what you just dreamed about

To our great relief, there are various treatments and ways of dealing with bad dreams. People who managed to beat this condition have noticed that they wake up refreshed and feel less tired at work. Getting rid of nightmarish dreams improves overall well-being. Every case is one of a kind and only a qualified physician can choose what kind of treatment should be applied.

Start off with analyzing your actions linked with bedtime routine, because in the majority cases their small alteration can significantly improve the quality of sleep. You can try a drug therapy (Always use under medical supervision). Drug therapy has proved t to be very effective in treating parasomnia connected with substance abuse and nightmares with awakenings.