Woke up in horror in the middle of the night, your heart jumps out of your chest, and your body is covered with cold sweat? Everything is clear: these are nightmares! They are well known from 2 to 8% of people. And it seems you are at risk!
Terrible horror: 5 facts about nightmares
Nightmares can happen anytime, to anyone. Before them, both adults and children are defenseless. Unlike pictures of popular films and blockbusters, when the characters rush around the bed and scream in their sleep, real nightmares deprive a person of voice and freedom of movement.
As the sleep medicine specialist says Anisa Das, nightmares visit us during the phase of REM sleep, when all the muscles of a person, with the exception of the eye and those involved in the breathing process, are paralyzed. Therefore, you cannot get up and leave.
If you fight off a non-existent opponent and scream, then you are already awake. And this is another difference between a nightmare and simple dreams — a person wakes up in the midst of a terrible dream. What other horror facts should you know?
- Children often have nightmares. Most of all, they disturb babies 3–6 years old, and the peak of bad dreams falls at the age of 10 years. Up to 50% of children experience severe nightmares that cause them to wake up their parents.
- nightmares for adults dream too. According to various estimates, from 50 to 85% of adults report that they sometimes dream of “horror films”. But the older the person, the less often this happens.
- Women have nightmares more often than men. At the same time, there is a theory that nightmares help solve problems in real life or prepare for them. Psychologist Beacon College in the USA, AJ Marsden says that pregnant women or mothers of children of the first year of life often have bad dreams involving babies, and women of older children live situations in which something happens to their child. According to the expert, such dreams call mothers to responsibility, better care for children.
- Nightmares often haunt people with mental disorders. According to statistics, they are typical for 75% of patients with post-traumatic syndrome and 50% with borderline personality disorder.
- Despite all the horror of what is happening, nightmares are an inspiration for writers. For example, night dreams Stephanie Myers formed the basis of the bestseller “Twilight”. Who would have thought!
Why do we have nightmares?
Despite the fact that science has been studying nightmares for hundreds of years, there is still no exact answer to the question of why they dream. But there are reasons that often contribute to their appearance. Read more about them below!
Reason 1: Anxiety and stress
Sometimes it is daily stress that leads to the appearance of “horror movies”. So anxiety about studying or getting a new job can manifest itself. Big events, like moving to another city or parting with a loved one, can also escalate horrors, like quarrels with neighbors on the site or a sudden serious illness among loved ones.
Reason 2: Injury
If a person once faced a strong traumatic event, it can remind of itself all his life. This may be physical violence, such as beating; intimate nature — rape; or getting into a traffic accident. Any accident can become a “catalyst” of horrors.
Experts explain this by post-traumatic syndrome and remind that it can (and should) be treated. The right therapy brings back good dreams.
Reason 3: Circadian Rhythm Disruption
Often nightmares and just bad dreams become companions of people who work day and night. The circadian rhythms of the body are disturbed: today at 9 o’clock in the morning the body requires high concentration and attention, and tomorrow at the same time — a relaxed state and sleep. Brings nightmares and lack of sleep, as such.
Another common reason is going to bed at an unusual time, as a result — a person tosses and turns for a long time and cannot fall asleep, and when he finally falls asleep, he falls into his worst nightmare.
Reason 4: Alcohol
If a person abuses alcohol, nightmares are not uncommon for him. The use of psychotropic substances and the use of smoking mixtures can lead to the same end of the day.
A healthy lifestyle gives good dreams, and bad habits — bad.
Reason 5: Heavy meal before bed
Literary critics say that the plot of the novel “Dracula” was a dream of its creator Bram Stoker after he had eaten a very heavy meal before going to bed. Whether this is true is not known for certain, but the fact that heavy food before going to bed brings not the best dreams is a fact!
Snacking before bed speeds up the metabolism, which in turn makes the brain more active. The result of brain activity and imagination is bad dreams.
Reason 6: Health condition
Nightmares can also accompany certain diseases of the body. In this case, the treatment of the underlying disease also relieves the night terrors.
Reason 7: Scary movie, book or game
Sometimes horror creeps into our dreams after reading a scary book or watching thrillers and horror movies, especially if you do it before bed. Bad dreams often happen after participating in bloody video games.
But real events are not always reflected in dreams. Researchers Tufts University, located in Massachusetts, USA, analyzed the dreams of Americans after the September 11 attacks. And although it turned out that the total number of nightmares increased, falling “twin towers” and crashing planes did not dream of people.
Timothy Legg, psychologist, psychiatrist
Lifestyle changes can help reduce the frequency of your nightmares. Practice these things:
- exercise at least three times a week
- limit the amount of alcohol and caffeine,
- engage in relaxation techniques before bed, such as yoga or meditation,
- Set a sleep schedule by going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning.
If your child often has nightmares, invite him to talk about them. Explain that these dreams cannot harm him. Besides:
- follow the established sleep routine,
- help your child relax with deep breathing exercises,
- try with your child to “rewrite” the end of the nightmare, making it a happy ending,
- give your child soft toys, blankets, or other items for comfort at night,
- use a night light and leave the child’s bedroom door open at night.
Eric Suny, medical journalist
You should talk to your doctor about nightmares if:
- nightmares happen more than once a week.
- they affect your sleep, mood and/or daily activities,
- accompany the initiation of a new therapy.
To help your doctor understand how nightmares affect your health, you can start keeping a sleep diary that tracks your sleep and sleep disturbances, including nightmares.