Nightmare on Sleep Street – Why Do We Have Nightmares?
"It's just a bad dream..."
Maybe you’re being attacked by the monster in that scary movie you just watched.
Maybe you’re being chased by a zombie that looks like your boss.
Maybe you’re eating Halloween candy and all of your teeth fall out.
Not all nightmares have to feature Freddy Krueger and his creepy fedora. Whatever your nightmares look like, have you ever wondered what causes them?
What is a nightmare?
First, let’s cover the basics. The American Sleep Association defines a nightmare as, “a parasomnia dream state event, in which visual sequences unfold that often depict imagery or situations that are particularly disturbing or frightening to the individual experiencing them and may often come from fears in their own subconscious.”
Essentially, they are scary dreams that cause you distress.
Anywhere from 50%-85% of adults report having occasional nightmares, and they are far more prevalent among children. This is most likely because children are more vulnerable, more easily scared and are constantly exposed to new, sometimes frightening, experiences.
How do nightmares occur?
Most dreams and, in this case, nightmares occur during REM sleep. During REM sleep various parts of the brain remain active and are randomly stimulated. Scientists believe that dreams are a result of the brain trying to make sense of the signals it receives in REM sleep by weaving them into a story. Nightmares occur when these “stories” contain vivid imagery that causes extreme fear, horror, distress, or anxiety.
What causes nightmares?
Stress and anxiety are associated with increased nightmares. Nightmares can result from any level of stress, from worrying about what appetizer to serve at Thanksgiving to dealing with a huge crisis at work. Whatever it may be, do your best to relax both your body and mind before sleep.
Individuals who have suffered a traumatic emotional event or a serious physical injury are more likely to experience nightmares. Additionally, nightmares are common with individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Reason number 1,000,000,001 to make sure you get enough sleep: no more nightmares! Changes in sleep patterns that leave you with less or poor-quality sleep have been shown to increase in nightmares. This means that consistent, uninterrupted sleep is not only crucial to your overall health, but it can help keep the bad dreams at bay. ChiliPad is the only sleep product that can offer both consistent and uninterrupted sleep due to temperature control.
Certain prescription drugs have been known to cause nightmares. These medications range from antidepressants to blood pressure medications. So, if you have started a new medication and have noticed a recent upswing in nightmares, the medicine might be the cause.
Nightmares are increasingly common for individuals struggling with drug and alcohol abuse. Many also experience nightmares during substance withdrawals.
Most of us can recall a time we watched a scary movie right before bed and had dreams about the villain that night. It sounds like a no-brainer, but if you’re looking to keep the nightmares to a minimum, try not to scare yourself before you go to bed.
Eating before you sleep can increase brain activity which has been attributed to nightmares. So, if you frequently suffer from nightmares, keep the Halloween candy out of reach at bedtime.
Knowing these tips will help you keep Freddy Kruger out of your dreams and back in the boiler room where he belongs. In the meantime, happy Halloween from your friends at Chili!