Nightmares

Nightmares could sometimes simply be bad dreams—isolated and disagreeable imagery with little emotional response from the dreamer. However, a nightmare can lead to feelings of fear, terror, and anxiety; awakening the individual and causing disturbing emotional response. This includes insomnia, difficulties in the sleep cycle, or daytime distress.

 

In general, nightmares are more frequent among children and adolescents, with less frequency into adulthood. Half of adults experience nightmares on occasion, and among women more than men.

 

Symptoms

  • Repeated occurrences of extended, extremely dysphoric, and well-remembered dreams. These dreams usually involve efforts to avoid threats.
  • Upon awakening, the individual becomes oriented and alert.
  • Sleep disturbance causes significant impairment in social and occupational areas.

 

Causes

  • Anxiety and stress
  • Trauma or upsetting events
  • Irregular sleep
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Jet lag
  • Side effects of a medication or drug
  • Medication or drug withdrawal, such as sleeping pills
  • Alcohol consumption or withdrawal

 

Treatment

  • Support from friends and relatives can help if you are suffering stress.
  • Witnessing or experiencing trauma may affect you in other areas of functioning. Consulting a mental health professional is recommended. Sharing your feelings whether with family, friends, or a therapist may help you better cope with the events that may be disturbing you.
  • In addition, your physical health may need attention, regular exercise and consistent sleep hygiene are helpful. With physical activity, you may fall asleep faster, and enjoy a deeper sleep.
  • Other helpful tips include relaxation therapy to reduce muscle tension and lessen anxiety.
  • A new medication may also be a culprit. Discussing prescription drugs with you physician or health practitioner may be required. Discontinuing medication and trying alternatives may be needed.
  • Substance or alcohol abuse must be addressed. Seeking help through regular therapy or support groups may help.

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