Frequent nightmares are more common among children than in adults. It usually occurs in children between the ages of 3 to 6 years. Most children tend to outgrow the problem, and by the age of 10, these become almost nil. But sometimes, these nightmares continue, and a few people experience them even in adulthood. There is another section of people for whom it begins after they are fully grown, which can be occasional or frequent. For those who have experienced it (almost everyone would have at least a few times in their lives), there are many questions like what are nightmares? Why does it happen? Why does it come at night? In this article, you are sure to get your answers; read on.
What are Nightmares?
Nightmares are realistic, vivid, and disturbing dreams where you fear for your life or security. That can invoke various scary emotions like fear, anxiety, terror, and more. When you have a nightmare, you might wake up distressed with increased heart rate and perspiration. Nightmares are usually a deadly combination of negative thoughts and scary dreams and can be triggered due to stress, personal trauma, anxiety, and sometimes for no reason at all. It can be an experience best ignored if it is a one-off thing. But if it is frequent and causes great distress, and impairs your daily life, it may be a nightmare disorder. It is essential to address this issue as it can lead to insomnia, suicidal behaviour, and depression. These scary dreams are associated with sleep deprivation; they can cause various physical health issues like obesity, heart disease, and more.
What are the Causes of Nightmares?
Many different factors increase the risk of having nightmares. It includes:
- Stress and Anxiety
One of the primary reasons for nightmares is anxiety and stress. Traumatic life experiences are also a major contributor to bad dreams and nightmares. As per experts, a major illness, grief over the death of a loved one, a major accident, or an assault are reasons for scary nightmares. Addressing these issues can be a way to stop the nightmares. Post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD is another common reason for having frequent nightmares. So you might be wondering why am I having nightmares despite not facing any of the above-stated issues. Bad dreams can also be caused due to daily stressors like work-related issues, familial problems, financial problems, chronic stress, and other such problems. The best way to reduce horror dreams is to deal with your stress and anxiety.
- Mental Health Conditions
There is a high incidence of nightmares among people with mental health issues like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, general anxiety disorder, depression, etc. People with such mental health conditions have intense and frequent nightmares where they relive certain stressful and painful events, and the symptoms worsen. That leads to sleep disturbances and insomnia, which spiral into worsening the health condition.
- Getting off Medications
Certain medications are prescribed for good sleep. When a person goes off these medications like antidepressants, it can lead to nightmares. There is a short-term rebound where nightmares accompany more REM sleep. If you want to avoid this, speak to your doctor and decide whether it is better to lean off the medication rather than stop it completely. Using illicit drugs can or prescription medications can also affect the nervous system and can result in an increased risk of having nightmares.
- Alcohol Intake
A fun night out with friends can look innocent but may cause nightmares as it suppresses REM sleep. As the alcohol in your body metabolises, it can sometimes result in intense dreams. Moreover, when you consume alcohol, the airways become relaxed and collapse, leading to nightmares.
- Late-night Snacks
Snacks after a certain time increase brain activity and metabolism, which can be a cause of worst nightmares. Having a big dinner that is spicy can also be another reason. When your body is trying to digest the food, cool down, or filter out toxins, it can lead to sleep disturbances. That, in turn, can lead to bad dreams at night and frequent waking up. To avoid late-night snacks or heavy meals.
How to Overcome Nightmares?
- Establish a healthy sleep routine by having a regular wake and sleep time, avoiding stimulation before bedtime, exercising, relaxing activities, and avoiding mid-noon naps.
- Alcohol consumption can increase awakenings at night, cause restlessness, and help you remember nightmares. Cut back on it for better sleep.
- Avoid late-night snacks or heavy meals before bed as it activates your metabolism and brain activity.
- Practice stress-relieving activities like meditation and yoga.
- Invest in a good sleep set-up like a comfortable mattress to reduce sleep disturbances.
- Don’t read or watch scary content before bed; create a relaxing environment.
- Review medications with your doctor, which can cause nightmares.
Nightmares are horrible dreams that slowly become a vicious cycle that can lead to severe changes in sleep habits. If you know the causes and how to avoid them, do it. If it is an acute case, seek the help of a professional.