So, What Are Dreams and Nightmares Exactly?
Dreams are images and stories our mind creates as we sleep.
They can be anything from beautiful and fun to scary and terrifying. Some are simply just bizarre!
They are still a big mystery to many scientists around the world.
However, many believe that they are created by our minds to deal with real world emotions and events that are important to us.
Why Do We Dream?
As mentioned earlier, for the most part dreams remain a mystery to many scientists around the world.
However, many believe that they represent unconscious desires and wishes we may have.
Some evidence suggests that they are merely interpretations of random signals between our brain and our body as we sleep.
A further explanation is that our brain creates these stories in order for us to process the insane amounts of information that we have gathered during the day.
It may just be our very own brain’s form of psychotherapy!
What Is a Nightmare?
Nightmares are unpleasant, vividly realistic and disturbing dreams that wake you up from the deep sleep.
Nightmares and dreams, in general, occur during the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep stage.
Depending on how long you sleep, your body goes through four to six cycles each night.
Most nightmares happen during the last phase of your night’s sleep.
Having nightmares isn’t a big deal for most people since they only appear once in a while.
Only 5% of adults find it disturbing because they occur too often or are very heavy.
A study found out that 8%-29% of people experience nightmares once a month, while 2%-6% have them once a week.
If you feel that you are experiencing nightmares too often, we highly recommend you to visit your doctor.
There are many different causes for having frequent nightmares. While most of them are nothing to worry too much about, it is always best to play it safe!
Why Do We Have Nightmares?
Different Sleep Positions Can Cause Nightmares
Sleeping in an awkward or uncomfortable position can cause nightmares.
A study in 2004 showed that people who sleep on their left side are having more nightmares than those that sleep on their right side.
Stomach sleepers on the other hand have the most emotional dreams!
Your Sleep Environment Can Cause Nightmares
A reason why you might be having nightmares is because you are surrounded by external noises while you are in your bedroom.
You might not even realize it since you are used to it. However, too much noise can be very damaging to your good night’s sleep.
In fact, loud or disruptive noises can cause you to enter the light sleep phase faster. It is the sleep phase in which many are able to remember their dreams and nightmares afterwards.
Anxiety And Stress Is Often The Reason Why You Have Nightmares Every Night
Everyday stress about your job, money or important events in your life, such as a divorce or moving, can cause nightmares.
Anxiety and stress can also result from a traumatic life experience. The International Association of the Study of Dreams (IASD) concluded that major events can trigger nightmares and bad dreams.
This can be anything from illness or surgery to losing a loved one or your job.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is also a common reason people have nightmares every night.
Eating before you sleep can cause nightmares
Anything you eat before you go to bed boosts your metabolism and temperature. This makes it harder to fall and stay asleep.
Also, eating increases your brain activity. The more brain activity during your REM sleep, the higher the chance of experiencing bad dreams and nightmares.
If consuming healthy food is able to increase your body temperature, imagine what eating spicy food can do!
A small study was conducted with a group of fully healthy men. The quality of their sleep was compared before and after they had eaten spicy food.
It turns out that the spicy food had lowered the quality of their sleep. In addition, they also reported that they had difficulties to fall asleep.
Unhealthy Food Will Even Come To Haunt You In Your Dreams
A study was done to compare people living a healthy lifestyle with those that didn’t. It turned out that both groups dream differently!
The people with a healthy lifestyle had happy dreams more often than the other group.
Certain foods have a negative influence on your sleep and may even disrupt your sleep patterns.
For example, a study showed that junk food triggers more brain waves.
This causes seven out of ten participants to have nightmares. It’s recommended to eat light in the evenings never directly before you go to sleep.
That Nightcap Can Also Cause Nightmares
While alcohol does make you fall asleep faster, it will completely disrupt the quality of your sleep.
The moment it wears off, you may find yourself waking up prematurely.
In addition, too much alcohol has also been linked with nightmares and bad dreams.
If you are going through alcohol withdrawal, nightmares are also a very common side effect.
Drugs Can Be The Reason You Have Nightmares Every Night
Nightmares can be a side effect of drugs such as anti-depressants, barbiturates, and narcotics.
A study in 2008 compared ketamine, a drug used in anesthesia, with a placebo and found that taking ketamine resulted in more nightmares.
The malaria drug Lariam is another great example. Many people who traveled to countries known for having malaria had to take the drug. Many of them experiences nightmares which is a known side-effect of the medicine.
Luckily, these nightmares usually vanish once the drug is out of our system.
Nightmares Can Come From Illness
People who have a fever often experience nightmares as well.
This can even be fever from a simple flu. It is the increase in body temperature that causes the nightmares!
In addition, there are sleep disorders which have a direct link to nightmares as well. That includes sleep apnea and narcolepsy!
People Who Pee More Often Also Tend To Have More Nightmares
People who go to the bathroom more often are known to experience nightmares more frequently.
Not because they have a smaller bladder, but an overactive bladder. This allows those people to go into REM sleep faster.
If you need to pee often, it’s recommended not to drink at least a few hours before you go to sleep.
Watching An Exciting Movie Or Reading An Interesting Book Can Cause Nightmares
Your body produces adrenaline when you watch or read something exciting or interesting.
That can make you restless!
You will have more difficulties to fall asleep and you are also very likely to sleep much lighter than you usually would.
In addition, if the movie or book left a negative impression on you, you may find yourself having nightmares about them!
Are Night Terrors & Nightmares The Same Thing?
While they do share some resemblances, they are not 100% the same!
There are two key differences between them.
First of all, nightmares usually occur during REM sleep. Night terrors on the other hand are more likely to occur during the lighter sleep stages.
Secondly, nightmares usually don’t involve physical or vocal behaviors. Night terrors may have them you aren’t in the deep sleep phase just yet!
What Causes Night Terrors?
Adults experience night terrors much less than children.
In fact, up to 35% of children report to experience night terrors while only 2.2% of adults do.
While it’s still not fully conclusive just yet, the assumption is that night terrors have a genetic component.
People who have a family history of parasomnia, especially close relatives like a parent or sibling, are much more likely to have them as well.
How To Get Rid of Nightmares
Precautions Before Having Nightmares
Let’s talk about what you can do before going to bed to prevent experiencing nightmares.
There are several steps you can take to reduce the frequency of having nightmares. It is important to set up and keep a regular wake-sleep schedule.
In addition, doing stress-relieving exercises before you go to sleep is another great way to prevent having scary dreams! Great examples are yoga and meditation.
However, don’t do any physically or emotionally intense activities for a few hours before bed. It will make falling sleep more difficult since your body is pumped up.
Also, avoid drinking alcohol or caffeine before sleep. They can remain in your body for more than 12 hours and mess with your sleep schedule.
As mentioned earlier, your sleep environment can also influence your sleep. That’s why its important to make sure that your bedroom is comfy, dark and clean.
A great tip is also to use your bedroom solely for sleep and sex. Don’t let anything distract you when you go to sleep, especially not electric devices and screens!
When You Are Having Nightmares
Now let’s continue with what you can do when you are having a nightmare.
Most of the time you don’t realize you are having a nightmare - but try to recognize a nightmare while you are having one.
It will not be easy at first, but you will get the hang of it after a few tries.
Tell yourself that you are going to do this before you fall asleep.
Next is to identify what makes you feel bad in these nightmares. What feelings or events are involved? Were you scared in the nightmare? And if so, what made you scared?
Doing these steps, believe it or not, you can stop your nightmare. That’s because you will resolve these issues in your mind before they can continue to haunt you.
Once you stop the nightmares, you can change the ending of your nightmare. Turn what is terrible into something beautiful.
You might have to wake up to create a new ending, but you will sleep better when you rewrite your dream.
Keeping a dream diary can give you a better overview of your nightmares.
It can help you to identify what was bothering you much quicker. Write them down every morning and include not only the nightmares but also your regular dreams!
Medication For Nightmares
There are a few options out there to treat nightmare disorders, such as Prazosin, Clonidine or Venlafaxine.
However, each medication is used for different types of nightmares. For example, Venlaflexine is not suggested for treatment of a PTSD-associated nightmare patient.
We strongly recommend you to visit a medical professional if you suspect that you may be suffering from a more severe nightmare disorder.
Please do not self-medicate and let the doctors find the best solution for you!
How To Sleep Better
Keep in mind that a good night’s sleep is one of the most important factors to living a healthy life.
There are a few things you can do to make the quality of your sleep better.
One of them is to make sure that you sleep on the right mattress, topper or pillow.
If you haven’t tried any products with Vita Talalay latex inside, we invite you to do so at one of our many retailers around the world!