Causes of Nightmares and How to Alleviate Them

Causes of NightmaresA bad dream is a nightmare. Whether you can remember it or not, everyone dreams while sleeping. It is more common to remember a nightmare or bad dream than a normal dream because a nightmare may startle you awake. Dreams are made up of emotions, thoughts and images and occur during the last stage of sleep, REM (Rapid Eye Movement). The REM stage tends to become longer as the night progresses, and many people seem to experience nightmares closer to morning. Although there is no cure-all for nightmares and bad dreams, we do have a better understanding as to what causes them and how we can alleviate them.

Anxiety and stress. The most common reason a person may have a bad dream or a nightmare is caused by stress or anxiety. Are you running behind on a deadline or is a family member having surgery? Anything that may produce added or increased stress levels can cause you to have a bad dream. If you notice that you have bad dreams around the time you have increased stress or anxiety, try some stress management techniques. Aromatherapy and stretching close to bedtime can help alleviate any stress pent up within your body so you can be fully relaxed and at peace while you sleep.

Spicy food. Not only can eating close to bedtime disrupt sleep, spicy foods can also disrupt your sleep and cause bad dreams. We know that eating a large meal or snack before bed will cause your body to work overtime while digesting your food. This can awaken you during the night or force you to only obtain a light sleep. Spicy food may also increase your body temperature, which may cause you to wake up. Additionally, an increase in metabolism and brain activity may prompt a bad dream or nightmare. Reduce your food intake before bed, try making dinner your last meal and try to avoid large amounts of spicy foods close to bedtime. This will let your body wind down and not have to continue working to break down your meal when it should be sleeping.

Drugs and alcohol. Both drugs and alcohol have the ability to alter your state of mind. Even prescription drugs can cause a person to experience nightmares while taking their medication. Drugs and alcohol have the ability to affect your central nervous system, which may lead to irregular thoughts or emotions while you are sleeping. Nightmares caused by drugs or alcohol may begin to disappear as the toxins within the body are slowly cleared from it. If you notice bad dreams or nightmares becoming more frequent after starting a medication, alert your physician. You may also want to decrease alcohol consumption as it may be the cause for your bad dreams.

Traumatic experience. If you suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) you are mostly likely suffering from chronic nightmares. These bad dreams are caused by extreme stress after a traumatizing experience. This can be caused by an accident, military service, a death in the family or many other reasons. People who experience nightmares after such an experience may have the hardest time combating them, especially due to the cause. It is suggested you contact your physician about cognitive-behavioral therapy and other methods to dealing with PTSD.

Having a bad dream or nightmare can cause you to lose sleep, not just on one night, but also for nights to come. Lack of sleep can also cause increased stress, so making sure you are able to get the best quality sleep is important to fending off any nightmares to come. If you need more help sleeping, visit our sleep tips here. If you or someone you know has managed to decrease or rid nightmares from their sleep, feel free to tell us in a comment!

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