Nightmares are disturbing or frightening dreams that disrupt sleep. Nightmares generally occur late in the night, when a person is deep in their sleep cycle. A nightmare can cause a person to violently wake up, usually in a state of panic or fear. Nightmares are a very common phenomenon, affecting 50% of adults and 75% of children. Generally people who experience nightmares remember the contents of the dream when they wake up, which can make falling back asleep difficult.

Nightmares can be about anything, although dreams of being chased are most common among adults. While everyone experiences nightmares at some point, frequent or chronic reoccurring nightmares can indicate an anxiety issue that may need to be treated by a sleep specialist or sleep clinic.


What Causes Nightmares

Anxiety and stress are the leading causes of nightmares. 60% of nightmares are caused by stress, which is why events in a nightmare often reflect a stressful event in the subject’s daily life.

Nightmares can also be caused by other sleep disorders. A person suffering from sleep apnea may experience nightmares in conjunction with their difficulty breathing throughout the night. Excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to nightmares, as can sudden withdrawal from alcohol or other addictive substances. Nightmares may occur as a side effect from medication or even eating certain foods right before you go to sleep. Life changing events, including death of a loved one, often trigger nightmare episodes.


Treating Nightmares

The best way to eliminate nightmares is to reduce stress in your daily life. Stress from work or school can be lowered by talking about your worries and concerns with friends and family members. You may also find it helpful to talk about your nightmares with someone, and determine what the root cause of the nightmare may be. Regular aerobic exercise and a healthy diet lower stress and boost positive thinking. If you are going through a traumatic event, seeing a psychologist could help. Following safe methods for quitting drugs and alcohol that you learn from a medical professional can decrease nightmares that occur due to withdrawal. If you believe your nightmares are the result of a new medication you are taking, contact your doctor immediately to discuss continuing the medication.

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