It’s an unfortunate fact of life that most of us experience nightmares and/or night terrors from time to time. Sadly these sometimes terrifying nocturnal dreams can really leave adults and children feeling rather shaken, even once the night has passed and the full light of day has dawned.
Frightening visual dream sequences can result in a sleeper awakening suddenly. Residual feelings of fear and anxiety are not uncommon. Other reactions can include an elevated heart rate, perspiration, and diluted pupils. Those who routinely experience sleep or night terrors might experience these behaviors more acutely or intensely.
What Are The Causes Of Nightmares?
Among the various reasons why an adult or child might have nightmares are the following:
Stress or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Of the various causes of nightmares, either stress or PTSD are believed to be the most common. A person that has been exposed to a trauma of some kind might well develop PTSD with nightmares often accompanying the disorder. Alternatively the nightmares might only begin to occur some time after the traumatic event that was personally experienced or witnessed. It can therefore be difficult to make the connection between the nightmares and PTSD.
Individuals with sleep disorders such as Sleep Apnea and Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) might find that not only the quality and quantity of their sleep is affected, but also that they experience nightmares. Treating these particular conditions will aid greatly in solving the nightmare problems.
Depression, Anxiety and Panic Disorder
Those suffering with depression, anxiety and panic disorder are known to experience panic attacks that occur even during the sleep cycle. These individuals may also complain of nightmares that occur on a regular basis which leave them feeling afraid and endangered.
Nightmares may be caused by a particular medication being taken. Consult your doctor to see if the prescription can be changed or dosage altered. Antidepressants, blood pressure medication and narcotics have been linked to nightmares. Be careful of alcohol, caffeine and nicotine consumption, as these substances can contribute to poor sleep hygiene, resulting in bad dreams.
What Help Is Available For Those Suffering With Nightmares?
Treatment for nightmares is usually psychological and/or psychopharmacological in approach. However, there are alternative treatments involving holistic treatment options.
Numerous studies have been done to determine the efficacy of psychological treatment when it comes to nightmares. The University of New Mexico, for instance, discovered through a number of studies, that results proved to be very promising, especially for those patients that were suffering with PTSD.
After receiving psychological treatment, PTSD sufferers experienced a marked decrease in the frequency of their nightmares as well as improved sleep quality. Because the treatment approach was cognitive-behavioral, there were no medications involved. The patients were given tools and strategies that they could utilize to improve their quality of sleep.
What Are Some Other Ways Of Dealing With Nightmares?
Ensuring adequate amounts of exercise, adjusting diet, and reducing intake of caffeine, nicotine and alcohol, as well as sugars might help to put an end to nightmares in both adults and children.
In the case of kids, it is important that parents and caregivers understand that nightmares can be very traumatic for children. It is understandable that they are reluctant to go back to sleep after awakening from a frightening nightmare.
Make sure children are not overstimulated before going to bed as a result of these things:
- Diet (sugar, caffeine)
- Playing video games
- Watching violent movies
- Talking or texting on mobile phone
- Roughhousing with friends or siblings
- Constant bombardment of new information and new experiences
Unfortunately, children are more prone to nightmares than adults. While this is distressing, it is also important that parents do not overreact when their child or children experiences nightmares, because these nocturnal dreams are a normal part of life. It is only when nightmares occur with frequency or as a result of a traumatic experience that measures should be taken.
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