How to calm your nightmares

by Katy Jakle: Complete Post through this link…

Whether bad dreams stir you awake occasionally or routinely, these pre- and post-nightmare strategies can help alleviate them.

Nightmares are an almost universal experience. They can begin as young as age two and a half, and the majority of adults report having nightmares at least occasionally. While many people have infrequent, one-off nightmares, many others have repeated nightmares with a common theme or focus. As you can see in the following illustrations, there is considerable variety in the content and impact of nightmares; do any of these seem similar to your experiences?

  • Work has been very stressful for you, and you have a nightmare in which you accidentally send an important email before you were supposed to. You awaken with a pounding heart, shortness of breath and intense fear. You reassure yourself that the events in the dream aren’t real, but you spend a while thinking about whether you made any recent mistakes that might get you in trouble.
  • More than once, you’ve had a nightmare in which your sibling has died in a car accident. In the dream, you receive the call and have to console their partner and children. You feel panic, fear and deep sadness. Upon awakening, you feel upset and afraid, but also relieved that the loved one is alive. While this nightmare hasn’t been too disruptive to your sleep, you wish you never had to experience this grief again, even if its source is imaginal.
  • You wake up in a panic after a recurring nightmare that resembles a traumatic experience you’ve had in real life. Right when it’s almost unbearable, you wake up in a sweat, the images sharp in your mind. When it happens, you are upset and awake for more than an hour, sometimes the rest of the night. You dread going back to sleep. You are starting to delay your bedtime and watch TV late at night as a distraction. You’ve noticed yourself feeling fatigued and tense during the day.

Nightmares can be disruptive and draining

A nightmare is an intensely disturbing, well-remembered dream, usually involving fear or anxiety, but potentially also anger, sadness, disgust or other distressing emotions. Nightmares commonly involve threats to security, physical integrity, or survival. Most nightmares occur during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which predominates in the latter part of the sleep period. Unlike most dreams, nightmares disrupt the sleeping period, and the dreamer is alert soon after awakening. (Some night-time disturbances, such as sleep terrors, resemble nightmare awakenings but differ in important ways; I’ll discuss these in the Learn More section below.) These night-time disruptions often seep into the day. They can be associated with increases in daytime anxiety and physical complaints, as well as fatigue, sleepiness, mood and attentional problems due to interrupted, unsatisfying sleep.

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