Nightmares are incredibly scary and terrible dreams which affect one during the REM phase of sleep. These dreams may seem realistic and excessively frightening, leading to anxiety which awakens the affected sleeper in the majority of cases.
Once a person awakens from a nightmare, he/she may still be remembering the details of the terrifying dream. Alternatively, parts of the dream may remain in the memory. If there are no memories of the dream whatsoever, the phenomenon is called night terrors. Children are mostly affected by night terrors while adults experience nightmares more often.
Nightmares take place while the person is sleeping deeply, without showing any strong signs of anxiety or physical activity. Rather, what remains after a nightmare are feelings of guilt, shame, emotional confusion, fear, depression or insecurity.
Due to the fact that nightmares strike one during the REM phase of sleeping, they usually take place in the middle of one's sleep. Night terrors happen outside of the REM stage of sleeping. Therefore, they cause people to wake up with their hearts pounding, screaming in fear, not remembering what frightened them and going back to sleep once the episode of extreme fear and frightened confusion, lasting for about 10 minutes, ends. In some rare cases, children affected by night terrors have been prone to sleepwalking too.
Reasons and Risk Groups regarding Nightmares
As far as adults are concerned, their nightmares frequently stem from the medications they are taking. These are antidepressants, beta blockers, certain antibiotics or some prescription drugs. Alternatively, the nightmare sufferers may have taken addictive drugs before going to sleep. Excessive alcohol consumption may lead to nightmares as well.
Other medications which are known to trigger nightmares are antihistamines and appetite suppressors, along with ulcer drugs and drugs designed for treating Parkinson's disease.
On the other hand, children experience nightmares due to mental conflicts and traumas, or worries which have not been dealt with. Moreover, adults can experience nightmares caused by the same factors. Most children overcome nightmares when they reach puberty. Nevertheless, recurrent nightmares may be a sign of a health problem and should be treated medically.
Treatment of Nightmares
Psychotherapy is a very effective approach once the nightmares stem from certain psychological burdens or problems. However, this will be ineffective if the patient suffers from nightmares due to the medications he/she is taking. Then, his/her therapy needs to be modified and the medications need to be changed in order for the sleeping problems to cease. In some cases, writing down the plot of the nightmare and rewriting it into a positive event, rehearsing the change in your head is a method known to be very helpful.