Nightmares are frightening or disturbing dreams that occur during REM sleep causing you to feel terrified or afraid, angry, sad, guilty, anxious or distressed. They usually wake you up and the bad feelings can continue for some time after you’ve awakened. While nightmares are more common among children, about 50% of adults experience them periodically. The most common themes of nightmares in adults are feeling trapped, being lost, being chased, or falling and are usually a result of anxiety.
As a matter of fact, in 60% of nightmares anxiety and stress are the cause. They can also be caused by grief, fevers, too much alcohol, drug or alcohol withdrawal, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, or sleep terrors and side effects of medications including antidepressants, narcotics, barbiturates and over the counter sleeping aids.
Recurring Nightmares can occur in people who have experienced traumatic life events or who suffer from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).
Treatment isn’t usually required for nightmares but lifestyle changes can help decrease their frequency. First, address any underlying medical or mental health problems such as stress, anxiety, depression, alcohol or drug abuse, PTSD or trauma. Practice good sleep hygiene, go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning, exercise regularly, avoid caffeine, alcohol and certain medications, use relaxation techniques, avoid scary books or movies and avoid eating right before bed.