We have all had them, those dreams in the middle of the night filled with terrifying images that haunt us and flood us with feelings of fear, anxiety, or sadness. Usually entailing some sort of dangerous situation such as falling or drowning, a frightening object or animal such as snakes or haunted houses, or even people that we know or demonic versions of them. Sometimes the nightmares can be mild and simple such as falling, that wake us up quickly. Other times, nightmares seem to be so vivid and real that they literally scare us even after we wake up. We learned long ago as children that these bad dreams were not really caused by the monsters in our closet, but exactly why do nightmares occur?
There are a variety of physical as well as psychological reason that nightmares occur. For example, having a high fever can cause a variety of nightmares. Sleeping in a place such as very tight quarters or low bunk beds, or in a position where are you facing a wall or laying into your pillow can often lead to dreams with a smothering or drowning theme as your respond to your environment subconsciously. Eating just before you go to sleep stimulates brain activity which can also cause a person to suffer from nightmares.
Stress is another major factor in nightmares. Just as stress can manifest itself in physical ways, your dreams, too, are affected by the levels of stress in your life, often leading to nightmares. Particularly nightmares that have a sense of failure, of being pursued by an enemy, of being captured, or unjustly persecuted can be a result of stress. All of these things, some believe, are manifestations of the anxieties that the stress you encounter is placing upon you psychologically.
Other reasons why nightmares happen can be due to psychological issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or the stress of a recent disturbing experience in which the person keeps relieving the traumatic events in their sleep. Sometimes, nightmares appear in people who have blocked traumatic events from their conscious memory, but because events of your past are always present in your subconscious they at times can manifest themselves in nightmares.
Whatever may be the underlying reason why nightmares happen, there are a few things that you can do to help minimize the occurrence of these negative dreams. Being calm and sleeping in a relaxing atmosphere can help ease anxiety or stress that you may be experience throughout the day to help keep that stress from entering into your sleep. Taking a relaxing bath before bed, spraying your sheets with aromatherapy mist to sooth you as you sleep, and using natural sounds, such as calming waves, to help drown out street noise can all help you to create a peaceful place for you to sleep.
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