Causes and Prevention of Nightmares

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What Are Nightmares?
Nightmares are usually dreams that get unpleasantly real and upsetting, and may lead to anxiety, causing you to wake up. A nightmare is different from a bad dream because it usually occurs towards the end of sleeping, while a bad dream does not cause you to wake up. It is fairly common in adults as it affects 80% to 90% of people at some point in their lives. It occurs more in children, with 50% having nightmares that cause their parents to wake up. The rate and frequency of occurrences vary as 50% to 85% of adults report having occasional nightmares. In some cases, it gets worse and progresses to cause other sleep problems, but this occurs only 2% to 8% of the time.

Causes
The factors that cause nightmares can either be emotional or physical.

Emotional
● Upsetting events and trauma cause nightmares such as the loss of a loved one. Research has proven that children who have experienced the loss of a friend or family member have a higher probability of having nightmares than those faced with only stress of their daily lives.
● Recurring anxiety can lead to a lot of emotional strain, and a mind that isn't calm has a higher tendency to have nightmares.

A sleepless Nightmare

Physical
● Abnormal sleeping habits can lead to nightmares. Irregular sleep schedules and sleep
deprivation are known to cause nightmares as well.
● Some drugs and medications can make sleeping difficult, which in turn causes nightmares for the users. Also, some time after the drugs or medications are no longer used, it can cause the same effect.
● Eating at the wrong time, such as right before going to bed
● Prolonged stress
● Excessive alcohol consumption and withdrawal

Prevention of Nightmares
The following techniques can be employed in order to reduce the occurrence of nightmares:

● You should have a support system for relieving the stress of the day. It is important that your mental state is healthy.
● It is important to create and stick to a regular routine for your daily life. Your physical body must also be kept in peak condition.
● Keep track of whatever new drugs and medications you are taking to see if they have any effects on your sleeping condition. Before a new drug is taken, it is important to discuss it with your physician as it may have side effects.
● Avoid sleeping in. A regular sleep schedule may reduce nightmares.
● Try to reduce alcohol and coffee intake.
● It is not healthy to sleep immediately after eating. Relax before going to bed. After waking up, try to exercise daily and avoid lying in bed awake.

Generally, occasional nightmares shouldn’t worry you too much since they are a normal part of sleep. However, if they happen too often, affect your daytime functioning, or make you anxious about going to sleep, you should consult your physician about it.

Article by: Karthik Reddy