4 Things You Should Know if Nightmares Haunt Your Sleep
While your body rests and rejuvenates during sleep, your mind is actually more active than while you’re awake. The mind stays active to help sort and file information gathered throughout the day, but the heightened mental activity during sleep can also lead to intense dreams. Dreams exist on an emotional spectrum ranging from happy to bizarre to terrifying. If you’ve ever had a nightmare, then you’ve probably awoken rattled and filled with questions starting with the word “why”.
If you frequently have nightmares, here are four things that you should know about your haunted sleep life:
1. Nightmares are different than night terrors
Nightmares and sleep terrors are commonly perceived as variations of the same experience. However, there are significant differences between the two when it comes to how your body reacts, when they occur, and how your sleep is impacted.
According to the National Sleep Institute, nightmares are dreams with vivid and disturbing content that occur during REM sleep. While they are more common in children, adults also experience nightmares. Nightmares can typically cause you to awaken, and be recalled easily upon waking up.
Night terrors however, occur during non-REM sleep, and cause physical responses from the body such as:
• Enlarged pupils
• Increased blood pressure
People who suffer from night terrors are also more likely to sleepwalk, and usually can’t recall the nature or content of the extreme dream they experienced.
2. Many things can cause or trigger nightmares
Nightmares are bound to occur at some point during your lifetime, if not many times. While the reason behind disturbing dreams hasn’t been succinctly determined, scientists have identified some causes or triggers, including:
• Stress and anxiety
• Breakups or marital issues
• Intra-personal relationship struggles (friends, family, spouse)
• Highly active imaginations
3. Journaling your dreams can help you reflect and relax
If a nightmare causes you to wake up at night, then it can often be very difficult to go back to sleep and get the rest you need. Information about nightmares published by The Huffington Post suggests that relaxation methods such as meditation or journaling your dreams can help you relax and drift back off to sleep more quickly. Keeping a journal of your nightmares can also help for reflection later on, and you can even rewrite your dream to be more positive to help shift your mindset before sleeping.
4. Chronic nightmares might indicate underlying sleep issues
If you are experiencing nightmares, night terrors, or sleepwalking on a very regular basis, then the lost sleep due to disturbed nights could very well be negatively impacting your sleep and your health. Luckily, for most people, nightmares are infrequent, and go away when stress or another trigger is resolved.