3 types of nightmares that interrupt your sleep

LLet’s be honest: in many ways, 2022 feels like a waking nightmare (see… any news broadcast). When current events take a toll on your mental health, logging a good night’s rest is a key element in maintaining your peace of mind. So if frightening dreams are becoming a regular night visitor, one psychologist says there are three types of nightmares you need to be aware of (and some key steps you can take to keep them at bay).

“Nightmares are often called parasomnias,” says psychotherapist Lee Phillips, LCSW, EdD. (Parasomnia is an umbrella term for various sleep disorders including nightmares, sleepwalking, and sleep paralysis.) “Nightmares can occur while the person is falling asleep, during sleep, or upon awakening,” says Dr. Phillips. Most people report having nightmares during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, a stage of sleep characterized by increased brain activity, increased heart rate, and faster breathing.

What causes nightmares is a mystery. We know that Vecna ​​doesn’t drag you into the Upside Down, but studies are slowly beginning to reveal more about it. “Studies show nightmares it can be caused by trauma, lack of sleep, medications, substance use, watching scary movies, reading scary books, and other disorders,” says Dr. Phillips. He notes that his own clients have experienced nightmares along with stress, anxiety and depression.

Although the science of nightmares is still in its early stages, researchers have managed to identify three specific types of nightmares. Below, Dr. Phillips breaks them down and explains why he may be experiencing them. In addition, he offers some ways to try to get you to sleep full of good dreams. Just remember: If your nightmares keep you from getting a good night’s sleep or persist, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor to find out what personalized changes you can make to make your time in bed more restful.

The three types of nightmares

1. Idiopathic nightmares

Idiopathic nightmares are imaginative dream sequences that are not the result of trauma. (They are the most common type of disturbed dreams.) A person often begins to have this type of dream in childhood and can follow it into adulthood. For example, growing up, I had nightmares about the purple Teletubby (“Tinky-Winky”) trying to join my volleyball team. (Fortunately, I no longer have this one.)

“Idiopathic nightmares occur when a person is highly stressed,” says Dr. Phillips. “The person can also have these types of nightmares due to other mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and psychotic disorders.”

Dr. Phillips says that idiopathic nightmares can lead to emotional irritability during the day. “Due to high levels of stress, the person may experience emotional instability, causing them to experience early (not being able to fall asleep) and mid-insomnia (waking up in the middle of REM sleep), he says.

2. Recurring nightmares

As the name implies, recurring nightmares are nightmares that recur semi-frequently. Recurring dreams are common during times of uncontrolled stress and may reflect ongoing conflicts that you are unable or unwilling to resolve. A classic example is a dream in which you arrive at school completely naked because you don’t feel prepared for what the day holds. If you continue to feel overwhelmed at work, these dreams may keep visiting you.

“Recurring nightmares can cause irritability due to lack of sleep. People often get upset because it’s the same dream over and over,” says Dr. Phillips. “They may also experience anxiety and worry because they fear the nightmares won’t end.”

3. Post-traumatic nightmares

Post-traumatic nightmares essentially recreate a traumatic moment in vivid detail and are very common in people who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“Post-traumatic nightmares can cause severe symptoms of anxiety and panic. The person may also experience irritability and depression,” says Dr. Lee. He adds that these kinds of dreams will lead to trouble falling asleep. Y falling asleep In the worst case, patients may self-medicate to help them stay asleep (a measure that will only make things worse).

Fortunately, researchers are beginning to develop treatment options for people whose past appears in their dreams. If this sounds like you, it’s a good idea to work directly with a mental health expert.

How to deal if your night hours are plagued by bad dreams

If you dread bedtime, Dr. Phillips recommends prioritizing self-care above all else. “Nightmares tend to take their own course of action and can lessen over time. We may not be able to stop them, but we can calm them down by engaging in self-care, such as exercise, mindfulness, healthy eating habits, and psychotherapy,” she says. the.

She also recommends refraining from drinking and making sure you leave at least a few hours between the time you take your last bite of dinner and the time you go to bed.

You can also try meditating under the covers, listening to a dream story, or doing something else that you find relaxing and safe. And, just to really emphasize this point, be sure to seek professional help if your dreams are getting out of hand. You deserve a good night’s rest.

Do you have trouble going back to sleep after a strange dream? Here is a guide:



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