The Truth Behind Nightmares
Have you ever experienced a dream that caused you to awaken feeling utterly terrified for no apparent reason? If so, then you have most likely experienced a nightmare, which everyone has at least once in his or her life. Nightmares are dreams that are extremely realistic and vividly disturbing to the victim and occur during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep (Chanin, 2012). They are not to be confused with night terrors, which occur when the victim has first fallen asleep and are only feelings, not actual dreams, and the victim cannot remember why they awoke feeling frightened (Chanin, 2012).
Nightmares may also instill sensations of anxiety, rage, sorrow, or disgust depending on the content and the victim can range from a young child to an adult. Adults, however, are known to have nightmares more than children. This is due to the fact that an adult will generally have more experiences than a child that can become traumatic and sit in their sub-consciousness until these situations reemerge as nightmares (Chanin, 2012). Most of the time these horrifying and upsetting incidents become reoccurring nightmares, meaning that the victim experiences it over and over again in their dreams without variation. Knowing the causes of a nightmare and the effects it has on the victim can lead to a proper diagnosis and treatment or prevention to help the person sleep better.
There are many different causes of nightmares depending on a variety of factors and disorders. They can be as simple as eating a snack right before bed which increases metabolism and indicates that the brain has become more active. Some causes, however, are more complicated, such as certain drugs like narcotics and antidepressants that react with chemicals in the brain (Chanin, 2012). Withdrawal from abusive substances (alcohol being the main one) can also be a factor in causing nightmares because of the way they mess with the brain in a negative manner.
The major causes of most nightmares include sleep disorders, sleep deprivation, and psychological triggers (Chanin, 2012). First, the two main sleep disorders that contribute to nightmares are sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. Sleep apnea is a chronic condition in which a person pauses in their breathing during sleep, and restless leg syndrome is a nerve disorder where someone has the urge to constantly move their limbs during sleep (Chanin, 2012). These disturbances tend to create nightmares due to the imbalance of chemicals in the brain. Next, sleep deprivation is simply when someone either cannot fall asleep or cannot stay asleep for the entire night, which causes exhaustion; therefore, it can lead to the possibility of nightmares. Sleep deprivation is also called insomnia, and it is common in nearly every culture in the world (Stoppler, 2012). Lastly, psychological triggers are the most contributing factors to nightmares and can range from anxiety to depression to...