We all have dreams that scare us at night and wake us up with our hearts pounding and minds racing. Often we will sit up in bed, frightened and looking around with our eyes wide open. These scary dreams are called nightmares. Upon awakening a person typically will feel anxious and disturbed after having a nightmare. This leaves a person feeling tired and drained the next day. Children and adults both experience nightmares, although children usually have nightmares more often than adults. Nightmares are a normal part of life and not something that you usually need to be concerned about. This is especially true if they occur infrequently or are happening during a particularly difficult time in your life or the life of your child.
Nightmares typically occur during the last hours of sleep in the early morning hours. Usually a person will remember that they have had a nightmare and they usually can describe in great detail the events that occurred in the dream. A nightmare typically involves fear of an object or of a situation and usually doesn’t involve any excess movement of the person that is having the nightmare. If it is a child that is having the nightmare usually there is no reason to be concerned. Children eventually outgrow having nightmares and don’t need any professional help. However, if the nightmares increase in frequency, get worse or start to interfere with daytime activities, then it might be time to consult a health care professional.
There are many causes of nightmares, especially for children. The nightmares can be a result of an illness, anxiety, grief, or some other psychological event. High fever, sleep apnea and narcolepsy also increase the number of nightmares a person may experience. Violence that might have been seen on TV or in an actual event might cause nightmares. Medications have also been known to cause nightmares as a side effect. Alcohol, drug use, and nicotine patches have produced nightmares in adults and withdrawal from alcohol, drugs and nicotine can bring on the nightmares in adults as well.
So how do we put an end to nightmares? If the nightmares involve a child the child usually will outgrow the nightmares and typically doesn’t require any treatment. If the nightmares persist, or get worse, a health care professional may need to be consulted to provide treatment in order to bring the nightmares to an end. The treatments for bringing nightmares to an end may include: drug treatments, psychotherapy, or re-scripting. Drug treatments are not usually necessary and are not a good option for children in most cases. Drug treatments can be addictive and have side effects as well as withdrawal symptoms. Psychotherapy treatments are for more serious situations where the nightmare is caused by some event that has caused anxiety. The anxiety might be caused by witnessing a serious accident, a murder, or the death of a loved one. Some nightmares can be caused by unresolved issues in a person’s life and counseling may be required in order to resolve these issues and bring the nightmares to an end. Re-scripting is simply reviewing the nightmare, going over it in your mind or discussing it with someone. A parent may get their child to talk about the dream and talk about different ways that the nightmare could have ended.
Reducing alcohol intake or drug use will help in reducing the frequency and intensity of nightmares. Withdrawal from alcohol or drugs can also cause the nightmares and will take time to get over. If the nightmare is caused by anxiety, grief, and stress or by seeing some traumatic event then the nightmares should ease with time. If they don’t then counseling may be necessary.
Some studies show that eating spicy foods before bed increase brain activity while sleeping and the increased brain activity may bring on the nightmares. If you are taking prescription medication, the nightmares might be a side effect of your medications. If nightmares are a side effect of your prescription medication then you need to consult your health care professional to see about changing your prescription. Some researchers believe that a diet high in fat gives people a greater chance of having nightmares. They believe this is caused by the poor quality of sleep that can be caused by eating foods that have a high fat content. Eating healthy in order to get a good night sleep may be what is needed if high fat foods are a cause of poor sleep.
Poor sleep can be a contributing factor in adults having nightmares. The body uses sleep to recover from the day’s activities, if your job doesn’t require much physical activity or exertion your body doesn’t need much sleep to recover, causing a restless sleep pattern. Getting physically active can produce a good night’s sleep which will in turn reduce the frequency of nightmares. Other factors for poor sleep, that may cause nightmares, are changing sleep schedules, what you eat and drink before bed, having a light on in the room, your sleeping position and your mattress. All of these are things that can be changed in order to get a good night’s sleep and eliminating the nightmares.
There are natural and homeopathic treatments that can help in reducing or eliminating nightmares. These natural treatments help to reduce fear and anxiety as well as restoring a healthy sleep pattern. Relaxing muscles and nerve tension by taking magnesium and B-vitamins when under stress may help to eliminate nightmares. Natural herbal remedies can calm and relax the person that has just been frightened by a nightmare. There are a variety of herbs that can help a person to get a good night’s sleep. Hops work as a sedative and help a person to sleep. Passion Flower works by calming the nerves, relaxing the muscles, calming the heart and sedation. Thyme aids in the digestion of food, relaxes the muscles and the respiratory system. Valerian also relaxes the muscles and has a sedating effect. And wild lettuce induces sleep, calms and also works as a pain reliever. Homeopathic treatments are considered non-toxic and safe for everyone and may be what is needed to end or reduce the occurrence of nightmares.