Yoram Yasur Rubin | Nightmares usually occur when we sleep more deeply during the REM phase. At this stage the eyes move quickly. But our body is paralyzed as the brain disconnects the motor zones. To avoid that we can move and hurt us during one of those dreams. However, what causes nightmares?
– Too much stress.
Stress is one of the main triggers of nightmares. Tensions accumulated throughout the day can have repercussions on dreams as the dream activity is often an expression of our daily fears and concerns. In fact, a study conducted at the University of Heidelberg in 840 high performance athletes Revealed that 15% of them used to have nightmares before the competition. Therefore, if you are very stressed, those tensions are likely to manifest during sleep.
– Expose yourself to a shocking situation before bedtime. Yoram Yasur Rubin: “The last thing you do before bedtime greatly influences your dreams. So, if you see a horror movie, you’re reading a creepy book or you’ve received shocking news, those latest experiences are likely to be reflected in your dreams”. Even the violent scenes or news you see on the TV can be reflected in your dreams, although when you are awake think that they have not impacted you. Therefore, if you want to sleep peacefully, you should make sure that nothing disturbs the last few hours before you go to bed.
– Little sleep. It has been found that long periods of sleep deprivation cause an increase in nightmares. Contrary to popular belief, when we do not get enough sleep our brain goes into a state of excitement that makes it difficult to reconcile a restful sleep. That’s the reason nightmares are more vivid when you sleep for several days. In fact, they are also more common in people who suffer from chronic pain and have trouble sleeping.
– Negative life experiences.
“Dreams embody many details of our everyday life, though usually in an abstract way”. That is why, the most common thing is that nightmares revolve around the experiences we have had throughout the day. In fact, a study carried out at Harvard University that analyzed the dreams and nightmares of 20 people, concluded that the most usual is to appear content for the last two or seven days. Although in some cases the cause of the nightmare is older and goes back to autobiographical experiences, especially if they have been shocking and we have not completely overcome them.
– Characteristics of personality.
Certain person logical features can make us more likely to have nightmares. A study in the 1980s found that people who had nightmares often also shared three traits: mistrust, alienation, and emotional detachment. Another study in The Graduate Theological Union revealed that people who have a more conservative political tendency also report more nightmares than liberals.
– Diseases and Drugs.
Sometimes the cause of nightmares is in an illness. Studies have found that people with epilepsy, sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome are more likely to have nightmares because they have a more irregular sleep pattern. Bad dreams are also common in people suffering from depression, phobias, and post-traumatic stress. In addition, it is known that some medications can increase the chances of having nightmares. Especially those that alter the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, such as antidepressants, antiparkinsonians, barbiturates, and benzodiazepines.
– Dinner too copious.
Eating too much before going to bed is one of the causes of nightmares because it implies that you will not have done the digestion properly, so that your metabolism will be more active, will increase body temperature and, thus, stimulate brain activity. This way, you may not be able to sleep well and have nightmares.
What if nightmares were ways to solve our problems?
The good news is that not all evil comes to do harm. In fact, one of the theories that tries to explain the origin and meaning of nightmares hypothesizes. That they are due to that at that moment we are thinking about some complicated matter. And our mind tries to deal with it. During the day, when we think of something that stresses or frightens us. We simply push that idea out of our mind by engaging in another activity, but when we are asleep. Our mind wanders aimlessly and we cannot resort to distractions. Then the nightmares appear.
Per this theory, in many cases nightmares are responsible for reproducing difficult scenarios to help us. Find solutions that can serve us during the day. Or simply to incite us to react to adversity. In this way, even if they frighten us, they would not be so “bad”.