Many believe that nightmares are kid-stuff. A close cousin to monsters-under-the-bed and something adults should grow out of. However, even though nightmares are more common in young children, 50-85% of adults report having the occasional nightmare. Nightmares occur during the REM stage of sleep and usually include feelings of fear, distress, anxiety, loss of control, worry of harm, or disturbing imagery.
The frequency and intensity decrease as we get older. Yet the data clearly doesn’t support the notion that nightmares disappear altogether. The avoidance of discussing adult nightmares can be tied to society’s view of adult mental health. Beliefs that as adults we shouldn’t be vulnerable.
However, although the cause of nightmares is unknown, they can be our minds way of telling us something isn’t right. Nightmares may be linked to:
A medical condition
Parasomnias (sleep disorders)
Not getting enough sleep or a poor sleep routine
Stress / conflicts
If you believe your nightmares may be the result of a medical condition or parasomnia, it may necessitate seeking the help of an experienced professional. If you feel that your nightmares may be the side effect of medication, talk with your doctor about finding an alternative medication. And if you aren’t getting enough sleep or you have a poor sleep routine, you may want to seek out a professional for help with your sleeping habits.
I am a huge advocate of seeing a counselor/therapist. They have the education to help us process the stresses of daily life and things that affect our wellbeing such as anxiety, depression, PTSD and more. Counselors can also assist with introducing coping skills and wellness exercises to address issues linked to nightmares.
There are a lot of wellness techniques available to us. These range from yoga, meditation, journaling, art therapy to so much more. And when it comes to prepping for bedtime, here are some ideas to help you drift off to sleep a bit more peacefully:
Read a relaxing book
Soothe your mind and body with a bath; add some bubble bath for a little fun and indulgence
If you have a pet, this is the perfect cuddle time!
Play a fun game on your phone or tablet, with the lights on to avoid eyestrain
Turn on some soothing music
Diffuse lavender essential oil
Have a cup of chamomile tea; it’s good for: anxiety, depression, insomnia and stress
If you should happen to experience a nightmare, be gentle on yourself. We are not in total control of our minds during sleep. Remember to breathe and do your best to let the images go.
Until next time, welcome the power of self care!
Nightmares – Risk Factors. (n.d.). Sleep Education. Retrieved from http://sleepeducation.org/sleep-disorders-by-category/parasomnias/nightmares/risk-factors