Do you have nightmares every night but feel helpless because you can’t do anything about it? Well here are the main possible reasons why you have intense dreams say the experts.
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From time to time we all have experienced particular potent dreams which are so vivid that even if we break into a cold sweat and awaken with a start, the memories of the dreams do not vanish but persists every time we try to close our eyes and sleep again. Most of these dreams are unpleasant and have intense effect on us. They force us to think about out our mental well being. Science is still in its infancy about our mind and how it functions or (malfunctions) but dreams are by far still the biggest mystery to us all. But research has been able to find a pattern to them and put together pieces of this puzzle we call dreams to understand why we dream, and what we dream recurrently?
What makes us dream?
Before we dive into the dark matters of vivid nightmares and bad dreams we must understand what are “dreams” as such? When we fall off to sleep physically our mind is still at work and it oscillates between phases of less or more wakefulness. During the most wakeful part of the night or early morning our brain is busy analyzing our past day and its experiences. This is when the stage of REM or rapid eye movements occurs.
1 Dreams occur usually in REM phase
Most of our dreams are basically created during this phase of REM’s which is almost 25% of our total sleep during the tenure of the night. We dream every night but tend to forget it as they are unremarkable but what really sticks to our active memory are the dreams which are highly intense or scary. Analysts say that if the REM phase is affected badly, it can affect our quality of dreams as well.
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2Your sleep schedule could be causing nightmares
It’s necessary to have a healthy gap between the rotation from REM sleep to deep sleep and vice versa. If the REM sleep which is very crucial for dreams is disturbed in some way it can cause bad dreams. Your body always tries to set itself into a smooth pattern of operation and any disruption of these patterns results in a negative bodily response.
3It is important to experience a complete REM cycle of sleep
A full rotation of sleep between REM to deep sleep takes about 90 minutes with the last 20 minutes as REM sleep and we usually have 4 such rotation per night. That is why the night you are deprived of the minimum requirement of healthy 7-8 hours of sleep, you fall into a REM rebound the next night as your brain tries to catch up with the lost REM sleep from the previous night. That’s why a regular sleep cycle is essential for having positive dreams.
4Spicy food can cause strange dreams
If you are into the habit of binging late at night especially spicy or dairy-rich food items, then stop it immediately. Eating anything too late at night increases the rate of your metabolism and encourages brain activity instead of letting it slow down. This leads to heightened REM sleep activity leading to strange dreams and imaginations, in fact, one must eat at least 2 ½ to 3 hrs before going off to sleep.
5Watching Television before bed can mess with your head
We all know our dreams come from our subconscious mind and too loud or intense TV shows will influence your thoughts and dreams after you doze off to sleep too. The blue light emanated from TV screens or laptop even eBooks or a smart phone interferes with the natural sleep rhythm of the body too.
6Reading intense books can impact your dreams
In fact, reading books which are too stimulating too can affect our thought process and mingles with our subconscious in an ugly manner which causes nightmares. This may not apply to everyone as everybody has a different threshold of processing such information and stimulation for the brain. In general, though, reading something too intense can impact our brains.
7Sleep apnea is also a reason for intense dreams
Approximately 30 million people worldwide are diagnosed with sleep apnea which is also a big contributor to having recurring nightmares. Basically, this is a sleep condition in which throat muscles are too relaxed while sleeping which further blocks the air pipe leaving the body gasping for air. This results in disturbed sleep and causes negative dreams. You can judge your symptoms for sleep apnea yourself by checking if you snore, wake up often with dry throat, or feel tired every morning.
8Stress and anxiety can cause bad dreams
It’s a no-brainer that if you have a very stressful and anxious lifestyle or a worrying habit you will lose on quality sleep and have nightmares big time. People suffering from depression or anxiety seem to be insomniac by nature and mostly suffer from negative thoughts and dreams. Due to the lack of sleep, the brain always tries to catch up with the lost REM sleep leading to disturbing imagery and nightmares.
What you can do
The solution to these are activities are meditation, exercise and a healthy diet regimen, as well as open communication regarding the nightmares; all which can help alleviate the problems. Traumatic events induced nightmare can be reduced by counseling and therapies.
9Even sleeping pills can mess with your head
If the doctor has prescribed sleeping tablets to you that means you are sleep deprived and also are not getting enough REM sleeps cycles. So initially when you start off with the pills your medication may induce intense REM cycles with strong dreams, but slowly these dreams will mellow down as the body and brain start getting used to the medicine.
10Other medicines affect your dreams too
Medicines which are antidepressants, blood pressure tablets or anti-smoking pills suppress REM sleep as well. So when one stops taking these pills, there is a super REM rebound leading extra vivid dreams and nightmares. Also, our brain chemistry is badly affected by Alcohol or marijuana which causes REM rebounds, usually the nights after their consumption leading strange dreams too.
How to cope with sleep deprivation and nightmares?
Not everyone can cope with a stressful lifestyle or traumatic events easily especially if you are one of those who constantly worry about things and is usually anxious or suffering from depression. Such problems can negatively affect your peace of mind and impact your sleep.
What you should do
Here are some of the activities which might help you get a good night sleep minus nightmares.
- Relaxation techniques
- Art therapy
- Daily exercise
- Deep breathing
- Sports or music to relax
Always make time to relax your body and mind if you are having a stressful day or job. Do not wait for night time to relax rather take small breaks during the day to unwind this will help you to sleep easily with no bad dreams.