What’s the Cause of Nightmares in Adults?

Nightmares in Adults are not Unusual

Although usually linked to children, adults experience nightmares too although less frequently. So what are adult nightmares exactly?

A nightmare is a bad dream that can be both frightening and traumatic. Most people will wake after or during a nightmare feeling anxious and disturbed (and maybe relieved that it was only a dream!)

We experience nightmares when we are in the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase of sleep where all dreaming takes place. It is generally accepted that dreaming is the “clearing out” of the subconscious mind, thus necessary and natural.

However if your dreams have changed dramatically and suddenly, or if they’re seriously disturbing your sleep, check in with your doctor.

Common scenarios in a nightmare is a sensation of being chased by someone or something. Usually the dreamer will try to move their feet, waking themselves up in the process.

Another common scenario is being swallowed up by a tidal wave, waking up just as your head goes under water. I have experienced this one now and then.

What’s the Cause of Nightmares in Adults?

Most nightmares (at any age) are caused by stress. Stress is also responsible for other sleep problems such as the inability to go to sleep or sleep onset insomnia, and restless or poor sleep. Visit our page on reducing stress to find some tips and techniques to ease stress out of your life

Illness, if combined with raised body temperature, can also cause us to have bad dreams. Sleep is generally less restful when the body can’t cool down to it’s ideal resting temperature

Medication can be another cause of nightmares. If your dreams are frequently disturbing and you are on medication, check with your doctor to see if you may be having an adverse reaction that may be causing this.

Nicotine patches which remain on overnight are just one example of a medication which can trigger vivid dreams. Use the 16 hour ones instead.

Trauma such as the death of a loved one may also trigger nightmares in adults. These are probably the mind coping with the situation and is part of a normal healing process.

Excess alcohol or stopping alcohol consumption suddenly can sometimes cause vivid or unpleasant dreams. Adjust your drinking habits if this is affecting you. Eating late at night can also cause restless sleep which may bring on unpleasant dreams.

If you take sleeping pills, stopping them suddenly may cause more REM than deep sleep and consequently more brain activiy and dreaming. Always wean yourself off sleeping pills, or any drug, slowly.

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