Sleeping well for some people is really difficult. Every night as the sun sets and others slip off into a comfortable slumber, filled with pleasant thoughts and dreams, some people are left to navigate their mind through a maze of nightmares and bad dreams.
There could be reasons why this is happening, with some solutions to help you. So snuggle down and read what could be causing those bad nightmare, the night terrors and the nightmares…
The scientific bit
Sleep is still an unlocked mystery to scientists but they do know that dreaming occurs during the stage of sleep known as Rapid Eye Movement or REM. What can happen during this stage is that our eyes open and our brain is midway between sleep and consciousness. This is the stage that we dream, and sometimes it is not always pleasant.
Note: this is not a diagnosis of any sleeping issues or nightmares! For ongoing incidents or nightmares, please seek the help of a medical professional.
Top of the list is on-going or acute stress and anxiety. When we become anxious, for whatever reason, the first thing that tends to be affected is our sleep. If nothing else, it affects our ability to switch off, unwind and relax, the three common ingredients we need for a restful night’s sleep.
In some cases, the cause of this stress and anxiety can be identified; it may be short term, for example, a reaction to a difficult situation. But for some people, it seems to appear from nowhere and stay. If this is the case, you may need to seek help.
The food and drink we consume can also play a part in us not enjoying a pleasant night’s sleep; a small-scale study has shown that those people who ate spicy foods – especially those not used to it! – did not enjoy a night’s sleep that was conducive to being alert the next day. The heat in the spice seems to have created brain activity too close to bed time, resulting, scientists think, in creating an alert brain that struggles to switch off.
Still on the subject of food, there was also a study that suggested many years ago that the type of food we consume can also affect the brain and its functions, especially at night time. We are all used to being told that eating healthy, non-junk food is better for our health and it seems that junk food may also have a negative effect on our dreams too.
In the short term, the depressant that is alcohol can help some people fall asleep but, it seems that once again, the effects are only temporary and once the immediate effect has worn off, the nightmares can set in. Bad dreams and terrors, similar to hallucination during waking moments, can be common for those people who consume alcohol to excess.
Another common cause for nightmares can be the side-effects of prescription medication. Depending on the chemical ingredients and what the drug is being taken for, some medication can produce reactions in the brain that can lead to not only nightmare, but difficulty getting to sleep (and staying asleep!). Luckily, for many people, this is a short term issue that once the course of medication is completed, the dreams cease.
And so it seems that on some occasions, nightmares are simply a reaction to the day or weeks we have had and will pass; it also shows that by taking care of ourselves, from inside we can also avoid some of these less pleasant experiences, enjoying a good night’s sleep…