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6 Tips to Avoid Nightmares

In this Article we Explain the Causes of Nightmares and What to do to Control or Avoid Them.

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LatinAmerican Post | Brandon Martínez Salazar

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Nightmares are known as bad dreams. All people in life have gone through this distressing moment where a simple dream can become stormy and terrifying. Likewise, these events are very common in childhood, where it is considered normal, since it is part of the development process. However, throughout life, these nocturnal experiences are also frequent and the causes can range from disorders derived from lifestyle to chronic traumas that last over time.

Therefore, it is important to understand how nightmares occur and what habits are recommended to control and avoid them.

How do nightmares occur?

According to Harvard University, by the end of the 16th century, nightmares were considered a disease that placed a great burden on the person who suffered from it. This reference has its origin in the text An Universal Etymological English Dictionary, published by Nathan Bailey in 1721. In the same way, the research of the university center explains that between 3 and 7 percent of the population classifies the nightmare as a real problem. This situation can become very serious and problematic if they occur recurrently and affect the quality of sleep.

How do they occur? Mistakenly, the nightmare has been confused with night terrors. Nevertheless, the latter are a phenomenon that occurs in deep sleep, not REM, an acronym that means "rapid eye movement sleep." To put it simply, it is the stage of sleep where the brain is less active and makes children kick, scream or wake up with a racing heartbeat, but without the sensation of fear or the narrative memory of a nightmare.

Now, nightmares do reflect an image of fear or terror, but their causes arise for various reasons such as stress, anxiety, irregular sleep, medications or other mental health disorders. For science, the cause most associated with recurring nightmares is post-traumatic stress.

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Post-traumatic stress and nightmares

According to a study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, called "Sleep Medicine Clinics" and published in 2009, it was found that 80% of people with PTSD have frequent nightmares.

People who suffer from this psychological illness experienced frightening events at some time in their lives, whose memories last for months and even years. This trauma is very complex because precisely these experiences, which originate it, are reflected almost permanently in dreams. Meanwhile, anyone who has experienced severe stress or anxiety can experience recurring nightmares. In these cases, it is best to consult a specialist and do psychological therapy.

How to avoid nightmares?

In addition to post-traumatic stress, as we have mentioned, there are other sources for nightmares. Therefore, there are also ways to prevent them, having healthy habits and taking care of mental health.

Nightmares can affect people's quality of life and, although it sometimes seems normal, its complexity will depend on what is causing it. However, below is a list of tips that will help control nightmares and improve mental health at the same time.

  • Relaxing routines before bed: It is advisable to drink herbal tea or practice meditation. This will allow the mind to develop a way to relax and get away from negative thoughts. Also, it is convenient to avoid watching or reading topics that cause stress or concern just before sleeping.

  • Have emotional support: Talking about a nightmare with someone you trust and reaffirming that it is simply something unreal helps to overcome the negative thoughts that derive from it.

  • Stress management: If you feel that nightmares are being caused by stressful situations, it is important to think about designing a lifestyle based on physical exercise or yoga. This will help reduce worries.

  • Change the ending of the story: Especially in children, managing nightmares can be difficult. Therefore, one option is to change the narrative ending of a dream and write it on paper. This way you can give an encouraging end to the story and minimize the traumas.

  • Visit a specialist: It is possible that in some people nightmares develop complex traumas that will begin to affect sleep and physical health. In that case, it is essential to seek specialized medical assistance to diagnose the origin and provide effective treatment.

  • Avoid copious meals: to guarantee a good sleep it is crucial to have a dinner that is not too heavy. Some nightmares can also be caused by overeating, which causes the metabolism to go into overdrive and interfere with sleep and rest.