Sleeping should be a time of relaxation where you give your mind and body the chance to recover and have the energy for the next day. However, one of the factors that can make people dread bedtime is experiencing nightmares.
The 3 different consciousness states include wakefulness, REM, and NREM (non-rapid eye movement sleep). The stages that your consciousness can dream happens during NREM and REM sleep stages.
Our post covers the reasons why you have nightmares and the steps that you can take to prevent having nightmares.
Understanding The NREM Sleep Stages
If you want to stop nightmares, it’s important to first get a better grasp of what the NREM sleep stages are so that you can understand what’s happening to your body that causes you to dream or experience nightmares.
N1 is the first stage of NREM sleep which is where you feel tired and look forward to laying your head on a pillow to sleep. It’s also the stage where the transition between being awake and asleep occurs.
The brain is sending out signals to your body to reduce activity gradually. One of the reasons why you experience muscle jerks or twitches when you’re falling asleep is because the muscles are still active but are being sent signals to slow down as well.
When you’re passed the N1 stage, you begin to fall into the first stage of sleep. It’s a lighter sleep and your eye movement comes to a stop. This is also the stage where the body decreases your temperature and the heart rate slows down as you’re preparing to go into a deeper sleep.
N3, or as it’s commonly referred to as, slow-wave sleep (SWS) is the stage where the delta waves in your brain slow down. Your body temperature drops further along with your blood pressure to keep the body as relaxed as possible.
The N3 part of sleeping is where most people start to have nightmares. If you’re trying to wake someone up and having a difficult time, they’re likely in some kind of dream and deep sleep which is the N3 stage.
People who are in the N3 sleep stage may talk in their sleep and even start to sleepwalk. For children, N3 is the sleep stage where bedwetting happens the most as it commonly happens during nightmares.
Who Do I Have Nightmares?
The evidence surrounding why we have dreams and nightmares is pretty limited. However, experts have put across ideas that nightmares can be caused by high levels of stress. Among some of the most common nightmares are being chased, having the sensation of your teeth falling out, or falling.
These are all the types of dreams that psychologists have linked with having their own unique reasons for existing. People who experience especially frightening night terrors can also find that it affects them in their day-to-day life.
Sometimes, the nightmare experience can be so bad that it causes psychological problems that spill over into your waking life. These are more extreme cases that may require psychological help.
What Do Your Nightmares Mean?
The types of dreams that you have can vary wildly every night and seem to make no sense at all. For the one-off dreams, trying to figure out what they mean can be a near-enough impossible task.
However, if you’ve been having recurring nightmares, it may be a good idea to try and analyze them. Being able to make some sense out of the same nightmares that you have regularly can help you to rationalize it in your head to get over the fear.
Furthermore, you may be able to link the nightmare to things that are happening in your life. For example, if you manage to link it to something stressful in your life, you can focus on relieving this stress which could help to prevent your nightmares.
How Can You Avoid Nightmares?
Don’t Watch Scary Movies Before Bed
One of the most common reasons why people experience frequent nightmares is because they watch scary movies too close to bedtime. Watching something frightening right before going to sleep causes your mind to think about the scary scenes as you fall asleep.
Therefore, you should consider whether your own habits are what’s causing you to have nightmares. If so, the fix is as simple as avoiding scary movies before bed. Those of you who do find yourself watching something scary at night will want to take some time to put on something more calming.
Alternatively, you could listen to calming music to take your mind off of the horror so that your mind doesn’t fixate on it while you sleep. This is a great way to put some distance between the horror film and your brain so that it isn’t the last thing you consume before sleeping.
Use White Noise
When you’re asleep, the brain can include everything that you’ve encountered throughout the day into your nightmares. Therefore, smaller things such as loud sounds that have made you jump in the day could make their way into your nightmares.
In the same way that scary sounds can infiltrate your dreams, pleasant sounds can also be present in your dreams. White noise can be used as a way for your mind to stay focused on just one sound so that it can have an easier time blocking out any negative or scary dreams.
You can utilize white noise to ward off bad dreams while also being able to fall asleep easier at night. This is especially the case for people who need some kind of noise to sleep at night to stop their mind drifting onto dark thoughts that keep them up or make them have bad dreams.
When To Seek Professional Help For Nightmares
You should consider the types of substances that you’re currently taking while experiencing nightmares as they could be affecting your mental state while sleeping without you knowing.
If you’ve been prescribed a new medication and you’ve been experiencing nightmares at the same time, be sure to speak to your doctor about it as this article wasn’t written by a medical professional. Doctors may prescribe you a new drug or make changes to your doses which can be an effective way to reduce nightmares.
People who have been experiencing vivid nightmares to the point that it has a negative effect on their daily life should seek professional help. This is because the night terrors could be a sign that your brain is trying to tell you something isn’t right.
Doctors and therapists can help you navigate your way through these nightmares so that you can understand them better and get to the underlying cause which could involve some type of trauma or PTSD from previous events in your life.
Having bad dreams is pretty normal if they happen every now and then. However, if you start having the same nightmares over and over, or your nightmares are becoming more severe, it could be a sign of a more serious psychological issue.
Therefore, you should speak to a doctor or psychological expert to get the best help possible. Sometimes, trying to diagnose yourself or figure out extreme nightmares on your own can make things worse.
We hope that you can put the information in our post to good use to quit having nightmares and look at bedtime as a relaxing place to be again.