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Things that Go Bump in the Night

Research has shown as many as one in four people are having nightmares every week.  This in itself is a frightening statistic.  The American Sleep Association states that 80-90% of people will experience nightmares at some point in their life with nightmares starting as early as just three years of age.

As the month of October means Halloween creeps up on us, it may be that your dreams have become more intense or frightening.  In this article, we explore why you might be having nightmares.

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Nightmares usually fall into two categories: the types of recurring dreams you’ve always had or the nightmares you experience after a traumatic event.  How you deal with these nightmares is going to depend on what caused them.  However, it’s also easy to confuse the cause when sometimes there is actually a very simple explanation.

A common sensation people describe as a nightmare is when they wake up in the morning, can’t move and sense a ‘presence’ in the room.  Terrifying!  Not least of all when this has now come to be known in the dreaming world as ‘Old Hag Syndrome.’ 

The paralysis you experience is most likely to be a continuation of the temporary loss of muscle tone you have whilst in dream sleep (so you don’t carry out whatever you’re dreaming).  For some people, this paralysis carries on in to waking for just a few minutes.  When accompanied by hallucinations (like shadows in the room or a feeling of pressure on the chest – both of which seem VERY real) one most common cause is likely to be stress. 

Take a look at the role stress is playing in your life and effective ways you can manage it.   Make sure you’re making the hour before bedtime yours with a relaxing bedtime routine, both to improve your sleep quality and your dream content.

Another cause of nightmares is when your room is too hot.  This is why people tend to wake up sweating.  Physiologically, as your body overheats it wakes you up so that you can cool down.  The environment you sleep in must be a sanctuary for your body as well as your mind and so having the temperature just right is going to help improve the dreams you’re having.

Nightmares can also ask you to take a look at an event in your life which has had a significant impact upon you.   This doesn’t always mean doing something, except perhaps acknowledging how much it has influenced your thinking and your behaviour. 

Keeping a dream diary is a great way of spotting patterns in your dreaming, particularly if a particular person or place in the here and now is causing the nightmare.  Most women, for example, find they’re having violent or aggressive dreams around the time of their menstrual cycle.  When you have the troubling dream, take the time to write it down and then talk it through with a friend or post your comments here and I’ll send you my reply.

Next time, some common nightmares you may be having.