Did you know that nightmares are not something only kids have? Everyone has nightmares at least once during their lifetime. Bad dreams and nightmares are not only caused by horror movies, but experts opine that there are quite a few reasons why you might wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night from a nightmare. Are your nightmares causing you a lot of distress? Are they keeping you from getting restful sleep on a regular basis? Knowing the causes of your nightmares might help in reducing their occurrence.
Why You Have Nightmares
Here is a look at some of the reasons you have nightmares:
Often resulting from a traumatic life experience, stress and anxiety are, in some cases, the cause of bad dreams and nightmares. According to experts, grief over the loss of a loved one, a major illness or surgery, and witnessing or suffering a major accident or assault can trigger off nightmares. Another common cause of recurrent nightmares is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However, traumatic events are not the cause of all nightmares. In many cases, daily stressors like major life transitions such as divorce or moving or work-related or financial problems can contribute to night terrors.
A night out with friends for cocktails and other drinks can lead to nightmares. Experts say that alcohol is a major cause of nightmares. First off, it suppresses REM, or rapid eye movement, sleep – which is when you have dreams. As the alcohol in your system is metabolized, it results in dreams, sometimes in the form of intense nightmares. Additionally, the upper airway is relaxed by alcohol, so when you drink before sleeping, your airway collapses even more. The combination of not being able to breathe properly and dreaming can create a situation where you have a bad dream or a nightmare which often involves being chased, drowning, or the feeling of being suffocated.
- Late-Night Snacks
Some people can have nightmares by consuming late night snacks. The snack can cause an increase in metabolism and signal more activity in the brain. Also, eating a big dinner, especially a spicy one, can also be what causes bad dreams or nightmares later. Lying down when your stomach is full can trigger acid reflux and this may, in turn, disrupt sleep. When your body is trying to digest food, cool itself down or filter out snoring by your sleeping partner, it can make your sleep go out of whack. This in turn can cause nightmares and increase the number of wake-ups you experience throughout the night.
- Going Off Meds
Going off your medications, especially antidepressants, can cause nightmares. If you and your doctor decide that it is a good time to lower your dose or stop taking them, or switch to another medication, then it will have an impact on your dreams. This is particularly true if you stop the medications abruptly instead of gradually tapering off the dosage. This often occurs because antidepressants alter the levels of neurotransmitters in your brain. Stopping medications can have an effect on the behavior of your neurotransmitters, which in turn can lead to disturbing or strange dreams.
Nightmares can have a significant effect on your health and well-being. Sleep deprivation that results from nightmares can lead to a wide range of medical conditions, including obesity, heart disease, and depression. If your nightmares are a symptom of PTSD or untreated sleep apnea, the underlying disorders can also have very serious adverse effects on both your physical and mental health. If you have recurrent nightmares, you should consult your doctor to determine what causes nightmares and take steps to treat it and reduce the frequency of your nightmares.