Health31 Jan 2011 08:00 pm
A nightmare is a type of dream that exclusively occurs during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and that arouses feelings of intense, inescapable fear, terror, distress, or extreme anxiety that usually awakens the sleeper. They can cause a strong negative emotional response from the sleeper, typically fear and/or horror. The dream may contain situations of danger, discomfort, psychological or physical terror. Sufferers usually awaken in a state of distress and may be unable to return to sleep for a prolonged period of time.
Nightmares can have physical causes such as sleeping in an uncomfortable or awkward position, having a fever, or psychological causes such as stress and anxiety. Eating before bed, which triggers an increase in the body’s metabolism and brain activity, is a potential stimulus for nightmares. Particularly among adults, prescription drugs such as levedopa, reserpine, beta blockers, and antidepressants, as well as withdrawal from addictive drugs, all can provoke nightmares. Heavy drinking also is strongly associated with nightmares.
Some people have significant psychological problems that are causing bad dreams. It is important to consider psychotherapy to pinpoint major life stressors, past traumatic events and depression that might be causing bad dreams. Chronic nightmares have also been treated by a desensitization method that uses instruction about rehearsal of the nightmare and the imagining of a different ending.
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