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Nightmares and Nightmare Disorder

Few things are quite as disturbing as waking up startled, not completely sure where you are or what is happening. If you are all too familiar with this feeling, you may be one of the adults who still experience nightmares on a regular basis.

Nightmares typically occur during REM sleep, or the deepest stage of sleep. This is the same stage in which dreams occur, but nightmares can be much more startling and even cause you to jolt awake.

While most people associate nightmares with small children crawling into their parents’ bed, “between 2% and 8% of the adult population is plagued by nightmares.” Having nightmares as an adult is a completely normal occurrence, but it is important to understand what may be contributing to these nighttime fits.

Just like dreams, nightmares can be affected by everything from the food you ate before bed, the person you met last week or the event you have coming up. More common causes of nightmares are changes in medications and sleep deprivation, both of which affect the chemical levels in the body. More importantly, adult nightmares can be a sign of more pressing sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, insomnia and depression. Some psychologists even believe that nightmares may be a way of working through traumatic issue that you are not able to handle in a conscious state.

Frequent nightmares become a disorder when they disturb everyday life. Nightmare Disorder is a sleep disorder characterised by the repeated occurrence of frightening dreams which precipitate awakenings from sleep; on awakening, the individual becomes fully alert and oriented and has detailed recall of the nightmare, which usually involves imminent danger or extreme embarrassment to the individual.”

As with most sleep disorders, frequent nightmares can be fixed by keeping a regular sleep cycle and bedtime routine. Regularity in this area can do wonders for all sleep issues. Figuring out what helps you sleep is important to getting the best night’s sleep and avoiding troublesome sleep disorders.

“Adult Nightmares: Causes and Treatments.” WebMD. WebMD. Web. 3 Sept. 2014. <http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/nightmares-in-adults&gt;.

“Nightmares.” Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness Find a Therapist. Web. 3 Sept. 2014. <http://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions/nightmares&gt;.

“Nightmare Disorder.” Patient.co.uk. 12 Aug. 2014. Web. 3 Sept. 2014. <http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/nightmare-disorder&gt;.

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