Scary Dreams and Nightmares
Once in a while, we have scary dreams – someone chasing you or falling off from a cliff are just some of the common scenarios. Generally known as nightmares, these scary dreams evoke strong dreadful emotions from pain to complete horror that sometimes causes a person to wake up in great distress.
The occasional scary dreams are normal but there are recurrent ones such as those related to trauma or high stress that can cause sleep problems and may need medical help. Some scary dreams are known to occur when one is in sleep paralysis. When we sleep, the brain releases an amino acid known as glycine that paralyzes the body preventing a person from acting out dreams.
However, sometimes a person leaves the dream state while the glycine is still working so the person becomes aware that he or she is dreaming. This could be a very scary experience, especially because when this happens the person often feels difficulty in breathing as if there is a great weight on the chest. In olden times, such scary dreams were considered to be caused by demons such as the incubus and the succubus, which were believed to lie or sit upon sleepers.
Why do we have scary dreams or nightmares?
Nightmares are thought to be a person’s way to deal with pressure. They are often associated with stressful or traumatic events. Problems at school can sometimes trigger nightmares in children. Major life events from moving homes to illness or a loved one’s death can all cause high stress that may lead to nightmares. For children and even some adults, watching scary movies before going to bed can set off scary dreams. High fevers and some medications can also cause nightmares. If you notice that you or your child have been experiencing nightmares sometime after you started on a medication, inform your doctor immediately.
How to deal with nightmares
Generally, scary dreams are harmless. If your child has been having bad dreams, comfort and reassure them that the nightmares are not real. Tell them that everyone has nightmares and while the dreams are bad, it does not mean that they are. Children and adult alike can cope with scary dreams by writing them down or simply talking about them. However, if you or a loved one has nightmares frequently, it is best to consult your doctor or seek help from a sleep clinic to determine what is causing the scary dreams.
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