Your dreams can tell you a lot about what’s really going on in your head. Issues or problems that are buried deep in our subconscious can be manifested in dreams and at times when the stress levels are too high or someone has experienced trauma, people can have recurrent nightmares that may affect their sleep quality. Nightmare is a disturbing dream associated with negative feelings and one tends to wake up with a lot of anxiety and fear. Some people experience more nightmares than others and their dream life often interrupts their daily life. Nightmares are more common in small children and their frequency decreases after the age of 10. (Also read: Common signs and symptoms of sleep disorder you shouldn’t ignore)
Poor mental health is one of the primary reasons behind frequent nightmares. Dr Milan Balakrishnan, Consultant Psychiatrist at Masina Hospital, Mumbai, says stress, anxiety or depression are common causes of too many nightmares. He also lists post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as one of the reasons of recurrent nightmares in adults.
“One of the most common symptoms of PTSD is “re-experiencing,” or having flashbacks to traumatic event or events. Sometimes these flashbacks can manifest as nightmares. Sleep disorders like sleep apnea (interrupted breathing during sleep) and narcolepsy can cause recurrent nightmares “Certain medications, such as antidepressants, blood pressure medications, and other drugs can cause nightmares. Alcohol withdrawal and other substance withdrawal can cause nightmares too,” says Dr Balakrishnan.
In some cases sleep deprivation and erratic sleep schedule could also need to nightmares. Alcoholics or those having antidepressants or on certain medications could also experience bad dreams.
Dr Shefali Vaidya, Psychologist, Apollo Spectra Mumbai lists 6 reasons for frequent nightmares.
• Stress: Owing to personal or professional life can be the trigger behind your nightmare. Certain factors such as divorce, financial crisis, death of a loved one, or job loss are some of the reasons behind the nightmare. Stress is one of the common causes of nightmares and needs to be addressed promptly.
• Trauma: Nightmares are a common occurrence after an accident, injury, physical or sexual abuse, or another traumatic event. Nightmares are common in people who tend to have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
• Sleep deprivation: Erratic sleep schedule will reduce the amount of sleep you get and can raise the chances of having nightmares. Insomnia is tied to a higher risk of nightmares. Try to follow a good sleep routine.
• Medication: Are you aware? Certain medications such as antidepressants, blood pressure medications, and drugs to tackle Parkinson’s disease or help stop smoking can cause nightmares.
• Substance abuse: Alcohol and recreational drug use can trigger nightmares. Thus, you will not be able to get a sound sleep at night.
• Scary books and movies: If you are one of them who read scary books or watches horror or movies, especially before sleeping, then you may get a nightmare.
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