Nightmares are common and some of the most common include being chased, encountering monsters or demons, and seeing something tragic happen to a loved one.
But why do such frightening scenarios sometimes play out in our heads?
A psychologist has uncovered the six hidden reasons why it happens – including an unfulfilling relationship, sleeping on your back and feeling unfulfilled.
In an interview with FEMAIL, Dr. Carmen Harra, American author of Committed: Finding Love and Loyalty Through the Seven Archetypes: “Dreams are the fabrication of several parts of the brain that remain active during sleep, including the thalamus, medial prefrontal cortex, and posterior cingulate cortex.
“Sometimes the signals exchanged between these areas are of a negative or disruptive nature – due to trauma, substances or other factors – resulting in nightmares occurring during the REM (or ‘rapid eye movement’) phase, our deepest sleep phase. ‘
No one wants nightmares to interrupt a restful sleep – yet often when we least expect it, we wake up scared and sweating from a frighteningly vivid dream (stock photo)
“The feeling of unfulfillment is often reflected in dreams,” said the expert. “For example, if you are unhappy in your relationship, your emotions may manifest in the form of dreams about betrayal, abandonment, or arguments.
“Those frustrating dreams of unfulfillment and anxiety can become so intense for some people that they become nightmares.
“It’s important to address issues that bother you in the waking world so they don’t upset you while you’re resting.”
IRREGULAR SLEEP OR SLEEPING ON YOUR BACK
The psychologist said: “Irregular sleep patterns, especially over a long period of time, are detrimental to what we observe while we are resting.
TRAUMA AND SERIOUS LOSS
“Trauma creates a state of hypersensitivity in the brain that causes nightmares,” the psychologist explained.
“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder increases the sense of fixation on the trauma, keeping it fresh in the memory.
“This causes your mind to constantly replay the traumatic incident, even while you sleep.”
“Changes in schedule or sleep cycles can change the content of dreams as your mind is restless and insomnia in particular is associated with nightmares.
“Some studies have also found that certain sleeping positions lead to bad dreams, namely sleeping on your back.
“That’s because breathing is more difficult when you’re lying on your back, which can induce sleep apnea, which can lead to heavy snoring and sometimes pauses in breathing and sleep disruption.”
EAT BEFORE BED
dr Carmen suggested that eating before bed can trick your mind into thinking too much when you’re resting – causing nightmares to haunt your dreams.
She said: “What we consume has long been linked to what we dream.
“Many people think that if they eat before bed, they have bad dreams.
“This is scientifically correct: Eating increases the body’s metabolism and also increases brain activity during the night.”
EVERYDAY STRESS AND ANXIETY
“Stress can easily trigger nightmares as it increases anxiety, which leads to hyperarousal (feeling jittery),” the expert explained.
Over-arousal can lead to irritability, temper tantrums, and difficulty concentrating.
dr Carmen added: “This throws off our circadian rhythm, the body’s biological clock, leading to poor sleep and distressing dreams.
“Like all types of dreams, nightmares are widespread and serve a purpose.
“By understanding the origins and mechanisms of bad dreams, we can take the necessary steps to promote peaceful and restful sleep.”
“Finally, some believe that nightmares are actually harbingers designed to draw our attention to an aspect of life that requires special care or needs to be changed,” said Dr. carmen
“Believe it or not, the theory is that the universe is trying to communicate with us through dreams.
“It doesn’t mean that if something bad happens in a dream, the same thing will follow in real life.
“It most likely means that the person you dreamed about is going through something difficult, should take better care of themselves or that you should check on your loved one more often.”