Nightmares – Overview

A nightmare is most commonly known as the dream that will cause high levels of terror or anxiety. Most generally, a nightmare will include life threatening situations for the person that will be in a dreaming state, having imminent harm being caused to the person that is sleeping for example being injured, threatened or chased.

When such situations present themselves as part of a posttraumatic stress disorder, they will evolve in a continuum of that specific situation that caused the person to suffer from such a disease.

As an example studies have shown that the survivors from the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, experienced many frightening dreams related to terrorism, collapsing buildings, airplane crashes, fires or people that jump from buildings. A rape survivor can also suffer from such night terrors in re-experiencing that specific situation. Nightmares can happen for several times during one night.

During childhood, children will have on occasion a nightmare related to fear of darkness or monsters, the medical field cataloging them as normal for the fear of unknown and the naïve mind that is in development.

People that suffer from nightmares will most commonly experience the same dream over and over again or in some case having it with slightly different patterns. In the majority of patients that suffer from terrible nightmares, they will wake up from them, remembering in detail the entire dream, having anxiety or panic attacks after the dream and having trouble in sleeping again due to the fear of experiencing it all over again.

Nightmares will take place only the rapid eye movement part of the sleep.

The normal sleep pattern is divided into two main categories: the non rapid eye movement, that will have four stages and the rapid eye movement which is linked to the dreaming state where the brain will be as active as in the wakefulness state of an individual.

In spite of the fact that the rapid eye movement stage will be only 25% of the normal sleeping pattern, it tends to get longer in the second part of the night, getting more intense as a result a person will suffer from nightmares. They are closely linked to a stressful situation that a person has partaken and although in many cases a patient did not suffer from a specific stressful situation and it will depend on the personality of that specific patient, as an example a person that is more anxious and fearful will most likely suffer from such night terrors.

Nightmares will e first reported during childhood, between the years of three and six and almost 15% of children will suffer from a severe form of nightmares that will leave parents concerned. This does not mean that that child will suffer from a psychological disorder, medics cataloging it as normal to the developing stage and the fear of the unknown.

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