Nightmares are detailed dreams that evoke powerful, negative feelings in the dreamer, inducing panic, fear, anxiety, grief, sadness and more. What you may not realize, however, is that nightmares -- for the most part -- are beneficial.
According to Psychology Today, nightmares are mostly a normal occurrence that help your mind and body work through anxiety, trauma or stress. If you've ever noticed your nightmares increasing in frequency during periods of stress, this may be why.
Too many nightmares too close together, however, could begin to affect your daytime competency. Called Nightmare Disorder, the condition can lead to daytime fatigue, illness, depression, lowered immunity and more. Symptoms include:
- Frequent nightmares
- Waking repeatedly throughout the night with vivid recollections of nightmares.
- Waking instantly alert and aware.
- Lowered functionality throughout the day.
Nightmare Disorder is often caused by substance abuse or withdrawal or simply too much stress.
Getting back to sleep after a nightmare isn't always easy, but there are different methods you can try.
Breathing exercises, such as Dr. Andrew Weil's 4-7-8 breathing method, are usually beneficial. Using this method, you sit up straight, tuck the tip of your tongue behind your upper teeth, and exhale completely. Then, breathe in through your nose to the count of four. Hold your breath for 7 seconds, then breathe out through your mouth to the count of eight. This helps you relax and helps to circulate oxygen throughout your body.
Exercise is another effective tool to use in the battle against nightmares. Adopting a daily workout routine will help alleviate stress.
If you feel you consistently have more stress in your life than is manageable, it may be time to talk with a mental health professional. Sometimes, all it takes is the opportunity to share your fears and concerns with another person to take away most of the power your thoughts hold over you.