Stress Anxiety Or Depression
Stress is one of the emotions that many people have trouble channeling in a productive manner. Because of this, dreams may be one of the only opportunities for the body to work through those feelings.
One study hypothesized that stress and trauma from childhood can cause recurring nightmares later in life. Nielsen T. . The stress acceleration hypothesis of nightmares. DOI: 10.3389/fneur.2017.00201 Anxiety and depression can cause nightmares, as well. Pagel JF. . Nightmares and disorders of dreaming. These nightmares may include situations related to self-worth, disease relapse, and for some, even panic attacks.
How To Manage Trauma
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
With the current climate in 2020, such as COVID-19, the fight against racism and racial injustice , and Black Lives Matter movement, many people are experiencing an increase in trauma-related nightmares, more anxiety, and many other trauma-related symptoms.
Interestingly, a lot of people go through life-threatening events or potentially traumatic experiences in their lives and successfully recover over time however, an important minority of people do not recover as easily and develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder .
If you are experiencing trauma-related nightmares, this article is for you.
People with PTSD can experience a wide range of symptoms like:
- Frequently having thoughts about the traumatic event
- Feeling like they are reliving the traumatic event
- Being constantly on alert
- Having increased negative feelings or
- Avoiding triggers that remind them of what happened
Among the re-experiencing symptoms, nightmares are very common. The rate of nightmares in individuals with PTSD can be as high as 72%, while other research suggests that it can range from 71%-96%. Regardless, it is a very high number.
Many people report that their nightmares include:
Exposure Rescripting And Relaxation Therapy
Variants of imagery rescripting interventions have been developed since the late 1970s for the treatment of idiopathic nightmares. The exposure, relaxation, and rescripting therapy involves psychoeducation about sleep and nightmares, relaxation, sleep hygiene, exposure, and nightmare rescripting.40 While IRT focuses on changing the nightmares by building imagery skills, the exposure element of the ERRT protocol requires individuals to write down their target nightmare and read it aloud so that the event evokes an affect similar to that experienced in the presence of the actual stimulus. The exposure element offers the opportunity for the subject to face the fear in a safe place and habituate to the anxiety.
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Treating Ptsd Nightmares And Flashbacks
Treating the nightmares and flashbacks of PTSD is possible, but it can be a slow process . Therapy can help someone end these intrusion symptoms that negatively affect his/her quality of life.
Ideally, treating nightmares and flashbacks is a component of overall PTSD treatment. Some specific treatment approaches for PTSD nightmares and flashbacks include:
- Image Rehearsal Therapy for nightmares involves, during the day, changing the ending of the nightmare and replaying this over and over so that eventually the new dream will replace the PTSD nightmare
- The PTSD medication, Prazosin, for nightmares
- Exposure to traumatic imagery to desensitize ones reaction to flashbacks
- Stress reduction and relaxation techniques
- Orientation techniques to ground someone in the now world during a flashback or after a nightmare
PTSD nightmares and flashbacks take over someones body and emotions and plant him/her in the middle of the trauma world. Understanding PTSD nightmares and flashbacks can help someone stay rooted in the now world.
Understanding Ptsd Nightmares And Flashbacks
PTSD nightmares and flashbacks keep people trapped in the trauma they survived . Giarratano explains that living with PTSD is like living in two worlds at once: the trauma world and the now world. The trauma survivor lives and tries to function in the now world, but nightmares and flashbacks keep him/her simultaneously stuck in the world of the trauma. Understanding PTSD nightmares and flashbacks can help people leave the trauma world behind.
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Can A Dream Give You Ptsd
However, the presence of nightmares not only influences the development of PTSD but also accelerates the progression of PTSD following trauma exposure. 9,10 Subjects who reported nightmares prior to trauma exhibited more severe PTSD symptoms after being exposed to a traumatic event than those who did not.
Explore Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing
Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, or EMDR, is a widely studied and practiced therapy that un-jams your mind after a trauma. Often, past traumas and the emotions stay with you and paralyze you in that moment. This frozen nervous system can then seep into your sleep and cause nightmares. What EDMR does is confront the negative self-beliefs that you carry after a trauma and replace them with more positive outlooks and beliefs.
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Can You Suffer Ptsd While Dreaming
Nightmares and Night Terrors: Nightmares and night terrors plague a majority of people with PTSD, leading to nighttime awakenings and making it difficult to get back to sleep. The content of these vivid dreams is sometimes related to past trauma, with many PTSD sufferers reporting repetitive nightmares.
Vivid Emotional And Memorable Dreams Are Our Brains Storing Memories And Pulling Off The Emotional Tag Or Tearing Up The Receipt Rachelle Ho
A bad dream might help people in waking life. The hypothesis “sleep to forget, sleep to remember” suggests REM sleep strengthens emotional memories, safely storing them away, and also helps to tone down our subsequent emotional reactions to those events. For example, if your boss shouts at you and later that night you dream about it, the next time you see your boss you will feel less emotional about that event.
We are most likely to remember the dreams we have just before awaking or as we dip into sleep
It’s an intriguing idea that our dreams train us to control our emotions but what evidence is there?
When our brains are in the REM stage of sleep, both the hippocampus and amygdala are highly active. The former is the part of our brain that orders and stores memories, the latter is the part that helps us to process emotions. This has led researchers to suggest that vivid, emotional and memorable dreams during the REM stage are the manifestations of our brains storing memories and “pulling off the emotional tag, or tearing up the receipt”, says Ho. The analogy of taking off an emotional tag is one used widely in sleep psychology.
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How Ptsd Affects Sleep
PTSD is a combination of symptoms that occur as a result of trauma. It is characterized by intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and flashbacks of past traumatic events.
If you suffer from PTSD, you may often re-experience the trauma that you endured. This may occur during the day or at night. Nighttime memories often manifest as distressing dreams or nightmares in which the event is relived. Additionally, intrusive daytime memories, called flashbacks, may occur.
You will likely notice that you also have increased arousal, meaning that you are more reactive to your environment. This may be associated with significant anxiety. These symptoms may lead to difficulties falling or staying asleep, which is characteristic of insomnia.
It is estimated that nightmares occur in 5% of all people. In a study of combat veterans, 88% reported nightmares that occurred at least once per week. Researchers have also found that PTSD, nightmares and suicidal thoughts are closely linked.
The prevalence of nightmares seems to be higher among those people with coexisting anxiety or panic disorder. These nightmares may occur multiple times per week and can be very distressing, disruptive to the sleep of the affected person and others in the household.
Why Is It A Problem
Acting out your dreams can be particularly concerning when they involve replays of actual traumatic experiences, or equally frightening related events. It can mean, for example, that the person acts out dreams of being attacked, engaging in combat, or fleeing from a bushfire. Typically, arms and legs thrash about, the person may yell and scream, and in some cases, unintentionally assault their sleeping partner.
Not surprisingly, PTSD sufferers often wake from sleep with the covers torn off, or may even find themselves on the floor. Some remember in precise detail what theyve dreamt while others wake with no memory of a dream, but have intense emotions of fear, horror or anger, as though the trauma has just occurred.
Such severe sleep disturbances are very distressing to both the people suffering PTSD and their partners, who often resort to sleeping in separate beds, afraid of being harmed during a violent dream.
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Final Thoughts: The Dangers Of Lucid Dreaming
All of these lucid dreaming dangers are very unlikely to occur, however, they are possible.
If you are in a good physical and health mental state, you shouldnt worry about experiencing these things.
The fact that you are HERE right now, learning about these dangers, means that you will be completely prepared.
If it happens that you run into some of them, you will know whats happening, and what to do.
If you experience some of these unpleasant situations multiple times, you should try to find out what is the reason behind and to stop practicing lucid dreaming for a while.
In The Late 1700s A Nightmare Was Defined As A Disease When A Man In His Sleep Supposes He Has A Great Weight Laying Upon Him
This definition came from the popular reference text, An Universal Etymological English Dictionary, first published by Nathan Bailey in 1721 and reprinted through 1802. Although that definition doesnt surface often today, nightmares are still considered to be frightening dreams that result in feelings of terror, fear, distress, or anxiety.
Despite our colloquial use of the term, for example, my commute was a nightmare, for an estimated 3 to 7 percent of the U.S. population, nightmares can be a real problem. Although adults can suffer from nightmares, they are more typical in children, especially those between the ages of 3 and 6. We think that some of this may be evolutionary, says Deirdre Barrett, PhD, an HMS assistant clinical professor of psychology at Cambridge Health Alliance and editor of Trauma and Dreams, published by Harvard University Press in 2001. Children are smaller and are vulnerable to many more threats than adults. Nightmares may partially reflect this vulnerability.
Dreams are understood to be recent autobiographical episodes that become woven with past memories to create a new memory that can be referenced later, but nightmares are simply dreams that cause a strong but unpleasant emotional response. Dreams are part of the brains default networka system of interconnected regions, which includes the thalamus, medial prefrontal cortex, and posterior cingulate cortexthat remains active during comparatively quiet periods.
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Ptsd Related Nightmares Can Persist For Years Even After The Disorder Is Controlled Learn About The Impact Of Ptsd Nightmares And What Treatments Are Available
Nightmares can happen to anyone. While disturbing, most individuals can fall back to sleep. It is quite a different story for those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder . Not only do these individuals live with distressing symptoms during their waking hours, but up to 72% also experience persistent nightmares. PTSD related nightmares can cause insomnia and further worsen other PTSD symptoms.
Knowing why and how PTSD and nightmares occur can help broaden the understanding of this condition, as well as pave the way for effective treatment for those who suffer from PTSD nightmares.
Related Topic: How Post-Traumatic Stress Can Lead to PTSD
What Are Ptsd Flashbacks Like
In a PTSD flashback, you may feel like youre reliving a past traumatic incident as if it is happening right now. PTSD flashbacks can be triggered by anything that reminds you of past trauma you have experienced. Self-care techniques can help you cope with flashbacks, and you may also need professional support.
Can Melatonin Cause Nightmares
Theres much less research to suggest how melatonin can affect how often you have nightmares when you take extra melatonin. A 2015 case report first found a possible link between melatonin and episodes of nightmares though taking melatonin itself wasnt necessarily the source of the nightmares./span>
What Are Ptsd Nightmares And Flashbacks
PTSD nightmares and flashbacks are part of the intrusion effects of PTSD. With both, distressing memories repeatedly and disruptively intrude into the persons life and functioning.
PTSD nightmares involve terrifying dreams that plague survivors at night, while PTSD flashbacks are recurrent, involuntary memories of the trauma that torment people during waking hours. Both nightmares and flashbacks are disruptive to someones life in the now world.
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How To Help Your Partner With Night Terrors
If your partner struggles with PTSD night terrors, itâs disruptive, damaging, and frightening for both of you. The best thing you can do for them is to get them into treatment. PTSD does not go away without professional support. If you can get your partner good treatment, night terrors will eventually subside, along with other symptoms.
As your partner goes through treatment, there are several other things you can help them with to manage night terrors and reduce their frequency:
Stay Safe During Night Terrors
An otherwise loving and gentle partner can become agitated, upset, and even violent in the middle of a night terror. As you try to help your partner through these episodes, put your safety first. Trying to wake them during the episode could cause them to lash out and hurt you unintentionally.
If your partner seems agitated, back away. If they begin behaving violently, swinging their arms, kicking, or even coming after you, get somewhere safe. Go to another room and close the door until they have calmed down. You cannot help them if they lash out and hurt you.
Night terrors are terrifying. As the partner of someone struggling with this PTSD symptom, itâs scary for you and difficult to see your partner go through it. Encourage your partner to get treatment first and foremost, but then also take steps to help them manage night terrors and get better sleep.
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Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing
EMDR therapeutic approach is guided by the Adaptive Information Processing Model whereby nightmares are viewed as manifestations of disturbing events that have not been adequately processed but encoded and stored in a state-specific dysfunctional form.51 EMDR therapy elicits the recall of these distressing images while activating one type of bilateral sensory input such as hand tapping or side to side eye movement. By overloading the working memory, emotional reactivity is dampened and imagery becomes less vivid. It is speculated that this technique produces emotional and physiologic alterations resulting in a relaxing response including respiratory synchronization, reduction in heart rate, and reduction in galvanic response.52
Try Imagery Rehearsal Treatment
This treatment is designed as a cognitive-behavioral treatment in which patients get to rewrite their nightmares. Working with a therapist, you can rehearse the dream and rewrite the ending to be less threatening and traumatizing. This method is one that has proved to reduce both the intensity of reoccurring nightmares as well as the frequency.
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Skills For Managing Nightmares
Although individual treatment is very powerful in managing trauma-based nightmares, there are skills that you can try yourself. Such as grounding, and relaxation or breathing exercises.
Grounding and Relaxation skills to try yourself:
Grounding techniques are helpful to distract or temporarily get some distance from the distress caused by nightmares by focusing on the present moment.
First, be sure to completely wake up after having a nightmare. The idea is to help you get oriented in the here and now and to re-establish your sense of safety before you go back to sleep .
Tip: it is useful to have a nightlight or a lamp near your bedside to aid you in getting oriented in the present moment
After waking up, begin this grounding technique.
Its all about your senses. Focus on:
- 5 things you can see
- 4 things you can feel
- 3 things you can hear
- 2 things you can smell
- 1 thing you can taste
If you need a little more help, you can follow a grounding technique with a simple breathing exercise.
Breathing Exercise skill to try yourself:
- Start by sitting or lying down in a comfortable position
- When comfortable, gently close your eyes
- Inhale through your nose for 4 counts
- Exhale through your nose for 4 counts
- Repeat at least 3-4 times or as needed
If you or someone you know is experiencing trauma-related nightmares, I hope this article has been helpful.
Learn more about PTSD and the treatments we offer here!
Thank you and sleep well!
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Ptsd And The Importance Of Therapy
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a serious mental illness triggered by experiences that are terrifying, life-threatening, or perceived as life-threatening. Potential causes of PTSD include being a victim of assault, witnessing violence, being in a terrible accident, or seeing combat in the military.
Not everyone develops PTSD after a traumatic experience, but those who do struggle with disruptive, frightening, and difficult symptoms including:
- Intrusive and scary memories
- Irritability and angry outbursts
- Difficulty concentrating
Because this mental illness is so disruptive to a normal, satisfying life, professional treatment is essential. Therapy is the foundation of treatment, which teaches patients to change their negative thoughts, cope with difficult memories, and relate better to other people. There are several types of therapy with a trauma focus that can be very helpful for managing and reducing symptoms.
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