What Are Night Terrors
Some people with PTSD experience night terrors, also known as sleep terrors. Night terrors are fairly common in children but not in adults, but trauma can cause them. During a night terror, a person appears to awaken and scream or shout in terror. Most of the time, they are not actually awake.
Night terrors may be accompanied by sleepwalking. They can cause a racing pulse, flushed skin, dilated pupils, sweating, and kicking and thrashing in bed. Someone in a night terror will be difficult to awaken. They may not have any memory of it the next day.
If You Fix The Nightmares First You Can Fix The Other Symptoms Of Ptsd Joanne Davis
Davis understands the importance of treating nightmares as more than just a symptom of a wider problem. “Just a few decades ago our field saw nightmares as a symptom of PTSD,” she says. “But if it’s not too grand to say, there has been a paradigm shift to thinking of nightmares as the hallmark of many of the problems. If you fix the nightmares first, you can fix the other things that are happening .”
Psychologists like Davis now considered nightmares a primary concern when treating PTSD, rather than only a symptom
Davis says it is important to look at nightmares as an early indicator of future problems. Emotional dreams sometimes occur in the night after the significant event, and sometimes five to seven days later. Penny Lewis, a professor of psychology at Cardiff University, and her colleagues propose that we store everyday memories immediately after they happen, but there is a “dream lag” when it comes to things of deep, personal significance.
While our understanding of the cause and treatment of nightmares has improved considerably in the last few years, the strict lockdowns since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic threw up new challenges for those people undergoing treatment.
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Triggers For Ptsd Dreams
- A Christmas ornament from your childhood.
- The smell of a distinct odor.
- Someone who looks like your perpetrator.
- A certain song, commercial, or television program.
- The feel of wool or silk against your skin.
- When you hear a certain sound.
- A bad thunderstorm.
- Or anything else that is similar to your past situation.
These horrendous past events are sometimes buried deeply and forgotten, or in other words the memories are repressed. Even if you do remember the incident, denial often runs deep. Humans who have deep denial or repressed memories often will not consciously deal with these issues however, our subconscious mind doesnt care about how we feel. Repressed experiences often are revealed in dreams as it is easier for a person to deal with it in the dream state. These dreams are referred to as post-traumatic stress disorder dreams or PTSD dreams.
First, let me state that this is not my area of expertise, yet I feel its important to educate my readers of this dream category, in case someone are having these types of dreams and doesnt recognize it.
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How Does Ptsd Feel
People with PTSD have intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to their experience that last long after the traumatic event has ended. They may relive the event through flashbacks or nightmares they may feel sadness, fear or anger and they may feel detached or estranged from other people.
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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How Do You Overcome A Traumatic Dream
What Helps With PTSD Nightmares? You can make sure your bedroom is not too cold or too hot start a nightly relaxation routine to prepare for sleep ensure there isnt light in your room keeping you from sleeping deeply exercise daily talk about your dreams and engage in Image Rehearsal Therapy .
Ptsd Nightmares Can Be Difficult To Treat But Prazosin May Help
For those with depression, they typically report early morning awakening and are not able to return to sleep. Those with anxiety disorders often complain of not being able to fall asleep . They toss and turn for hours, their minds racing with anxious thoughts and worries. For those with mania, they report that they cant sleep at all, for their energized and overcharged bodies simply have no need for sleep.
My patients with PTSD often report an amalgamation of all of the above in addition to a specific complaint nightmares.
Nightmares are those threatening or scary dreams that leave you crying out in your sleep, thrashing around in your bed or waking up in a blind panic, soaked in sweat and with your heart pounding in your throat.
People living with PTSD commonly complain of nightmares. Some studies report up to 80 percent of those with PTSD experience nightmares that have them reliving or re-experiencing the traumatic event for months or years after the actual event took place.
Nightmares also occur frequently for those living with PTSD sometimes several times a week so their impact on the lives of those living with PTSD can be profound.
The differences in sleep amongst those with PTSD-related nightmares are tangible. They have:
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Can Nightmares Cause Trauma
What experiences are considered traumatic has changed over time. Early on, trauma was thought to only be possible when someone was awake and psychologists reserved this label for events that fell outside the range of normal human experiences. Later definitions have broadened the definition of trauma, acknowledging the many sources of traumatic experiences and the effect of cumulative traumas.
Currently, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders indicates that trauma can be experienced either directly or indirectly. This means that we dont have to experience something first hand to develop trauma. For example, teachers, counselors, and psychologists may develop secondary or vicarious trauma through repeatedly hearing about the traumas experienced by those they serve. Whether indirect trauma can come from dreams may still be an open question.
Whether nightmares can cause trauma may also depend on a persons culture. Historically, Western dream theories focus on how waking life affects dream content. In other cultures, including several Native American traditions, there is less distinction between the dreaming and waking worlds and dreams can significantly affect waking life. Dreams have powerful spiritual connotations in many cultural traditions, so its certainly possible that dreams can be a traumatic experience for many.
Some Therapeutic Nightmare Sleep Treatments
Youve got the room just the right temperature, youve relaxed by meditating, and theres no light streaming in from the lamppost outside your window. So, why are you still having PTSD nightmares?
First, always remember: everyone heals at different paces. Second, it might be time to try some therapeutic forms of treatment.
One that gets recommended a lot for PTSD nightmares is called Image Rehearsal Therapy . This is where you go over your nightmare and make up a new, positive and non-scary version. Once you have that in mind you write it out.
Youll do this every day, writing out a non-threatening, happy version of the nightmare where maybe instead of you being chased by something horrible you are being chased by a puppy or something else that makes you happy. This process helps you to replace the nightmare with imagery, thoughts, and associations you prefer.
IRT has been used quite a bit to help with PTSD nightmares. There is a lot of research about how it works and why its so highly recommended. In fact, IRT has been so thoroughly researched its usually considered the preferred treatment for PTSD nightmares.
You can work through IRT in a solo therapy session or with a group and most treatments finish up in under 12 weeks. If that seems long, dont worry, theres also been research that has shown significant improvements in sleep and fewer nightmares after one IRT session. That doesnt mean you should stop the treatment though!
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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.
Why Does Trauma Affect Dreams
While there isnt broad consensus as to why trauma affects our dreams, scientists have long wondered about this connection. Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, offered an early perspective, suggesting that dreams allow a view into the unconscious. He proposed that dreams protected sleep by containing the anxiety associated with repressed desires.
Later hypotheses were developed in response to repetitive nightmares experienced by war veterans. Researchers thought that dreams allowed people to revisit and attempt to work through old trauma. Nightmares were often seen as a failure to work through or master the trauma. Other researchers thought nightmares were a way in which the mind transformed shame associated with the traumatic event into fear.
While science has come a long way since Freud, more recent hypotheses are surprisinglyconsistent with these early ideas. Many neuroscientists and psychologists believe that dreams help to integrate our experiences into long-term memory, a process called memory consolidation. When our experiences are traumatic, dreams may reflect the body attempts to cope and learn from these situations
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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.
Bad Dreams Trying To Sleep
If you are dealing with nightmares resulting from PTSD you are most definitely not alone. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has done a lot of research on PTSD. Their data shows that, of people who arent dealing with PTSD, only 5% report persistent nightmares.
Compared to the people struggling with PTSD, where anywhere from 70% to 96% are dealing with nightmares, it is obvious the problem is widespread and common.
Every time I close my eyes, I would have a nightmare, said Valerie Ovalle of the U.S. Army. It can have massive impacts on our overall health when one of our ultimate forms of comfort and rest is taken from us.
Similarly, P.K. Philips wrote I saw violent images every time I closed my eyes, after experiencing many different traumas. For her the nightmares were only one part of her struggle other symptoms followed along.
One thing you might experience, or see and read about from others who suffer from PTSD nightmares, is how they stick with you. If you wake up right in the middle of a nightmare the chances are high your brain wont let go of those details quickly.
This can disrupt your entire night of sleep and then affect the next day even. Its a horrible cycle that might seem like its never ending.
But there is help!
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Using Lucid Dreams To Escape The Reality
Escapism is intentional detachment and distraction from the real world.
If you use lucid dreaming to escape from the real world, cant harm you.
Escapism is healthy if it is used in the norms.
However, if you are doing it too much, it can be harmful to your productivity and personal growth.
The only thing you should be careful if you use lucid dreaming to escape the reality and enjoy yourself is simply not letting it go too far.
Otherwise, you might end up dissatisfied with your real life, and to literally start living only in your dreams, by putting all of your energy and goals towards the fantasy world in your head.
Getting Back To Sleep And Having Good Dreams Again
Trust us, its possible. The human brain is strong and we know your trauma doesnt define you. It might take a little bit, but once you begin focusing on healing the process has started.
Give us a call or shoot us an email if you have any questions. We know how trauma can overpower you sometimes and that is something you dont have to be ashamed of. Give us a call at 859-429-5188 and lets talk.
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Can You Have A Lucid Nightmare
It is possible to experience a lucid nightmare, however, the good news is that lucid nightmares are really unusual to happen.
Most of the lucid dreamers are not coming across any terror at all.
The thing is that, often, if we shift a lucid dream into a nightmare, we lose awareness and control, even if had it before.
Similar to any nightmares, the chances to experience it is higher in the moments where youre particularly stressed.
Also, if you have experienced a trauma of any kind, you might also find yourself in lucid nightmares.
On the other hand, in one study, college students reported that realizing they were dreaming in a nightmare helped them feel better about 60% of the time.
Lucidity was seven times more likely to make nightmares better than worse.
So, when you have a nightmare, the possibly unrealistic and fantastic events might spark lucidity, which will help you to actually overcome the nightmare!
Research Into The Effectiveness Of Rescripting Dreams Suggests That Posttraumatic Nightmares Are Actually A Range Of Different Phenomena Opening Up The Possibility Of Targeted Treatments
A common symptom of posttraumatic stress is having nightmares, where a person re-experiences their traumatic experience in some way while they sleep.
But, what we are starting to suspect is that not all posttraumatic stress disorder nightmares are the same, and that has important implications for how we go about treating them.
One promising and relatively simple psychological intervention for PTSD nightmares has been to have patients consciously rescript their nightmare in a way that increases their sense of mastery or control, and steers the storyline in a different direction before it reaches the most distressing part.
We call it imagery rehearsal therapy.
But, after encouraging initial studies on the effectiveness of imagery rehearsal in PTSD, larger and more rigorous studies are yielding more unclear treatment outcomes.
So why would it work for some people and not others?
Recent polysomnography research into posttraumatic nightmares is suggesting that these dreams differ from normal ones in several ways and may actually be a range of phenomena, rather than a single one.
Imagery rehearsal therapy was first introduced by British psychiatrist Isaac Marks 40 years ago, originally as an intervention to help children to overcome repetitive bad dreams.
Since then, research into the use of imagery rehearsal in the treatment of posttraumatic nightmares in adults with PTSD has grown.
So where does this leave us?
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Why Do I Keep Having Horrible Nightmares
There can be a number of psychological triggers that cause nightmares in adults. For example, anxiety and depression can cause adult nightmares. Post-traumatic stress disorder also commonly causes people to experience chronic, recurrent nightmares. Nightmares in adults can be caused by certain sleep disorders.
What Do Horrible Dreams Mean
Some bad dreams can actually represent good changes in your life. For example, death in nightmares and dreams symbolizes a new beginning. If you dream that you are dying, perhaps you are going through an important personal change in your real life. … Bad dreams may simply be a symptom of not getting adequate sleep.
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Are You Suffering From Non
Whether you served in combat or not, its important to research the symptoms of PTSD. Knowing the symptoms in advance will help you if you begin to find yourself having trouble adjusting back to daily life after your time spent serving in the military.
Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in military servicemembers include:
- Nightmares, flashbacks, or even vivid memories of the traumatizing event or events
- Feelings of numbness, distance, or isolation from others
- Loss of interest in hobbies or daily life
- Feeling tense or on guard at all times, an inability to relax
- Difficulty concentrating or sleeping
- Jumpiness or being easily startled
- Avoiding people, places, or things that remind you of the traumatizing event
- Drinking or using drugs to avoid the memories of the event
- Considering harming yourself or others
- Working constantly to avoid memories
These symptoms may keep the affected veteran from holding down a full-time job, or even leave them unable to work at all. Relationships with family and freinds may deteriorate, leaving the veteran feeling more isolated and less able to seek help. Non-combat PTSD and its effects are very real, and seeking treatment is essential to recovering your ability to function in daily life. Its important to look for and receive the care you need, and no military servicemember should ever feel shame when applying for VA disability due to PTSD.