When Trauma Follows You Into Your Nightmares
Nightmares are quite common among people who have experienced a traumatic event. The aftereffects of a nightmare often follow them into the next day, which can affect their emotional well-being and ability to function. Nightmares can be quite scary and negatively impact the amount of restful sleep a person is getting. They can feel like one is re-experiencing the traumatic event, and the thought of going to sleep can become anxiety-provoking. The less sleep a person gets, the more difficult it is for the brain to process a traumatic event and file it away correctly. Sometimes the symptoms that are present due to trauma are the very barriers that get in the way of a persons ability to heal.
How To Work Through Trauma
Typically, the first step is addressing the cause of the nightmares .
There are evidence-based treatments for trauma or PTSD that are known to be very effective in reducing symptoms . An individual evaluation would be important to address if medication is necessary and to rule out any health risks.
If trauma-related nightmares persist, here are specific evidence-based treatments to address them:
- Imagery Rehearsal Therapy and
- Exposure, rescripting, and relaxation therapy .
These treatments share some basic aspects like visual imagery and nightmare rescripting.
Here is an example of how visual imagery and nightmare rescripting work:
- Think about a nightmare that comes up frequently
- What are you feeling?
- How would you like to feel instead?
- How would the story need to change to feel this way?
Its hard to convey the nuances in this technique. A trained therapist can help you further by teaching you the specific strategies to rescript the nightmares properly .
Journaling About Your Nightmares
Image rehearsal therapy is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy sometimes used for nightmares in PTSD.
IRT involves writing down your nightmares but deliberately changing them into more positive versions in your journal.
You then can reread these new versions daily with the intent of replacing the original nightmare theme in your memory moving forward.
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Lucid Dreams And Dream Analysis
Lucid dreams are those dreams that the person becomes aware of, meaning the person realizes they are dreaming while they are dreaming. During lucid dreams, many people are able to manipulate and control events within the dream. Research shows lucid dreaming usually occurs in the later stages of REM sleep and brain scans have shown prefrontal, parietal, and temporal lobe areas are active during lucid dreams.
Dream analysis became all the rage in 1899 when Sigmund Freud published his book on dream analysis. There was a proposal for universal symbols in dreams that signify certain things. Because there is no scientific way to study this and verify these dream elements and symbols, most experts agree there is no way to analyze dreams and that most dreams do not signify anything at all.
What Causes or Increases the Risk of Nightmares?
Nearly everyone has experienced a nightmare at some time in their lives and upon waking recall the negative content of their dream which may fill them with terror, anxiety, or great sadness and continue to feel these distressing emotions upon waking and may make it difficult to return to restful sleep. The most common nightmares include: being chased, death or dying, feeling lost, feeling trapped, and being attacked. Children are more prone to nightmares than adults and have a harder time shaking them off due to their struggles at times with separating fantasy from reality.
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Coping And Getting Help
Sleep problems are important to address because poor sleep can lead to a number of other problems. A lack of sleep or poor sleep quality can be a factor contributing to stress and mood problems. Poor sleep can also have a negative impact on your physical health.
Pharmacologic interventions are sometimes necessary for the sleep problems that accompany PTSD, however changing sleep habits may also be helpful in improving your ability to fall asleep. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to improve your sleep.
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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.
How Common Are Nightmares After Trauma
Among the general public, about 5% of people complain of nightmares. Those who have gone through a trauma, though, are more likely to have distressing nightmares after the event. This is true no matter what type of trauma it is.
Those trauma survivors who get PTSD are even more likely to complain of nightmares. Nightmares are one of the 17 symptoms of PTSD. For example, a study comparing Vietnam Veterans to civilians showed that 52% of combat Veterans with PTSD had nightmares fairly often. Only 3% of the civilians in the study reported that same level of nightmares.
Other research has found even higher rates of nightmares. Of those with PTSD, 71% to 96% may have nightmares. People who have other mental health problems, such as panic disorder, as well as PTSD are more likely to have nightmares than those with PTSD alone.
Not only are trauma survivors more likely to have nightmares, those who do may have them quite often. Some survivors may have nightmares several times a week.
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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 its 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.
William Park is a senior journalist for BBC Future and tweets at
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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.
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How Does It Affect Sleep The Mental Pain And Signs
You can do a lot to start changing how your brain and body prepare for sleep, but also how they react to nightmares.
Doctors and scientists are still not 100% sure why we dream. In the case of PTSD nightmares though, they actually can trace the dreams influence to the trauma involved. This means theres a way forward, a way to get some relief.
The Scottish charitable organization PTSD UK investigated a lot of ways someone can start to treat their PTSD nightmares right from home.
First, they recommend avoiding temperatures that are too hot or too cold. You want your sleeping area to be right in that Goldilocks zone: juuuuust right. Second, if you are experiencing painful joints or general pain from your PTSD, then it might be a great idea to check with a doctor what to do.
They also recommend keeping a regular relaxation routine before bed. You should seriously consider not using your phone after a specific time in the nightto get your eyes/bed ready for sleepas well as ensuring you are sleeping in total darkness.
A lot of things can throw off your sleep pattern and also lead to stress before bed. You want to hit that mattress as calm and relaxed as possible, so think about meditation which can be anything from sitting silently and breathing purposefully, to closing your eyes and going through guided meditation.
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.
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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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Are There Any Effective Treatments For Posttraumatic Nightmares
Nightmare symptoms often get better with standard Treatment Basics. If nightmares persist, there are treatments that can reduce how often they occur.
One treatment is Imagery Rehearsal Therapy . In IRT, the person who is having nightmares, while awake, changes how the nightmare ends so that it no longer upsets them. Then the person replays over and over in their minds the new dream with the non-scary ending. Research shows that this type of treatment can reduce how often nightmares occur.
Also, treatment for breathing problems that occur during sleep may reduce the nightmares that follow trauma. High levels of sleep-disordered breathing have been seen in trauma survivors. In one study, patients given a treatment to improve their breathing during sleep no longer had violent, scary dreams.
Little research exists on the use of medicines to treat nightmares from trauma. The medicine with the most promise is prazosin. Two studies have found that prazosin reduces nightmare symptoms. More research on prazosin is under way.
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- Call 911 or visit a local emergency room
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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.
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.
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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.
Causes Of Ptsd Dreams From Nine Types Of Events
I realize everything on the list is very heavy stuff and may bother you, even if you are fortunate enough to never have to deal with any of those things. For anyone who might have had this happen to them and are dreaming about the event, please know that you cannot cure this by analyzing your own dreams. I cant even help you, not unless you are also working with a therapist or counselor that has training in PTSD.
For further information on PTSD, I recommend this article that also has a directory for therapist in the United States. To read this article, please click .
If you live outside of the United States, please seek professional help by searching the internet for PTSD treatment centers in the area where you live. For you deserve to overcome the past in order to have a better life. Again, you cant achieve this all alone however you can achieve freedom with professional help. There is light at the end of the tunnel
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Treatments For Night Terrors
The most important treatment for night terrors is addressing the underlying condition. For someone with PTSD, this means regular therapy, trauma-focused therapy, and in some cases medications. Because PTSD is so serious, and symptoms like night terrors can be so disruptive, a residential mental health facility is often a good idea. It gives the individual the chance to benefit from intensive treatment, round-the-clock safety, and the ability to focus on their wellness.
Successful treatment of PTSD should reduce and ultimately eliminate night terrors. In the meantime, strategies such as managing stress, meditation, good sleep hygiene, and anticipatory waking can help. Anticipatory waking means setting an alarm to wake up about 15 minutes before the terrors usually begin.
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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.