A nightmare is a dream that can cause a strong emotional response from the mind. A nightmare is typically fear or horror related but can also include despair, anxiety and intense sadness. The dream may contain events or situations of danger, mental or physical terror and varying discomfort. People usually wake up distressed and unable return to sleep for a period of time.
Nightmares can have a physical cause. Some of these causes include sleeping in awkward or uncomfortable positions, having a fever or flu, general discomfort. They can also be caused by psychological problems like chronic stress, anxiety, PTSD and ingestion of certain pharmaceutical drugs. Eating before sleep triggers the body’s metabolism and increases brain activity which can sometimes stimulate nightmares as well. In one study of dreams, %75 of emotions evoked by dreams have a negative quality. Some people experience recurrent nightmares that can interfere with sleeping patterns, cause insomnia and affect the stress levels in the body. Depending on the severity of the reoccurring nightmares medical help may be required.
Most of the time nightmares are subconscious residue from unresolved issues or past traumas. Some people have recurring nightmares due to posttraumatic stress disorder and others can have them from other sources of fear and anxiety that influence their dreams at night. We tend to harbor these things in our day to day life and this, in turn, affects our dreams deeply. Whatever the cause may be, there are treatments available, some of them medical, some shamanic and some psychological. The fear of speaking in public, trying to run away but not moving, dreams in which you’re falling or a dream that your teeth are falling out are all common examples of nightmares people experience. Some nightmares can be much more traumatic and debilitating in varying degrees of intensity. These dreams can be interpreted as symbols for something you are experiencing during waking life. Interpreting your dreams can play an important role in your progress as a human. Dream interpretation will be discussed more in further articles. While most treatments are for people who have an actual true disorder, the techniques discussed below can work well for any person dealing with nightmares.
The first technique we will discuss here is “Imagery Rehearsal Therapy or (IRT)”. It was first explained in the 1996 book Trauma and Dreams by Harvard psychologist Deidre Barrett. It is a contemporary dream interpretation method where the dreamer comes up with an alternate outcome to the reoccurring nightmare. The dreamer mentally rehearses the outcome during waking hours and then reiterates the outcome scenario at bedtime with the intention to create something different. Research shows that this technique can reduce occurrences of nightmares, insomnia, and restlessness. This research also shows the efficacy of the techniques for improving daytime PTSD symptoms.
Another great technique for getting through difficult nightmares is the “Face and Conquer” method. This technique involves learning how to face your difficult dreams head on. Facing your nightmares can be hard but with a little practice, it can easily be done. The dreamer finds ways to become aware that they are dreaming. This is called a “lucid dream”. So in the nightmare, the dreamer finds signs or signals that can help them realize they are dreaming. Once lucidity has attained the dreamer actively engages with the nightmare head on with fierce intent. The dreamer is encouraged to be courageous. In most cases, people who face the difficult dreams or reoccurring nightmares will either never or rarely experience them again. Using this method can help the dreamer develop a valuable skill when difficult dreams or nightmares happen again in the future.
The third technique is taking certain herbs known as “Dream Herbs”. These dream herbs can allow some deep healing to happen when approaching nightmares in general. Calming and soothing herbs can help a person to confront their nightmares with less anxiety and fear. Some dream herbs allow dreamers to get to the bottom of nightmares emotionally, psychologically and sometimes physically. Dream herbs can make it easier to become lucid in a dream for people who have difficulty doing so. They also have their own unique dream qualities. These herbs may affect the scenario of the dream or give you an out of ordinary dream experience. This can really help with reoccurring nightmares since the plant’s presence in your dreams can play a key role in helping you overcome your difficult dreams.
There are other techniques out there such as Analytic, Cathartic Techniques, Desensitization, and related behavioral techniques, among others. Direct nightmare engagement that combines compatible techniques from one or more of these methods may enhance the overall treatment effectiveness. Combining techniques is one of the best forms of an intervention of difficult dreams and reoccurring nightmares. In all using the “IRT”, “Face and Conquer”, “Dream Herbs” and other techniques can be a powerful tool for overcoming nightmares and help you to learn more about yourself.