Are Nightmares and bad dreams the same? Well no, coz everyone (well at least most humans) dream whereas nightmares are a rare occurrence for most. They are different from bad dreams as they are so traumatic that you are awakened by it. Dreams (good & bad) are weaved by your sub-conscious mind when you are in deep sleep and having them is considered as a sign of healthy mind as they help cope and resolve emotional and complex problems. In other words, it is like a dress-rehearsal that helps one prepare mentally for both existing and expected challenges.
Nightmares on the other hand are so terrorizing and scary that people tend to wake up during or just after experiencing them. The trigger for nightmare is usually an experience of trauma such as death, attack, or accident. An occasional nightmare helps in coping with the trauma but experiencing a repeated one is unpleasant and can cause sleep issues. There are however somethings that you could do to curb the occurrences of repeated nightmares. Well! Let’s have a look at them.
1. Eating right = Sleeping right: Eating habits and sleep quality are directly related. Following these eating habits will improve your sleep quality.
2. No More Nightcaps: The myth that having a drink before bed will help drift into deep sleep easily has been busted as it does exactly the opposite. A drink only makes one feel drowsy, but it actually does not help gain quality sleep. Alcohol prevents our mind from drifting into the deep sleep stage that is essential for recovery of physical & mental exhaustion experienced during the day. Therefore, drinking can actually increase the chances of nightmare occurrence.
3. Get your rhythm (Circadian): Research has revealed that people who have an irregular sleep cycle are more prone to have repeated nightmares. Get your body clock in sync so that whenever you sleep (assuming you work in shifts) you have a sound sleep. Some ways in which you could help reset the body clock is by exposing yourself to light (natural or otherwise), exercising daily, avoiding gory, murder, slasher, mystery, and horror movies before bedtime.
4. Talk to your Doctor: The cause for your nightmares could be side-effects of certain medications. Certain drugs prescribed for conditions such as blood pressure, depression, allergies (antihistamines & steroids), Alzheimer, and Parkinson have been found culpable for aiding disturbed sleep and nightmares. If you are on any such medication and facing problem of recurring nightmares consult your physician about it.
5. Maintain a dream diary: Nightmares are more vivid than bad dreams i.e. people tend to remember details of what they have dreamt. If it is a repeated nightmare doctors suggest jotting it down in a diary as soon as you awake from one. Then write your own version of it wherein you come out victorious. This process it is called as “Image Rehearsal Therapy” and it helps control to a certain extent on how your nightmare will play out, eventually turning it into just a dream maybe even a good one.
An occasional nightmare is not dangerous but a repeated one can cause a person to dread sleep which in result can lead to other mental and physical health problems. If this case, then you must consult a sleep doctor and/or a psychologist.