Dreams and Nightmares

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The feeling is indistinguishable from an actual assault. I feel like there is someone in the bed with me, assaulting me. Dreams can be a parallel to how people see their lives. Both posttraumatic and idiopathic nightmares sufferers can be affected by the lack of sleep their nightmares tend to cause, as dozing off again after experiencing a scary dream can be difficult.

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Sleep deprivation has been linked to a variety of health issues, such as weight gain, high blood pressure, negative impacts on both short and long-term memory, mood changes, poor balance, among other side effects. A study , conducted by researchers at the University of Turku in Finland echoed Neiman's sentiment, concluding frequent nightmares increase the risk of suicide in both those with PTSD and those without it.

Prazosin, a medication that was initially developed to treat high blood pressure, according to Germain, has been effective, particularly for those who suffer from PTSD-induced nightmares. And while they can be debilitating for some, nightmares can serve as an "internal healing process," Naiman noted.

Dreams can relate to the world at large, what's going on in the community, politically, socially, economically.

It is during these REM episodes that brain structures in the default network exert influence, and it is during REM sleep that vividly recalled dreams occur most often. Nightmares tend to happen during the period of sleep when REM intervals lengthen; these usually occur halfway through slumber.

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As we prepare to awaken, memories begin to integrate and consolidate. We dream as we emerge from REM sleep. Because we tend to dream on the sleep-wake cusp, images imagined while dreaming, including the vivid, often terrifying images produced during nightmares, are remembered. Nightmares are often confused with night terrors, a phenomenon more likely experienced by children than adults and usually more dramatic than a nightmare.

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Night terrors are not technically dreams but are instead sudden fearful reactions that occur during transitions from one sleep phase to another. Night terrors often cause children to kick, scream, and thrash about, but, because night terrors do not occur during REM sleep, most children do not remember them. There is, however, either no content to the feeling of terror or there is a simple scary image.

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There is not, however, the sort of narrative story you experience with dreams, including nightmares. Nightmares can arise for a number of reasons—stress, anxiety, irregular sleep, medications, mental health disorders—but perhaps the most studied cause is post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD.

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Nightmares are a common complaint among people suffering from PTSD and, in fact, are one of the criteria used for the diagnosis of the disorder. A study that analyzed data from the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study found that regular nightmares were reported by 52 percent of combat veterans but only by 3 percent of civilian participants.

Not only are nightmares more common in those with PTSD, they are more frequent, sometimes occurring several times a week. Department of Veterans Affairs. About half of the people who have nightmares after a traumatic event have nightmares that replay the trauma.

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Those with PTSD are much more likely to have exact replays of their trauma. Barrett says that in post-traumatic nightmares, the region of the brain involved in fear behaviors, including the amygdala, a structure deep in the brain that works to identify potential threats, may be overactive or overly sensitive. People who are deeply affected by nightmares can be treated in a variety of ways. First, the cause of the stress, if there is one, must be determined.