By Eric Stengle
Dreaming is a result of activity in the subconscious mind and happens during the REM stage of sleep. Dreaming is an important part of sleep health, and whether you remember your dreams isn’t important. But sometimes you will have a terrifying dream that causes you to wake up feeling panicked. This is called a nightmare, and everyone will have them from time to time. Usually you will quickly forget about a scary dream and never think about it again.
But what if you keep having the same type of terrifying dream over and over, causing you to keep thinking about it during the day? A recurring nightmare can be so vivid and real that it scares you from wanting to go back to sleep. There can be several psychological and emotional triggers that cause recurring scary dreams in adults. Here are 3 hacks to eliminate recurring nightmares.
Try this technique. Psychologists generally believe that nightmares are a result of negative emotions within the subconscious mind. But a recurring nightmare could also be a result of past traumatic events and their effect on the subconscious. A method called Imagery Rehearsal Therapy is a technique that can help eliminate ongoing nightmares. There are 3 steps involved with Imagery Rehearsal Therapy. Practicing this technique every night can cause your recurring nightmare to go away within a few weeks.
- Focus on one nightmare at a time. If you are having more than one recurring nightmare, identify which one you want to work on first. It is best to start with a dream that isn’t too intensely terrifying. If you have experienced past trauma, choose a nightmare that doesn’t involve reliving that specific event.
- Choose a different ending for the nightmare. The most important part of a terrifying dream will be the ending, since that is the last thing that you will remember. Re-write the ending of your dream so that it is peaceful and emotionally positive. You want to choose an ending that is calming for your mind and promotes sleep. As an example, a lot of people have dreams where they are being chased by someone dangerous. You can visualize this as a prank where you end up in a room full of your friends who are laughing and having fun.
- Visualize the nightmare with this new ending every night before bedtime. This will help you become less afraid of the recurring dream. After visualizing the revised nightmare, practice a deeply relaxing exercise like guided meditation. Do this deep relaxation until you feel sleepy, without judging any thoughts that might come and go. Guided meditation will also help relax your body and eliminate any stressful thoughts that you might be having from the events of the day.
Once you stop having a recurring nightmare, continue to practice Imagery Rehearsal Therapy for one more week. Then you can just use this technique if any other recurring nightmares come up.
But sometimes, you might have psychological conditions that are contributing to the frequency of your nightmares. These can include anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Significant psychological trauma that induces terrifying dreams can lead to a condition called dream anxiety disorder or nightmare disorder. As with any sleep disorder, this is a condition that should be evaluated and treated by a reputable sleep specialist.
If you are suffering from recurring nightmares and think that you might have underlying factors caused by significant past trauma, we are here to help. Family Sleep Diagnostics provides the most comprehensive sleep management services including diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders. You can reach us at Family Sleep Diagnostics or just call us at (972) 714-0011.