“To sleep: perchance to dream”

That quote comes from Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet.  The Danish Prince thought that sleeping sounded a great idea.  It was the dreaming that caused problems.  Mind you, the guy was under some stress at the time, and that probably contributed to his nightmares.

hamlet

You may be relieved to know, that having nightmares is very normal.  Everyone gets them once in a while, but if they happen often and you wake up in a sweat, or worse, screaming, then it may be a reflection of something a bit worse at work.  Nightmares can be symptomatic of a psychiatric illness or distress of some kind and are often experienced by people who have sufffered some trauma, such as abuse, war or a natural disaster of some kind.  In Hamlet’s case, seeing your Dad assassinated probably fits into two out of those three categories.

Apparently nightmares are most common in children.  Specialists think it is because they find it difficult to process things cognitively, so if they have a sudden shock or see something they can’t make sense of, then nightmares can be the way that they process the information.  Nightmares, and other dreams, happen during periods of rapid eye movement sleep, so the scariness of the dream can jolt you awake and make you feel very disoriented.

nightmares

So how can you help prevent nightmares for the young or old?  Facing the cause of the nightmare is a good way of doing it.  If it is difficult to work out what is causing the nightmare, then try and work out what situations in your life are causing some stress and try and work out those situations in a positive way.

Another good piece of advice is to remove the scares.  If you do not like zombie movies and have nightmares after watching them, then… ummm… don’t watch them.  If you are like me, i.e. a complete wuss, then your range of pre-bedtime viewing is quite limited.   But I don’t like having nightmares either, so I would rather limit the viewing then freak out and leave my imagination to work it all out.

Apparently having a bedtime ritual is a good idea for limiting nightmares.  Do the same things every night at the same time.  If your child seems to have a nightmare at the same time every night, then waking them up slightly before the nightmare and then settling them down to sleep again is a great way of breaking the dreaming pattern and hopefully stop the regular problem.

bedtime snack

If you are an adult and get regular nightmares, look at your food and drink intake just before bed.  Do not drink alcohol at night, and do not eat before bed either.  It is not good for your dreams, and it isn’t good for the diet either.

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