Why Do We Get Nightmares?

Most of us have experienced the heartbeat, sweat and distress that accompany a nightmare and long for the relief of waking up and knowing it was only a dream. However, in many cases, this vivid experience continues to haunt us during the day. We find ourselves wondering what does this mean?

Why do we get nightmares?

What happens when we sleep

The average person spends approximately one-third of their life sleeping. Sleep has a vital role in many functions of the body including immune function, metabolism, memory and learning.1However, a common misconception is that the body and mind shut down during this period. In fact, sleep is an active period where processing, restoration, and strengthening occurs.2 The two main stages of sleeping are the non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and the rapid eye movement (REM). The vast majority of our sleep (approximately 75 to 80%) occurs during the NREM stages, where the body repairs and short-term memories are transferred into long-term storage. On the other hand, during REM sleep, the muscles are paralyzed and the dreams are most vivid and emotional3.

Why do we get nightmares?

Causes of Nightmare

Nightmares are realistic, disturbing dreams that occur mostly during the REM sleep. Although the subject is unique to each individual, the most common adult nightmares include falling, being chased and the death of loved ones.4Nightmares can be caused by a variety of reasons including:

1. Anxiety and Stress
Stress and anxiety are the most usual causes of nightmares. If you are experiencing stress or are constantly worried over your work, relationships, financial obligations or other aspects of your life, this could be triggering nightmares. 

2. Eating before bedtime
It is likely to experience nightmares after a late-night snack, as this increases your metabolism and causes the brain to becomes more active.

3. Medications
A number of medications, including antidepressants, blood pressure medication and beta blockers, can contribute to the occurrence of nightmares. In addition, withdrawal from or change of medication can also have this effect4.

4. Sleep disorders
 Sleeping disorders including,sleep apnoea, restless legs syndrome and insomnia, can increase the risk of nightmares. Not getting sleep can also contribute to the likelihood of nightmares. 

5. Psychological causes
There are a number of psychological triggers that increase in nightmares. Examples include depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Nightmares are also frequent after an accident, injury, physical abuse or other distressing experience. For some people, nightmares can occur after reading a scary book or watching a frightening movie, especially, before bedtime5.


Thankfully, there are a number of ways to decrease the occurrence of nightmares. Firstly, if you suspect that the nightmares can be due to a specific drug or change of medication, talk with your doctor on how to eliminate this effect. For people that suffer from sleep disorders, your doctor can provide you with suitable treatment that will alleviate the symptoms.

Why do we get nightmares?

For people whose nightmares are not related to medication or a particular disorder, there are various ways to improve your sleep quality. It is important to avoid caffeine and alcohol at hours close to bedtime as they can remain in your system for more than 12 hours and disturb your sleeping patterns. Engaging in regular exercise and having a consistent sleep schedule can also prevent sleep deprivation and improve your well-being. 

Finally, you can take sleep aid tablets or herbal liquids that improve your sleep quality. These generally work by relieving symptoms of anxiety and increasing the depth of your sleep. An example is Lunox Sleep Aid tablets, that reduces the time required to fall asleep and aids relief of temporary sleep disturbance. 

Further information can be found on https://lunoxsleepaid.com/lunox-tablets/

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