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How To Cope With Nightmares

By: Libby Pelham BA - Updated: 7 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
Dreams Nightmares Bad Dreams Recurring

Nightmares can be the most frightening things. After having a nightmare you awake but often the scenes in the nightmare continue to haunt you. Nightmares are terrifying; however, they are not only normal, but also are typically a good sign that your mind is trying to cope with understanding a situation or event. The good news is that there are ways you can cope with nightmares.

Nightmares After a Trauma

If you have been through some type of traumatic experience such as a car wreck, a robbery, or a sexual assault, you may find yourself having nightmares about the event. This is a natural reaction of your mind because the trauma has made you anxious and possibly left you feeling threatened. You may find the bad dreams replay the event over and over in your sleep.

While you cannot change the situation that has already happened, you can try to alter your dreams. This is often referred to as rehearsing your dreams. Think of your dream as a movie for which you are the director and can make any changes you wish. Try to locate any positive images that may have been in the nightmare and focus of those, rather than the dangerous or scary parts of your nightmare right before you go to sleep.

If it is a dream in which someone or something is trying to hurt you, concentrate on help arriving in your dream in the form of the police or family members and friends. Go over the scary parts of the nightmare in your mind and then picture the help arriving to make things better. Visualising changes in your dream before you go off to sleep may help get rid the nightmare.

The Problem Of Recurring Nightmares

You may find yourself having recurring nightmares. These may come and go over a period of time. In this case, you need to find out what is triggering the nightmare. Think about what is happening in your life when the bad dream occurs. What are your current worries and concerns? Do you have a big project you have to present to your boss that has you under a lot of pressure? You may have to dig deep into your emotions to find the source of the nightmare.

Often, the actual recurring nightmare may seem at first to have nothing to do with the stress that is causing it. But take a closer took and you may find that it actually does. Maybe the “monster” chasing you in your dream is your boss and you are fearful that your project will not be well received and your boss will “attack” you for it. Ask yourself if this “monster” nightmare is occurring every time you have a big assignment due at work.

Once you find the source of the recurring nightmare, try to make changes in that situation. For example, if you are worried that you cannot complete all the work due on the project, ask someone in your office for help or ask your boss for more time to complete it. Taking simple steps such as this may be enough to help relieve the bad dreams that keep reoccurring.

Nightmares in Children

Nightmares can be healthy ways for us to work through problems, but if your child is having nightmares that persist, you may want to seek professional help. Persistent nightmares that are particularly violent or disturbing should be further investigated with a mental health specialist or paediatrician.

Of course, before taking that action, you can look at your child’s life to see if there has been any recent stress or conflict that might be causing the bad dreams. Did your child’s best friend just move away? Has he or she started a new school? Did you add a baby to the family? Any of these may be causing the dreams, but nightmares can also be caused by a reaction to medication or to a physical condition, so it is best to have the child checked out if you cannot figure out what is causing the nightmares.

Nightmares are normal, but if you find them occurring at a frequent rate, you can either try to figure out what is triggering them or visit a doctor. Some types of prescription medication can cause nightmares. But first, see if you can think of any stresses in your day-to-day life that might be causing the dreams. If you make changes in your life, you may find your dreamss going away.

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