Why do we have nightmares?
Nightmares are where some of your worst fears come to life. If you experience them frequently, you’re probably wondering why they happen and what you can do to stop them.
While they are most common among children, it turns out about 50 percent of adults experience nightmares, too, reports the National Sleep Foundation. Nightmares are defined as vivid, frightening dreams that occur during REM sleep and wake the sleeper abruptly.
The National Sleep Foundation offers certain factors that may contribute to nightmares, such as eating before bed, taking certain medications, having trouble sleeping and feeling stressed.
Studies have shown anxiety and depression to be significant contributors, as well. Dr. Kevin Krippner, psychologist with Advocate Medical Group in Bloomington, Ill., says nightmares are often led by a consistent theme. “Sometimes nightmares are caused by a specific worry that is on the mind of the person who experiences it,” he says.
While the occasional scary dream isn’t much cause for concern, the National Sleep Foundation says frequent nightmares can cause sleep deprivation and stress, which can then lead to other health problems including heart disease, obesity and depression.
Dr. Krippner says those who experience recurring nightmares may want to seek help from a trained professional to discuss any lingering worries.
About the Author
Lauryn Oleson is a public affairs intern at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. She studies public relations with a focus in psychology at Illinois State University. As a Bloomington native, Lauryn grew to love health and wellness by learning from her mom, Carolyn, who is a registered nurse at BroMenn. Lauryn enjoys playing sports, spending time with friends and volunteering for Young Hearts for Life. She hopes to continue her career in PR and health care in the future.