Could your sleeping position be giving you nightmares?

Nightmares have got to be one of the most unsettling characteristics of sleep. You never know what the night will bring; unsettling dreams perhaps? And there are really no ways to avoid the terrifying images that our minds can conjure. You might wake after a nightmare wondering just where such horrific visions come from, and more often than not you might have trouble falling back to sleep once the nightmare has subsided.

The dreams that we have will likely never cease to amaze us. Our mind’s ability to create different worlds while we snooze have always been sources of inspiration. But it is on those nights when we wake in terror that we are reminded of just what our minds are capable of imagining. When you experience night after night of bad dreams, it can create an anxiety when going to bed which in turn can disrupt sleep.

When happy dreams turn to nightmares there is not much you can do about it. Here are a few things you should know about these terrifying dreams.
When happy dreams turn to nightmares there is not much you can do about it. Here are a few things you should know about these terrifying dreams.

What causes nightmares?

There is quite a long list of factors that can contribute to your unsettling dreams. Anything from anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress to something as simple as your room being too hot can lead to nightmares. Whether it is dreams of falling or dreams of the most ghoulish scenes, waking up suddenly with an unnerving fear can really ruin your chances of getting quality sleep.

One thing remains, despite all of the research into sleep, and that is that we have no idea what causes nightmares. Delving into the psychology and the neurology behind the science of sleep and dreams is something that is beyond the reach of scientists and as a result, we don’t have a lot of information about the reasons behind what goes on in our dreams.

When explained, nightmares are described as dreams that create feelings of fear, distress, terror, and anxiety. Usually, these dreams are unpleasantly vivid and because of the intensity of these dreams, you will usually wake up. This immediately disrupts your sleep.

Your brain never really rests in the same way that your body rests. In fact, your brain can use as much energy when sleeping as when you are awake. It cleans and it stores away important information allowing you to wake up feeling refreshed.

It is during Rapid Eye Movement phase of sleep that your muscles are paralysed and your brain heads off to dreamland. And it is during this phase that you are most susceptible to nightmares.

While we know little about sleep and why we dream, it is generally considered that dreams come from the subconscious mind as it attempts to sort through the day’s memories. The things that we learn during the day become ingrained in a part of the brain when we sleep, which is partly why rest is so very important when you are studying. What turns a dream into a nightmare is not known although some say that it is daytime activities and perhaps the things we read and see during the day that comes back to haunt us later on.

 

No matter how well you prepare yourself for a quiet night of happy dreams, nightmares are always a possibility.
No matter how well you prepare yourself for a quiet night of happy dreams, nightmares are always a possibility.

Make peace with it, you are going to have nightmares. But how can you minimise the frequency?

It has been found that children and teenagers are known to experience more nightmares than adults, but as an adult reading this, I’m sure you have had your fair share of terrifying nightmares. There are no magic pills or helpful medications that you can take to prevent nightmares from happening, but you are not completely out of options for minimising the possibility of nightmares.

A few of the reasons why you could be having nightmares includes:

  • Depression
  • Indigestion
  • Certain medications and drugs
  • Traumatic events and other unpleasant past experiences
  • Your environment not being the right temperature
  • Things you see in the media and throughout the day

Some of the most common nightmares include falling, being paralysed (the sleep disorder known as sleep paralysis is also responsible for night time terrors) being late for something, death, and being chased. Your waking life plays the biggest role in the frequency as well as the theme of your nightmares.

If you are already susceptible to nightmares, sleeping on your left could only make things worse.
If you are already susceptible to nightmares, sleeping on your left could only make things worse.

Changing your sleeping position can help

As we’ve already mentioned, it’s just about impossible to predict nightmares so it is almost just as impossible to prevent them from happening. You may well go for months without a single bad dream only to suddenly experience 3 days of hair-raising nightmares.

Recent research has linked sleep positions to both the visual aspects of your dreams as well as the emotions you experience when dreaming. Researchers concluded that those whose brains are not completely detached from the external world when entering deep sleep could be able to attempt to control their dreams.

As for the sleeping position most likely to lead to nightmares, researchers found that those who favour their left side could be more susceptible to having nightmares. Around 41% of people sleeping on their left reported nightmares while only 15% of those sleeping on their right had nightmares. This was more often than not the case for those who were already prone to having bad dreams. While this is something to consider, keep in mind that the original study consisted of only 63 people so it might not be the time to completely change the way that you sleep.

When exploring your dreams, it can help to shift your mental focus before you drift off to sleep. By telling yourself that you are in control of your dreams, you could be in a better position to break free from nightmares when they happen.

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