Every night we dream and usually these dreams are random events put into story mode by your brain. However, some nights people experience scary dreams called nightmares. You definitely know when you’ve had a nightmare because you will wake up in a state of fear, trying to figure out what your mind just processed. From experience, nightmares seem to be very realistic and whenever you wake up your heart is beating way too fast. According to an article through medical daily written by Lizette Borelli, between 10% to 50% of nightmares occur to young children around the ages 5 to 12 compared to less than 7% for adults. Both adults and kids get nightmares but the reasons behind them may vary.
Nightmares occur during your REM sleep, your rapid eye movement, in which all of your dreams occur. From Lizette Borelli’s article, when a nightmare occurs during REM, we are trying thinking about stressful issues that are happening in our life at the moment. Without dealing with them when we are awake, our unconscious mind takes over while we sleep and is basically forced to deal with our issues. Usually for kids, nightmares occur when throughout their day they experience something scary, maybe on tv, from a movie, or listening to a scary story. When adults experience a nightmare, in most cases it is due to stress or possibly a death in their life.
Nightmares can also be associated with trauma. Whether it’s a horrific accident or PTSD, a person can have the same reoccurring nightmare. According to “Nightmares and the Brain” written by Scott Edwards, the part of the brain in charge of nightmares is the amygdala. Usually in the case of people with PTSD, the amygdala can be very sensitive and overactive, the reason their nightmares occur so much. Is there anything these people can treat reoccurring nightmares like this? Well, to start there are many different therapeutic treatments. For example, Edwards describes an image rehearsal therapy where people are asked to write their nightmare but with a positive ending, hoping to reduce their nightmare frequency.
So overall, I was really interested in dreams, but I wanted to narrow down my topic to nightmares and to see why they exist. My first thoughts were that your brain just decided to put together a story that made you scared, but in reality you basically control your own nightmares.