Why Do I Constantly Have Nightmares

Nightmares are dreams that cause us fear and anguish during the night and that can be accompanied by symptoms of anxiety, such as difficulty breathing, sweating or a fast heart rate. These types of dreams are more frequent in children than in adults, however, 50% of adults have nightmares at some time and it has been observed that it is more common in women than in men. When nightmares become a condition that is experienced often and for a long time, it is important to pay attention to them, since although the causes can be diverse, sometimes they can be a symptom of a psychological or neurological disorder. In this article, we address this question in detail and answer the question: "why do I constantly have nightmares". In addition, we show what measures we can take to avoid these distressing dreams and enjoy quality sleep.

What are nightmares and when do they happen?

We can define nightmares as a type of complex and prolonged dreams that cause intense fear in the person who experiences them. In general, in these dreams the affected person feels that their life or safety is in danger or that they run into a threat to their life. However, it is also likely to have nightmares in which physical integrity is not in danger. This threat or danger usually increases as the dream progresses, as well as the feeling of fear of the person, and the awakening usually takes place when that threat or danger reaches its highest point in the dream.

Nightmares generally occur in the so-called REM phase , that is, towards the second half of the night, being much more frequent in the last hours of sleep. During this phase, there is a "reorganization of memory" and a reworking of memories, and nightmares would occur when this reorganization is accompanied by an empathic hyper-response in which there is an increase in heart rate and respiratory activity.

Causes of nightmares in adults

Although the exact causes that can answer the question we ask of "why do I constantly have nightmares" are not known , specialists point out that the suffering of these dreams during rest may be related to factors such as those shown below :

  • Stress and anxiety : during the periods when we are most stressed, anxious or anxious, the chances of having nightmares very often increase. They can be a way to release the tensions that we accumulate on a daily basis.
  • Psychological trauma: those who have experienced or observed a traumatic event may have constant nightmares and poor quality of sleep. This is usually due to traumatic stress disorder and can happen from negative experiences such as an accident, kidnapping, being abused, loss of a loved one, etc.
  • Sleep disorders: Those with sleep disorders such as sleep apnea or night terrors are more likely to have nightmares.
  • Illnesses or physical conditions: conditions that make it difficult to rest, such as high fever or respiratory problems can cause us great discomfort at night and favor the appearance of nightmares.
  • Consumption of medications: the intake or withdrawal of some medications can cause nightmares. Among these drugs, we can find antidepressants, antiepileptics, antihistamines, cognitive enhancers, drugs for Parkinson's or high blood pressure, etc.
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol or other stimulant substances that alter the nervous system can result in nightmares.

When nightmares are recurrent and occur very often, they could be a symptom of certain psychiatric problems, such as: depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder , schizophrenia , as well as neurological diseases. For this reason, when nightmares are very frequent and are accompanied by other emotional and physical symptoms, it is advisable to go to a professional to try to find out what the origin is and start the appropriate therapy and treatment in each case.

Symptoms associated with nightmares

Now that we know what are the causes of the most common nightmares, let's see what type of symptoms or signs a person who experiences this type of sleep may present in their hours of rest:

  • As the nightmare unfolds, the person may speak, move, or complain.
  • Waking up with a deep feeling of fear.
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Accelerated respiratory rate.
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty falling asleep and calming down after the nightmare.
  • As a result, the next day, the person may have excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue, trouble concentrating, a bad mood, or symptoms of mild depression.

What to do to avoid having nightmares

To avoid nightmares and get a good quality sleep, you can take a series of simple measures such as the following:

  • Maintain good sleep hygiene: establish a fixed time to go to sleep, rest for about 7 or 8 hours a day and sleep in a comfortable, calm and relaxed environment.
  • Avoid eating large meals or large meals before going to sleep.
  • Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages or stimulating substances, such as caffeine or theine, before going to bed.
  • Reduce stress and / or daily anxiety: this can be by doing physical exercise or by practicing relaxation and breathing techniques . In the event that stress or anxiety cannot be self-managed, it is advisable to seek psychological help.
  • Avoid watching scary or horror movies at night, as they could promote nightmares.
  • In the event that the nightmares have appeared after the consumption of a new drug, the doctor should be consulted about the possibility of substituting this treatment for another.

Seek professional help if ...

Having nightmares from time to time is normal, but when these dreams are experienced very frequently or for a long time, and also represent a significant discomfort for the affected person, it is advisable to seek professional help and go to a psychologist.

In psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy has been found to be the best solution for constant and recurring nightmares. With this, it is possible to cope with the content of nightmares and accept all the emotions that accompany us. In addition to this, cognitive restructuring, relaxation and exposure to dreams techniques are offered to control this situation as much as possible.