What Causes Nightmares?: January 24, 2017
Stressful events or scary movies can prompt a nightmare. They can cause you to toss and turn in your sleep or even jolt you awake.
Sleep medicine Dr. Jose Colon says bad dreams can cause your body distress while you’re sleeping. “A nightmare is a bad dream, but one of the things I ask is, is a bad dream bad? They can cause people to have some sleep avoiding behaviors because they are afraid of the nightmares.”
But he says bad dreams aren’t caused by the imagination. They are actually caused by your memory. “In your REM sleep it’s normal to take information that you learned today and store it into a long term memory. It’s normal to feel emotions.”
While we sleep, our brain processes memories. Many times emotions are tied to those memories which can emerge during our REM cycle. Patients can dream about something they haven’t seen in ten years, or a figure they see in a movie before falling asleep.
Doctors say the most dense REM period is right before you wake up, which explains why people often remember a dream. “Dreams are things that have occurred that you’ve either been through or you’ve seen, maybe on TV, or topics that have occurred that kind of take a life of their own as you’re dreaming,” said Dr. Colon.
If patients have recurring nightmares, doctors may teach them how to have awareness in a dream, allowing them to recognize it’s a dream and wake up.
Bottom line - if you’re going away for the holidays, don’t leave your safety precautions at home.