Nightmares are caused by an overload of anxiety and can be readily treated by reducing anxiety generally. If you're having nightmares or waking up scared of the dark in the middle of the night then help is available!
It is a fact that approximately two thirds of the dreams that people have are negatively focused. There is a very good reason for this. Dreaming is the brains mechanism for discharging undischarged anxiety from the day before. When you dream you metaphorically replay the previous days events and impressions. You can think of it as a process whereby the brain sorts through the days material and files what needs to be filed and "dumps" or discharges everything else whilst generally unwinding like a coiled spring. It is an interesting fact that the brain uses the same "core processing" area for this procedure that it uses during the day to process normal waking reality. This is why dreams can seem so real. Because unconscious processes are involved, much of what unfolds in a dream is symbolic rather than literal. It is said that there are two absolutes in unconscious symbolism. One, that the self is represented by a house, and two, that the emotions are represented by water. You can make up your own mind about that but what you can be sure of is that your dream themes do relate to deeper emotional processes. If you are experiencing the same theme over and over again, it is related either to something that is happening daily or it is something emotional that your brain is having trouble discharging. This could be because the object of concern (that you are dreaming about) is considered too important to let go of by the protective mind. Then we need to look at what the dream may be attempting to process and deal with the anxiety around that issue.
Look at the diagram below and you will see that we do in fact cycle through different types of sleep during the night. We have REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and Slow Wave. Approximately 25% of the night is spent in REM sleep whilst the remaining 75% is "slow wave". Slow wave sleep is rejuvenating sleep. It is during slow wave that your body repairs its day to day wears and tears. In slow wave sleep you rest. REM sleep is anything but restful. REM is actually a more active brain state than wakefulness. When you are in REM you dream, and your brain is working very hard.
Sleep problems arise then when stress levels rise. What happens as stress rises is that there is simply more anxiety to be discharged, and the brain has to use more REM sleep to process it all. When there is too much anxiety present in our day to day lives, the brain has to work really hard to keep up as it tries to process more anxiety in less time. We have longer more intense REM patterns and this creates intense dreaming....lots of it! I probably don't need to say it......but what does that give us? Nightmares!
So treatment for nightmares is simply to reduce the overload of day to day anxiety you generate. In doing this we unburden the REM mechanism and peaceful sleep will return again. If you are having one repetitive specific dream then we can obviously work on any specific anxiety that the dream relates to. It's usually pretty easy to figure out what the dream is trying to process once we look at it with the right understanding. Then we help you resolve that specific issue to the satisfaction of your unconscious mind which will then stop attempting to process it at night!
If you're having nightmares, I'll be happy to help you! Contact me to arrange an appointment.