Nightmare in Dreamland, P.2

Welcome back to the corner of intrigue. Today we will be continuing with the investigation of chronic nightmares occurring in adults, as promised from a previous post, that I have been able to dig up. I would like to emphasize I am not a medical professional, psychologist, or a doctor, merely chronically curious.

Firstly, the first article I will be citing dictates that majority of nightmares have little to do with fear. Though many feel fear during the experience, the phenomenon typically insights fear due to waking up from a disturbed sleep. It could correlate with daytime stressors but it is not a requirement for the definition. In fact, it cites that not all who have an unpleasant dream immediately wake up, as it generally isn’t the cause.

The statement that strikes me is “theorists have suggested dreaming serves an extinction function, and that the awakenings associated with nightmares, but not bad dreams, disrupts this extinction process. Consequently, many studies dichotomize nightmares and bad dreams as distinct phenomena. However, the evidence concerning the importance of awakening to associated distress or psychopathology remains mixed and raises questions about the clinical usefulness of this distinction. Specifically, available treatments to reduce unpleasant dreams usually focus on the extinction of distressing content, rather than on the extinction of these associated awakenings.” More studies must be conducted of course, but can you imagine the idea of this fact? I should say observation.

The interesting thing is there are several categories that even I was unaware of until reading this article. Bad dreams, nightmares, sleep tremors, and nocturnal panic attacks are the four addressed in the attached link below. Nocturnal panic attacks are probably what you imagine. They hold hands with sleep tremors in that they both cause lack of sleep and are fed by lack of sleep. Although they hold hands, they are not as skin to skin as you think. Sleep tremors are in the later stages of sleep, whereas the nocturnal panic attacks are in the early stages of sleep. The main characteristic is the arousal in panic, with heavy breathing, no obvious triggers, and typically without screaming. Sleep tremors are characterized with screaming upon arousal.

Nightmares or Night terrors is the only classification that cites being confused upon arousal which is unlike the other three classification. But why? It’s because nightmares, specifically, are caused by stressors. Nocturnal panic attacks, sleep tremors, and bad dreams do not usually have an obvious cause or they are brought on by mental illness or sleep/brain disorder. Nightmares are prevalent in those who are diagnosed with PTSD.

Nightmare disorder, which is a different classification than nightmares, is classified with confusion and incomplete awakenings. This classification holds hands with those who suffer from sleep paralysis. “Nightmares are also frequently misidentified as sleep paralysis and sleep‐onset or sleep‐offset hallucinations, which are commonly associated with narcolepsy, but a sleep‐paralysis type of nightmares is recognized. Notwithstanding the above nosologies, in practice it is rare to diagnose a chronic nightmare disorder because practitioners are often unaware of the fact that chronic nightmares often constitute an independent mental disorder or sleep disorder or co‐occurring disorder with another psychiatric condition. Instead, practitioners frequently subsume most types of disturbing dreams as a secondary symptom to a primary mental disorder such as anxiety disorder or posttraumatic stress disorder.” (article cited below for more accurate sources.)

Where do we dream? Most of us dream in our beds, and some on couches or the floor if we’re not picky. Scientists used to think it came from our brain stem. The article below states it comes from our cortex forebrain, according to Solms. “Lesions of these pathways inhibit dreaming but do not affect REM frequency, duration and density. understands his findings as providing “confirmation of the classical theory of dreams that was introduced by Freud almost one hundred years ago”, according to which, dreams provide a sleep‐protecting function that offer a gateway to the knowledge of the unconscious mind.” (Freud.)

Below is the graph stated in the article of some factors that could potentially play into nightmares and other sleep disorders.

Image for post

In conclusion, the untreated nightmare condition can persist for decades. Seeking and finding the proper treatment is the best way to combat this dreadful phenomenon. Of course, nightmares are never pleasant, but if you experience them often, more than once a week, you should record them and seek answers. There are many health issues that include lack of sleep and mental deprivation from nightmares that can wreck havoc on mental stability emotional health and even physical health. I am not a medical professional, but from what I learned today, I’ll be keeping a better log of my dream journal from now on, starting tonight.

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