Nightmares are usually triggered by uncomfortable feelings in the body especially muscle tensions that arise from stress. Dreams will be less disturbing when the mind and body are at ease.

Nightmares often centre around unresolved trauma and may re-emerge on anniversaries or reminders of trauma. Extreme trauma may lead to recurrent nightmares sometimes years after the event.

Their intensity can be gradually reduced by following the suggestions on the sleep strategies page particularly relaxing before going to bed and not overeating or drinking alcohol. If the body and mind are relaxed and comfortable there is less to cause the sleeping mind to construct nightmares.

Recurrent nightmares can be modified by intentional dreaming and brought to a more comfortable resolution by deciding to end them differently before going to sleep.

Fighting back or running away in a dream may show the beginnings of dealing with the after effects of trauma.

night terrors
Night terrors occur during the deepest levels of non-REM sleep. Usually there are no sounds, images events or scenarios being dreamt, but just the emotions of fear, tension and apprehension. Sometimes there is a vague object of fear. There can be disorientation for one or two minutes after waking and sometimes a short period of amnesia. There is usually no recollection later except for a sense of panic.

Children two to six and adults with PTSD are most prone to night terrors. About fifteen percent of children experience night terrors.

Emotional stress during the previous day or two or a physical disturbance like fever trigger most episodes. Night terrors may indicate a feeling of abandonment or lack of safety that arises from childhood experiences. Who is looking after me?