19 Things You Probably Never Knew About Nightmares
Let's talk about what really happens when you wake up because it's the apocalypse and all your teeth fell out.
1. Nightmares are a mix of memories and other random information played out in a super disturbing way.
2. They don't have to be “scary," they just have to make you scared.
3. It's true that you can only dream about people you've met or seen before...kind of.
4. The emotional response to nightmares can actually wake you up.
5. Most nightmares occur during REM sleep, when your brain is the most active.
6. And nightmares tend to stick around in your head for a while once you're awake.
7. Nightmares are a natural part of sleep and processing your emotions.
8. But being super stressed can make nightmares worse.
9. Even those nightmares that seem super meaningful can't predict the future.
10. And nightmares can't actually kill you.
11. Sometimes, nightmares can be good.
12. And some people even get inspired by these scary AF dreams.
Artists and writers have drawn influence from their nightmares basically forever. Author Stephen King is known for using his nightmares to create thrilling, complex plots for his novels. Likewise, renowned artist Salvador Dalí, who painted the above "Geopoliticus," was said to paint immediately after waking up so he could transfer the vivid details into a literal "nightmare on canvas." "The alternative perspectives of the world you get from nightmares can be very useful for a successful, creative career," says Pagel.
13. Some people are at a higher risk for nightmares than others.
14. Nightmares are different from night terrors and PTSD-associated sleep disturbances.
15. It's possible to be diagnosed with "nightmare disorder."
16. There are a few things you can do to try to avoid nightmares.
17. But if you have chronic, severe nightmares, you should see a sleep specialist about that.
18. FYI: The leading nightmare treatment kind of involves lucid dreaming.
There are some medications that treat nightmares by reducing REM sleep, Breus says, but nothing has been as effective as Image Rehearsal Therapy (IRT), a non-pharmacological treatment developed by Krakow in the 1990s for sexual assault survivors. IRT requires the patient to write down their nightmares in excruciating detail, then change the storyline to include positive images and practice reading and rehearsing the new dream each day for several weeks. This way they have a cognitive-behavioral tool to deal with unpleasant images before they emerge in a nightmare. "It's not a cure-all, but 80 to 90% of patients report that IRT greatly reduced the intensity of nightmares and that it has a sustained effect," says Krakow.
Some variations of IRT even incorporate Lucid Dreaming Therapy to help the dreamer change a nightmare as it's happening. So basically Inception is real.