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A nightmare is a dream of particular intensity and with content that the sleeper finds disturbing. They are usually associated with rapid eye movement (REM) periods of sleep, and may be accompanied by physical movements.
Up to about the eighteenth century, nightmares were often considered to be the work of demons, which were thought to sit on the chests of sleepers. Various forms of magic and spiritual possession were also advanced as causes. In nineteenth century Europe, the vagaries of diet were thought to be responsible. For example, in Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Ebenezer Scrooge attributes the ghost he sees to "... an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato..." In a similar vein, the Household Cyclopedia of 1881 offers the following advice about nightmares:
"Great attention is to be paid to regularity and choice of diet. Intemperance of every kind is hurtful, but nothing is more productive of this disease than drinking bad wine. Of eatables those which are most prejudicial are all fat and greasy meats and pastry... Moderate exercise contributes in a superior degree to promote the digestion of food and prevent flatulence; those, however, who are necessarily confined to a sedentary occupation, should particularly avoid applying themselves to study or bodily labor immediately after eating... Going to bed before the usual hour is a frequent cause of night-mare, as it either occasions the patient to sleep too long or to lie long awake in the night. Passing a whole night or part of a night without rest likewise gives birth to the disease, as it occasions the patient, on the succeeding night, to sleep too soundly. Indulging in sleep too late in the morning, is an almost certain method to bring on the paroxysm, and the more frequently it returns, the greater strength it acquires; the propensity to sleep at this time is almost irresistible."
In modern times, nightmares are thought to relate either to physiological causes, such as a high fever, or to psychological ones, such as unusual trauma or stress in the sleeper's life. The occasional body movements seen in nightmares may have a use in awakening the sleeper, thus helping to avoid the frightening dream-situation.
Occasional nightmares are commonplace, but recurrent nightmares can interfere with sleep and may cause people to seek psychiatric help.
A recent development is the use of imagery rehearsal as a method of both reducing the effects of nightmares but also general symptoms in acute stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder.
Learn How To Control the Action in Your Dreams
There exists a tribe of people known as the Senoi. They are destined to be famous for only one thing, since they have no great military strategists, no crime problems, serious health or addiction problems, no wars, and only minimal conflict in their own society. The thing that makes their otherwise dull-sounding tribe great, and in fact, what makes the harmony they experience possible, is their approach to dreaming. They can and do control their dreams and live them as part of their daily lives.
Read How To Control the Action in Your Dreams
Nightmares : How to Make Sense of Your Darkest Dreams
Although I don't have many true nightmares, I found this book of real assistance in interpretting my 'subtle' nightmares and reoccuring dreams. It added a needed level of understanding to help me unravel the deeper symbolic meaning of those dreams. Fortunately, it is written in Universal Dream Language, a language I have gravitated toward with other books. After keeping track and symbolizing every dream I've had for the past two years, there is no question in my mind that the Universal symbols truly give you direction to conflict, problems and dilemmas. This book is definitely a great addition to the dream books you already possess - whether you have nightmares or not, you'll just get better at figuring out dreams that challenge you.
Dreams and Nightmares: The Origin and Meaning of Dreams
Drawing on his clinical practice, his research on sleep and dreaming, and over five thousand of his own dreams, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Ernest Hartmann proposes a new theory of dreams that shows us how they help us make sense of our emotions and, ultimately, reveal most profoundly who we are. Dreams are meaningful, he argues-and in the process takes on neurobiologists, who believe that dreams are merely random products of the chemistry of the brain, and Freudians, who attribute every dream to the fulfillment of a childhood wish. He shows how dreams, guided by the emotions of the dreamer, make broad connections among our experiences in life. In the end, he concludes, dreaming is immensely useful to the most important psychological task we face-gathering knowledge about ourselves.
Nightmares may be upsetting, but they are not "real" and can't harm you. And if you have one, you're in good company: almost everyone gets them once in awhile - www.kidshealth.org
Nightmares and Disorders of Dreaming American Academy of Family Physicians
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