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General characteristics

General characteristics

Nightmares are 'bad dreams', sometimes called 'night terrors' that are characterised by intense fear or anxiety and/or emotional trauma. They tend to be more common in childhood, in females, in creative or artistic people and those who are of a more sensitive disposition.

Causes include excessive mental activity (such as worrying) in the preceding day, times of stress and emotional upheaval, trauma, eating a large meal late at night, drinking too much alcohol, alcohol withdrawal, prescription drugs and withdrawal from prescription drugs, fevers, breathing disorders such as sleep apnoea, anxiety disorders and depression, sleep disorders which disrupt normal sleep patterns, horror movies/stories and recreational drugs such as cocaine or amphetamines.

Upon waking from a nightmare, the person may experience a rapid heart rate, increased breathing and general feelings of anxiety.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Certain foods are thought to cause nightmares in some people. These include processed meats such as pepperoni and bacon, beef, processed tomato sauces and sugary foods. Sugar and refined carbohydrate consumption near bedtime are commonly linked with nightmares.

Avoid drinking caffeine drinks and stimulating or sugary drinks for a few hours before bedtime and reduce your consumption during the day.

Useful herbs

Useful herbs

The remedies used for insomnia or anxiety can help to reduce the likelihood of nightmares and promote a deeper, more peaceful nights sleep. Chamomile, elderflower and valerian tea or tinctures an hour before bed could help.

A cup of thyme or marjoram tea (half a teaspoon of dried herb per cup) before bed may help keep the nightmares away.

Skullcap and hops in tea form can help to induce a deep relaxing sleep. Use a half teaspoon of each in a cup.

The herb ashwagandha is said to promote mental clarity, a more restful nights sleep and less intense or frightening dreams.

Natural healing

Natural healing

Find out about a technique called Lucid Dreaming. With practice, it is possible to become more aware in your dreams and have more control over your dreamscape. Many people claim to be able to direct their dreams towards more fulfilling and less stressful situations within their dreams by practising the techniques for lucid dreaming.

Try listening to relaxing music as you fall asleep. This can help to relax the mind and encourage a more peaceful sleep.

Avoid watching violent, horror or action type films before bed.

Try adding  a few drops of the relaxing essential oils such as lavender, frankincense or rose to a warm bath before bed or sprinkle a few drops on your pillow.

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