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Why Do We Get Nightmares?

Why Do We Get Nightmares?

Nightmares are something we often associate with children. But the truth is that nearly half of the adult population experiences nightmares on occasion and 2% – 8% experience them on a regular basis.


While the reason why we dream what we dream is not well understood, scientists and physicians have theories on whyadults might still get nightmares.


What is a Nightmare?


Most of us have probably already experienced a nightmare before—a horrible or frightening dream that’s quite realistic. They often startle you awake at night, leaving your heart pounding out of fear.


It’s common for nightmares to be about running away from danger or falling from great heights. It’s also common for people to dream of their irrational fears, like spiders or snakes.


Nightmares are most likely to occur during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep—when you are in your deepest state of slumber.


Why Adults Get Nightmares


People usually grow out of nightmares during childhood, so it’s not so common for adults to be plagued by them. Though, there are many reasons why 2 – 8% of adults still get them:



Certain medications such as anti-depressants are known to cause nightmares as side-effects. These types of drugs sometimes supress REM sleep and instead create something called rebound REM, which causes vivid dreams.


Other medications that are known to cause nightmares include narcotics and blood pressure medications.


If you suspect your medications are troubling you with nightmares, talk to your doctor for advice.


Withdrawal from Drugs and Medications

The same medications that cause nightmares will do the same when you withdrawal from them.


Though it’s more common that withdrawal from drugs like alcohol and tranquilizers will cause them.


Mental Illness

Anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder are the usual causes for nightmares in adults.


Anxiety dreams are a little different than nightmares in that they don’t typically startle you awake. Instead, they amp up your stress levels to the point where you wake up.


The good news with nightmares caused by mental illness is that there are ways to reduce their frequency. Talk to your doctor about what you can do to get a better sleep.


How to Reduce Adult Nightmares


Though many of the reasons why we get nightmares are due to health and medicine, there are certain things we can do at home to try to reduce adult nightmares.


Part of the reason why we get nightmares is because our brains are overactive during sleep. So, try to calm down before heading to bed by practicing mindfulness meditation or yoga.


Also, try not to eat right before going to bed. An increase in your metabolism causes brain activity which can bring-on nightmares.

Contact Majestic Mattress for information on getting a better sleep with a new mattress!