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How to get rid of nightmares. Healthy sleep rules

If your dreams are more reminiscent of the plot of a horror movie and you are already used to waking up in a cold sweat, then it’s time to put aside the dream book and figure out what is the matter. How exactly? For example, read this article.

There is an opinion that our brain “rests” at night and works less actively. But actually it is not. During sleep, especially in certain phases of sleep, brain activity can be significantly higher than during wakefulness. A recently published article in the journal Science only confirms this.

It says that while we sleep, our brain is cleansed – the amount of metabolites removed from the perivascular spaces of the brain (the spaces surrounding the vessels of the brain) increases dramatically.

In addition, scientists have proven that during sleep, the higher parts of the nervous system interact with the internal organs. At this time, the brain receives information from them, analyzes it and restores it. That is why sleep determines a person’s physical and mental health.

Our brains are constantly changing, but most of all it happens when we sleep. After all, it is during sleep that two important processes take place: the process of consolidation and reconsolidation of memory – information is rewritten from temporary memory to permanent memory and vice versa. That is, every night a complete morphological (or structural) restructuring takes place in our brain.

Dreams are a phenomenon that is characteristic of almost every person. People who claim that they do not see dreams are not cunning – they simply do not remember them. Dreams do not have any functional purpose – they are the processing and analysis of information received in the entire previous life. It is believed that we remember everything that happens to us, but not all of this can be reproduced.

So dreams are such echoes of the information received and its integration with the information that comes from the internal organs during sleep. The nature of dreams can be determined by diseases of internal organs, mental pathology or ordinary physiological processes such as urination, pain syndrome, muscle spasms and headache – we often observe how the nature of dreams changes in people who have some kind of sleep pathology.

Dreams do not come from somewhere outside, from the other world or from space, they are information received through various senses. The brain works with this information – changes it or strongly transforms it. As for nightmares , they are most commonly seen in people with acute post-traumatic stress disorder. Stress associated with the threat of life, physical abuse or the death of loved ones is often the cause of nightmares. 

The expression “sleep heals” is largely due to the fact that during the reconsolidation of memory – during its transition from permanent to temporary and vice versa – there is a partial or complete loss of information. That is why nightmares tend to fade over time. However, the level of stress can be so great that this information is stored for a very long time – months and years. It is difficult for a person to get rid of nightmares on their own and in some cases he needs professional help and therapy.

Night terrors and nightmares are not the same thing. Night fears are observed mainly in slow-wave sleep – in its deepest phases. A person can rush in bed, scream, cry. But if you try to wake him up in this state, most likely he will not remember anything – neither dreams, nor what caused such a reaction.

Closer to morning, paradoxical, or REM sleep begins to prevail – nightmares are characteristic of it, after waking up a person usually remembers them very well and can describe them in detail. Previously, it was believed that all dreams occur precisely in this phase of sleep – the rapid eye movements that are characteristic of this phase were explained by the tracking of images. However, later it turned out that about 60% of dreams are observed in paradoxical REM sleep, and about 40% – in slow, wave sleep. It is worth noting that both nightmares and night fears are related to parasomnias – sleep disorders 

One-off nightmares can be associated with stressful experiences. Some, for example, many years after graduation from university, dream about passing exams – the stress was so great that they remembered this situation very well. The brain during sleep appears to be testing and checking different parts of the brain – it updates and rewrites information so that the person has an experience.

Solving dreams, especially from dream books, does not make any sense – each has its own unique symbolism. For example, a person dreams of a white wardrobe. Someone has this closet associated with work in a medical institution, someone had it in the bedroom as a child, and someone saw a movie with that name.

The nature of a dream is largely determined by somatic and mental health. Thus, in some sleep disorders, especially in the presence of narcolepsy, a disease characterized by severe daytime sleepiness, patients see colorful and very realistic dreams that can be described in detail. 

Someone in a dream visits other planets, someone experiences a sensation of levitation. In many ways, such dreams are associated with the peculiarity of the interaction of the brain and proprioceptors – receptors that determine the position of the body in space. This feature also leads to the emergence of various specific sensations, including the sensation of flight.

In addition, a person can dream without closing their eyes. We call this the penetration of waking dreams – the discoordination between the state of sleep and the processes that occur in the body at this time. In fact, a person sees hallucinations for a split second, which he often takes for a mental disorder. And since many mental illnesses are indeed characterized by hallucinations, the task of the somnologist is to understand their true causes.

What to do to avoid having nightmares:

  1. Make sure you get regular sleep. Falling asleep and waking up should be at the same time. This is essential for maintaining the health of the body.
  2. Do not abuse alcohol and smoking.
  3. Don’t overeat or go to bed hungry.
  4. Try to avoid stress and limit the flow of negative information – do not watch TV before bed, read an interesting book.

Frequent nightmares are a sign of either post-traumatic stress disorder or physical or mental health problems. And here it is important not to guess by the dream book, but to consult a specialist – a doctor- somnologist . It is not at all necessary to write down dreams – they have no functional purpose.

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