Four Things That Can Cause Nightmares
No one likes being jolted awake from a deep sleep, especially when what riled you up was an assailant, a zombies, killer cream puffs, or falling into pit of snakes. These bad dreams sometimes referred to as nightmares are not just frightening they are exhausting when they become reoccurring, and can disrupt a good night’s sleep to the point where it affects you waking life.
Nightmares are bad dreams that may wake the sleeper. They occur during rapid eye movement (REM) late in the evening and because we jerk awake during them, we usually remember all too clearly the fear, anxiety, and horrors which may lead to problem going back to sleep.
Anxiety and Stress
Anxiety and stress, often as the result of a traumatic life event, are sometimes the cause of nightmares. According to the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD), a major surgery or illness, grieving over the loss of a loved one, and suffering or witnessing an assault or major accident can trigger nightmares. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is also a major cause of recurrent nightmares.
Though alcohol is a depressant that will help you fall asleep in the short term, once its effects wear off, it can cause you to wake up prematurely. Excess consumption can also lead to nightmares and bad sleep; nightmares are also a common occurrence for those going through alcohol withdrawal.
Some drugs, including antidepressants, barbiturates, and narcotics, can cause nightmares as a side effect. For instance, a 2008 study published in the journal Psychopharmacology looked at ketamine, a drug used in anesthesia and recreationally, and found that compared with a placebo, ketamine use resulted in more dream unpleasantness and increased the incidence of bad dreams. Similarly, anyone who has traveled to a country where malaria is endemic may have taken Lariam and had some interesting nightmares associated with it. Nightmares usually cease once the drug is cleared from the system. In addition to the over the counter drugs many recreational and mind expanding drugs such as LSD, Peyote, Psilocybin, and PCP also known as Hallucinogens have also been responsible for nightmares also known as a bad trips.
Certain foods we eat and when we eat them may also affect our nighttime rest, as well as our tendency toward bad dreams and or nightmares. A small study published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology had a group of healthy men eat spicy meals before bed on some evenings and compared their quality of sleep on nights where they had non-spiced meals. On the spicy nights, the subjects spent more time awake and had poorer quality sleep. The explanation is that spicy food can elevate body temperatures and thus disrupt sleep. This may also be the reason why some people report bad dreams when they eat too close to bedtime. Though few studies have looked at it, eating close to bedtime increases metabolism and brain activity and may prompt bad dreams or nightmares.
Though far from conclusive, some research has indicated that the more high-fat food you consume during the day, the greater the chance that the amount and quality of your sleep may suffer. A small study published in 2017 in Psychological Reports found that the dreams of people who ate a high amount of organic food differed from those who ate “junk foods.” The authors hypothesize that certain foods may negatively influence dreaming.