What causes bad dreams?

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What causes bad dreams? There are many factors that can lead to nightmares

Dreams can be delightful and the sleeper doesn't want to awaken because he's enjoying himself so much. On the other hand, some are ghoulish and nightmarish and the sleeper can't awaken quickly enough. What causes bad dreams?

There are a number of factors that induce bad thoughts during the night. A fever can cause horrible dreams as can some medications. It may be genetic. The tendency to have nightmares runs in families.

Nightmares are considered a typical part of coping with the upheavals and changes inherent in life. For children, unsettling dreams often occur when parents are divorcing or the child is starting school. Children have nightmares more frequently than adults but adults do experience them.

A traumatized individual suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experiences ominous imaginings while sleeping. Trying and stressful times can cause a person to experience disturbing nocturnal thoughts.

A nightmare is a distressingly vivid and lifelike dream, generally occurring during the REM cycle of sleep. REM stands for rapid eye movement. Scary dreams occur in the early morning hours because the REM cycle gets longer as the night progresses.

Eating before bed

Eating right before bed can lead to nightmares because a person's metabolism speeds up after eating and this tells the brain to become lively. Don't eat right before going to bed and see if this helps.


Narcotics and antidepressants can cause nightmares because of the way the chemicals impact the brain. Blood pressure medication has been linked to nightmares.

When withdrawing from a substance or medication this leads to nightmares.

Sleep deprivation

Deprived of sleep? If so, you may experience nightmares when you do finally get some sleep. Sleep deprivation caused by nightmares leads to various medical conditions such as obesity, depression and heart disease.

Anxiety and depression

An anxious or depressed person is likely to experience unsettling nighttime imaginings more so than the person who isn't afflicted with anxiety or depression.

Sleep apnea

Those suffering from sleep apnea are apt to have disturbing dreams. Sleep apnea occurs when a  person's breathing is disrupted during sleep. Treatment for this condition is imperative because if left untreated it can result in heart failure, stroke and/or hypertension.

Restless legs syndrome

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) leads to nightmares. This condition affects the legs, making them move and jerk incessantly throughout the night. The individual doesn't sleep well as a result. Researchers aren't completely sure what causes RLS but have linked it to improper absorption of iron. This is a genetic condition. If your mother or father has it you are likely to experience it, too.


There is treatment available for nightmare sufferers. Discuss this with your physician. Determine what is causing the nighttime disturbances. If it is the result of medicine you are taking. If so, your physician can change the medication, give you a lower dosage or instruct you to take it at an different time, perhaps earlier in the day.

When not the result of medication or illness, behavioral changes are beneficial in treating nightmares. Imagery rehearsal treatment is a successful cognitive behavior therapy in treating the occurrence of negative imaginings, particularly in those suffering from PTSD. The way this works, the patient imagines what kind of dreams he wants to have while awake.

Refrain from alcohol, nicotine and caffeine before retiring. Sleeping in a hot bedroom may lead to disturbing dreams. Turn down the heat. Open a window.

Getting adequate amounts of exercise during the day lessens the likelihood of experiencing nightmares as does maintaining a regular schedule. Get up the same time each morning, even on weekends, and go to bed at the same time each night.

Dreams serve a purpose. People actually solve problems, gain insight in their life and get advice through their nighttime thoughts. Granted, no one likes disturbing dreams but it happens on occasion and often for a reason.

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