A person ends up in four different phases during sleep. In the first phase, you sleep lightly, and in the fourth phase, you sleep so tightly that electronic activities will take place in your brain. These activities ensure that you start dreaming.
You usually have a different dream every night, but sometimes you have the feeling that you always dream the same thing. That can be nice if it is a beautiful dream, but less helpful if you prefer not to have the dream.
For example, constantly dreaming about your ex or your parents getting divorced. Always dreaming the same thing is not wrong or harmful. It only indicates that there is something important to you right now.
Rapid Eye Movement
A person ends up in four different phases during sleep. This sleep is known as the brake sleep (Rapid Eye Movement). In the fourth phase of this brake sleep, the brain begins to exhibit electronic activities. These activities ensure that you start dreaming. If this dream is experienced as scary, you are talking about a nightmare. A nightmare in itself is not so bad.
Everyone dreams about a scary movie that you just saw in the cinema. Or about spiders, snakes, and scorpions. Only when a nightmare returns time after time and deals with the same subject, there seems to be more going on. An unprocessed trauma could be the underlying reason.
Always the same dream
Do not be afraid; it is quite reasonable to have the same dream. If you have booked a vacation and you dream about this vacation for several consecutive days, nothing is wrong. It only indicates that you feel like it. Or dream about football at the time of a major football tournament. It indicates that you are really working on it. Only when it comes to a nightmare and it has the same subject for days in a row is their reason to worry.
Some people feel that their dream has meaning. Someone who dreams several times about a disaster or something like that may think that his dream is predictive. Because this cannot be proven, no statement can be made about this.
A person has four to five dreams per night. That is about fifty million dreams of all american people together per night. If everyone in his life once dreams of an attack or disaster, that is about a thousand dreams per night in the Netherlands. A ‘predictive’ dream is, therefore, more like a coincidence.
During a nightmare, nasty, scary, and annoying images come up. This can happen in the middle of a nice dream or right from the start. A nightmare usually has a processing function. A traumatic or recent negative experience from the past is processed in your brain. This converts the thoughts into images. A nightmare is not nice, but it does have an important function.
Suppose you are uncertain about your work for a while. Maybe you will be fired soon and worry about the costs of the house or about your own future. It seems like the world is falling apart at your feet. This feeling of uncertainty can develop into a nightmare in or during a dream.
For example, in a dream, you walk into a paradise, but suddenly the ground disappears under your feet, and paradise becomes a horrible place where you no longer want to be. You do not know how to get away, and you do not succeed, either. Panic, uncertainty, and fear strike until your body start to wake up again.
Always the same nightmare
It’s okay when you have a nightmare. Only when the same subject is central to your nightmare for days on end, is it wise to seek help. This does not necessarily have to be psychological help, but a good friend or family member can also offer help. In this way, a nightmare about work uncertainty from the example above can be easily remedied.
The reason you dream about it is that emotions in our dreams are uncontrollable. Certainly not if you also suppress this during the day. Therefore, talk to your partner, children, friends, or someone else that you trust well.
Suppose someone has been abused in the past and often has a nightmare that he or she is being abused. The nightmare always takes place in the same place and by the same people. In this case, a nightmare has a processing function, and it indicates that you did not properly process the trauma at the time. Maybe you are afraid that it happened again, or you recently read or saw something about the abuse that makes you remember everything still.
It is wise to seek help from a psychologist and talk about this. Don’t underestimate this problem. This is because there are a number of disorders that, in extreme cases, can lead to violence during sleep or sleepwalking. At this stage, help is much more complex, and a close friend or family cannot provide the help you need. Two to three times, the same nightmare is no problem.
Causes of a nightmare
As said, nightmares have a processing function. For example, the chance of having a nightmare is greater with the death of a person who means a lot to you. Stress and nerves for an exam or a change in your living situation or health also increase the chance of a nightmare. Pregnant women are more susceptible to nightmares than normal.
Preventing a nightmare
As indicated earlier: talk about what’s bothering you. But that is easier done than said and does not always mean that the nightmares stay away. If that doesn’t work, try the following:
- Do relaxing activities before bed. This can be anything, as long as you find it relaxing. A massage, read a book, take a bath. As long as it works.
- Write your nightmare on paper. Accepting your nightmare unknowingly lowers your fear of it — the more fear, the greater the chance of having a nightmare.
- Very cliché, but think of something nice before you go to sleep. Or view photos of a nice vacation.