Posted by: beagle4 | February 19, 2011

Don’t Look Under the Bed

One of the scariest shows I ever watched as a child was on Nickelodeon called Are You Afraid of the Dark? After watching a new episode, I would have nightmares the following night. As most people know from experience, a nightmare is simply any dream that brings out feelings of strong fear, terror, distress, or extreme anxiety. They tend to be more common among children and less frequent toward adulthood. About 50% of adults have occasional nightmares, women more often than men. Today, nightmares have been increasingly viewed as a distinct disorder. I sadly, however, can’t remember the last time I had a nightmare. The closest I have come recently is the occasional dream where I fail or am unprepared for a test.

Although nightmares seem unpleasant and usually lead to a poor night of sleep, they are actually an extremely valuable service to the dreamer. They allow opportunities for personal healing by causing a much-needed emotional release. Nightmares are indirectly warning us about current behavior patterns or psychological imbalances that we need to remedy if we don’t want such unpleasant dreams to repeat, or worsen. Sometimes, we unknowingly respond and make adjustments in our lives after a nightmare occurs. If we attempt to block, deny, or ignore the messages of nightmares from the subconscious for too long, then it usually speaks louder to get our attention often by bringing related events into our waking lives. This can result in sickness, accidents, relationship difficulties, or other unfortunate personal circumstances that force us outright to deal with the issue.

Treatment for nightmares that do not involve medicine do exist and have shown to be very effective. Some of the most useful techniques include dream rehearsal, dream lucidity (ability to realize you are dreaming, discussed in previous post), guided imagery, and mainstream therapies. One technique presented by Dr. Barry Krakow, founder of the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Sleep Clinic, is to follow a script to escape a nightmare. After waking up from a nightmare, a patient should think and change the dream to anything they want. This kind of cognitive therapy can help reduce the frequency and intensity of nightmares.

Dr. Krakow’s technique has been controversial in the dream world. Some therapists feel that nightmares send crucial messages to the waking mind and shouldn’t be changed. They believe the nightmare can be analyzed and help a war veteran that has post traumatic stress. More information about the debate and a more detailed analysis of Dr. Krakow’s technique can be found in the 2 page news article here.

So, do you still have nightmares or are you like me and they are rare? What do you think about Dr. Krakow’s technique? Will changing the content of the dream after you are awake cause a permanent solution to stop the nightmares, or will it simply make matters worse?

Now just close your eyes and dream…



  1. Hmm. I don’t have nightmares much anymore, nor do I think I’ve ever died in my sleep. But I definitely have action-type dreams a lot. This is weird to admit, but a common dream I have has to do with a school intruder–I have to protect the students in my classroom from a gunman. I think this probably has to do with Columbine, and with my line of work (and also with having kids–their school was on lockdown twice last semester). But it’s interesting to think about working through these rather than ignoring them. Clearly I’m worried about having that much responsibility, and about whether I’ll be brave if I have to be :).

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