Nightmares can be horrifying. If you’ve ever experienced that terrifying moment when you’re jolted awake by an extremely unpleasant dream in which you though you were in mortal danger (and who hasn’t?), you know what I mean.
It’s estimated that 50 percent of adults experience nightmares, with women suffering from them more frequently than men. Recurring nightmares can have an effect on your health, leading to depression, anxiety and high blood pressure.
If you’re dealing with nightmares on a regular basis, these 5 factors might be to blame.
1. Mental health issues
One clinical psychologist says that unresolved issues and negative thoughts and feelings can impact your nightmares and how often you have them. “Our brains work like a computer; what goes in equals what comes out,” explains Dr. John Mayer. “So, if you go to bed with negative thoughts, or you’re replaying negatives from your day, boom! Your brain is going to be loaded with negative thoughts to recycle while you sleep.”
Depression and everyday stress can give you those bad dreams as well.
2. You’re processing a trauma
One study suggests that nightmares can be a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and that recurring nightmares can often revolve around the traumatic event a person is attempting to process.
3. You ate before you went to sleep
You probably shouldn’t eat late at night anyway because it’s not great for your digestion, but since it also might lead to nightmares, that should really seal the deal. Eating increases your metabolism and your body temperature, which makes your brain more active, which can, in turn, lead to more nightmares.
And the most nightmare-inducing type of food happens to be one many of us love: anything spicy.
4. You drank alcohol late at night
It’s not uncommon for people to have a nightcap before bed, but it could possibly be nightmare fuel. During the night, the alcohol metabolizes and the sedative effect wears off, leading to fragmented sleep and nightmares.
So maybe skip that late night drink, my friends!
Some typical drugs that might cause nightmares include medications that treat blood pressure and depression. Antihistamines and steroids might disturb your sleep in a major way as well.
If you’re hoping to avoid a nightmare-riddled slumber, in addition to the advice listed above, try exercising, eating healthy, meditating and writing in a journal.