I have had, at times, persistent scary dreams. Then there were times I have been fully awake and hoping what was happening was really just a dream. And I’d soon wake up.
Neither of these things is actually tangible. A dream is like sheer curtains. The things you see in your dream are blurry around the edges. As though you’re attempting to take a photo and can’t get the focus right.
In my recurrent dream of late, I am looking for my car. It’s getting darker by the minute. But I cannot locate my car in all the many rows of cars.
So I’m beginning to panic, thinking I will be spending the night in the dark by myself still walking the rows of cars looking for mine. And it always seems as though someone has somehow moved it from where I parked it.
A Slightly Different Dream:
Sometimes I have the dream where I finally find my car, with vast relief. And I start to drive home.
But the signs on the streets are indistinguishable and I can’t figure out where I am. Nothing is where I thought it was. So I drive and drive endlessly, searching for my way home.
And then other times the car breaks down. Another fly in the jam jar.
I wake up from these dreams a bit foggy, then realize I am in my bed and I am safe. And happily, it was just a dream.
Psychological Triggers That Can Cause Nightmares:
It is said that there can be a number of psychological triggers that cause nightmares in adults. For example, anxiety and depression can cause adult nightmares.
There is a difference between bad dreams and nightmares.
In sleep medicine, nightmares have a more strict definition than in everyday language. Both involve disturbing dream content. But only a nightmare causes you to wake up from sleep.
When Do Nightmares Occur:
Nightmares arise more frequently in the second half of the night when more time is spent in REM sleep.
They usually begin in childhood at around age 10 and are more common in girls than boys.
Nightmares most commonly occur during REM sleep, which is when our brain produces proteins and stimulates our learning.
During this time, the brain also sends signals to the limbs to cause temporary paralysis. A way of stopping us from actually acting out our dreams in real life.
What Can Cause Nightmares:
One theory states that during REM sleep, your brain is trying to organize and interpret the signals it’s receiving.
In order to do this, your brain creates a ‘story’ out of the fragmented brain activity.
Research says that in 60% of cases, a major life event precedes the onset of nightmares. Be it illness, bereavement, or the end of a relationship.
Anxiety, stress, and sleep disorders are also associated with nightmares.
Raising your metabolism by eating just before bed can also increase the likelihood of bad dreams.
A Nightmare That Wasn’t Actually A Nightmare:
Or even worse was the time I was driving and lost time. I don’t mean I lost time because of an obstacle or that I ran out of gas. I actually “lost time.”
I was driving from Oklahoma to Texas during an upsetting time in my life. And I made the decision to stop and get a bite to eat at noon. I looked down at the clock in the car and saw that it was 11 a.m.
The next thing I know, I am struggling to come out of this fugue-like state. Kind of like attempting to fight your way out of a spider web you’ve walked into.
I looked around and I realized I had no idea where I am. Nor can I account for the two hours that have passed.
What Is Dissociation:
They say that dissociation is a mental process of disconnecting from one’s thoughts, feelings, memories, or sense of identity.
Maybe what happened was linked to how emotional I felt that day.
But I will take nightmares during sleep any day of the week over that happening again.
What Triggers Dissociation:
Triggers are sensory stimuli connected with a person’s trauma, and dissociation is an overload response.
Even years after the traumatic event or circumstances have ceased, certain sights, sounds, smells, touches, and even tastes can trigger a cascade of unwanted memories and feelings.
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. – Edgar Allan Poe