As a sleep specialist and someone passionate about helping people get good sleep, I was recently asked for advice on nightmares. I realized that, while I do a lot with sleep and insomnia, I didn’t have this specific knowledge. So, as all professionals do, I decided to do some research and learn more.
Although we all dream, and everyone has an occasional nightmare, some people have nightmare that greatly impacted their lives. Dreams have been called “group therapy for our emotions”. Dreams sooth and process our emotions, but nightmares do not. I recently took a fascinating webinar on nightmares by Dr. Havens. Dr. Havens feels that many doctors don’t take nightmares seriously enough, and are unaware of the significant impacts they can have on the following issues:
- Someone who acts out their nightmares can be dangerous to themselves , or their partner.
- Some people avoid sleeping due to not wanting to have a nightmare, and then end up very sleep deprived, which impacts their physical and mental health.
- Ninety percent (90%) of people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have nightmares and, if left untreated, can impair PTSD recovery.
Dr. Havens characterizes nightmares as stuck dreams where our brain runs out of ideas to appropriately finish its story. He uses a familiar technique, but he adds to it. He calls it Planned Dream Intervention (PDI) which is a very brief, but successful treatment. It does not involve reliving anything traumatic, but instead has you intentionally think of a new and positive ending right before you fall asleep. Below is a You Tube video that people can use for self-help.
If you are still having trouble after trying on your own, you may want to find find a sleep specialist to help. It’s definitely worth getting this treatment in order to sleep soundly, to feel better, and to prevent and help treat mental health issues.