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Last Updated on January 11, 2021

The Scary Truth About Nightmare Disorder And Top Treatments that Work

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The Scary Truth About Nightmare Disorder And Top Treatments that Work

Most of us have had the experience of deeply distressing nightmares that wake us up. But for those suffering symptoms of nightmare disorder, the experience can be terrifying, let alone the idea of falling asleep in the first place.

Untreated, nightmare disorder can have a significant, dastardly impact on our ability to just function normally, day to day. It’s not just about having a restless night’s sleep and struggling to get out of bed the next morning laden with fatigue.

If you suffer nightmare disorder, you often experience greater frequency of your nightmares either across different nights or as a sequence of disturbing dreams in the same night.

Fear and anxiety often wreak havoc on you emotionally, mentally and physically when trying to fall asleep, during and between your sleep cycles and also upon waking. You’re terrified of sleeping!

If you’re tired of experiencing no change even though you’ve reduced your alcohol intake, started exercising and have been going to bed earlier, there is help at hand.

Yes, physical changes you make can be extremely helpful (e.g. modifying your diet and eating plan, listening more to positive, inspiring audio books, music and podcasts, doing yoga) but you may be missing some key psychological strategies that can really help to kick your symptoms to the kerb.

How to know if I have nightmare disorder?

The International Classification of Sleep Disorders III provides minimum criteria to determine if individuals suffer from nightmare disorder described below:

a) Dreams are recurrent, clearly recalled and involve vividly feeling threats to survival, safety or physical integrity which often jolt you to awaken;

b) Upon wakening, you rapidly feel highly alert and become quickly oriented;

c) The nightmare itself or the sleep disturbance caused when awakening from it, causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning as indicated by experiencing at least one of the following:

Mood disturbance – emotions upon waking persist after the nightmare

The emotions aren’t vivid and distressing only during your nightmare. Even as you awaken they remain very real, are highly intense and usually contain intense levels of anger, fear, terror and/or sadness.

In fact the mood you experience can persist for awhile after you awake from the nightmare and the feeling is difficult to shake.

Dream recall is vivid

Many people find it difficult to recall their dreams upon waking even with making a concerted effort to do so.

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With nightmare disorder, dream recall is quick and vivid and there is little to no confusion about the details of the dream.

Falling asleep again is challenging

You can often suffer physical symptoms upon waking. Breathlessness, sweatiness and tightness in the chest can heighten your attention to remain awake.

Being unable to calm yourself physically and mentally makes falling asleep again not only difficult, but awfully frightening.

There also can remain the fear of re-entering the nightmare you’ve jolted awake from or re-experiencing the dream again.

You develop avoidant behaviors

Bedtime anxiety can become a common feature. A fear of the darkness associated with sleep time can also develop.

Social, interpersonal and occupational function starts to subside

Your ability to concentrate and focus at work or be fully present during social interactions starts to drop.

You might also start to feel silly and ashamed that you can’t ‘get over’ a silly nightmare.

Daytime sleepiness, fatigue and low energy

Your energy levels and fatigue can suffer from not getting enough of the right quality sleep, having incomplete sleep cycles and not getting enough cycles in the first place.

During the day you wake up groggy and feel like you’re dragging your feet to concentrate, focus and get anything done.

Other symptoms

In addition to the above, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) explains that a diagnosis of nightmare disorder is not catalyzed by the effect of medication nor drugs and also is not attributed to the presence of another mental disorder (e.g. post-traumatic stress disorder). The DSM-V also indicates how severe a diagnosis might be pending the different time periods of experiencing the symptoms.

To gain an accurate diagnosis, work with a qualified, registered mental health professional. Explore your medical history, your previous and current use of drugs and medication, your previous sleep disturbances as well as presence of any similar sleep disturbance in your family and the experience of traumatic events and/or relationships.

Whilst there doesn’t yet exist a stand-alone diagnostic tool for nightmare disorder, there can be valuable clues in exploring these potential influences as well.

The Scary Truth About Untreated Nightmare Disorder

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 4 % of the population suffer from nightmare disorder.[1] Untreated, prolonged effects can lead to the development of anxiety and depressive disorders. For those who might already be suffering symptoms of these, it can worsen them.

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Whilst development of different types of insomnia, breathing problems such as asthma and snoring have been linked to nightmare disorder, one of the most alarming links is the likelihood of the disorder to suicidality. Studies have not only discovered relationships between nightmares and the presence of suicidal thoughts (ideation) but also suicide attempts.

For many, time is not on their side. Having suffered long enough, medication can be a quick and instant way to dampen and numb the symptoms and provide temporarily relief.

However, there are some incredibly effective psychological treatments that have not only helped restore an astonishing quality of slumber to sufferers but opened their gateway to rebuilding a remarkable quality of life.

5 Top Treatments to Turn Your Sleep Experience Around

If you don’t feel you have time on your side, you may wish to consult with a medical professional to explore medication that could provide instant relief.

Medication or not, the guidance of suitably trained and qualified mental health professionals can help you learn incredible strategies that will accelerate you back to experiencing a far better quality of life.

Let’s look at some of the top recommended strategies below.

1. Image Rehearsal Therapy (IRT)

Image rehearsal is a great technique applied whilst you are awake. You write down your dream but change the theme, story line, ending, or any part of the dream to be a far more positive one.

In rewriting the dream scenario, you build in all the sensations, thoughts and emotions you want to experience instead. You are working to displace the distressing experiences you originally had with your newly orchestrated dream.

This technique works by challenging the traumatic theme of your original nightmare by injecting a cognitive shift. You choose and design the shift.

By then rehearsing this scenario for just 10 – 20 minutes a day, you can be on your way to greatly reducing your symptoms and enjoying a slumber journey to paradise as opposed to the Amityville Horror House.

2. Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR combines elements from a number of different therapies. It has become a primary treatment for those suffering from nightmares connected with having experienced either a single traumatic event or multiple events over time.

Using an eight-step approach a therapist manually induces processing of disturbing memories and experiences by stimulating neural mechanisms similar to those activated during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.[2]

During sessions, therapists direct clients to switch their eye movements to swing back and forth, left to right either following the therapists fingers (or some other object) whilst recalling the disturbed memory. Tones directed through headphones alternately into each ear might be used in similar fashion, or alternate physical taps to each hand.

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Clients identify and process the disturbed memory and past experience, current triggers and also positive experiences to develop a helpful adaptive response to the traumatic experience.

Even though EMDR is a highly effective treatment, there are pre-requisites for engaging this method and this process should only be applied by well-trained professionals who are licensed and qualified to administer it.

However, when you experience the benefits, not just your sleep but your quality life can turn around in a massive way!

3. Graded Exposure Therapy

Graded exposure therapy is also known as systematic desensitization. Once again it is best advised to undertake the first steps of this process with a qualified, trained professional.

With this method, you build resilience to the distressing parts of the nightmare through gradually exposing yourself to recalling the experience of it.

Re-experiencing the memory of the traumatic parts of the dream are identified and organized into a hierarchy of what is least distressing to what is most distressing. Working with parts you feel you can handle, you gradually expose yourself to the different parts of the nightmare memory and re-ignite the stressful emotions, thoughts and sensations one by one at a pace you can handle.

As you experience and learn that you are not in danger, your resilience builds and your fear of experiencing the nightmare again gradually drops.

Research has shown graded-exposure therapy to be helpful in reducing the frequency of nightmares but more effective when used in combination with progressive deep muscle relaxation (PDMR).

4. Progressive Deep Muscle Relaxation

Whilst research has shown that PDMR has been effective in reducing the frequency of nightmares, the technique has a wide range of uses in managing types of anxiety.

In itself, it is an incredible mental health and physical self-care strategy everyone can benefit from, nightmare disorder or not.

Working sequentially through the muscle groups in your body – from head to toe or in the reverse direction – you deliberately tense your muscles for a few seconds, then let the tension go and concentrate on how relaxed you feel for longer.

By deliberately telling your body to relax and increasing focus on how calm and relaxed you physically feel, you send messages to your brain to relax. Working through the muscle groups sequentially helps to pacify those of us who can get particularly wound up.

There are plenty of electronic apps you can access for free on your android phone or download to your iPod (e.g. Calm, Relax Lite). Guided PDMR (i.e. with instructions) is extremely helpful to start with. You surrender to the voice guiding you how and when to tense and relax each muscle group. By creating a deeply relaxed state just before falling sleep, you increase the potential for you to have a more pleasurable sleep experience.

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By getting started with PDMR straight away you not only have a tool to help you alleviate your nightmare symptoms, but a great relaxation technique to help you combat the challenges life throws at you.

Just be sure to consult a medical professional beforehand if you are recovering from an injury or could be at risk some other way. If so, whatever muscle groups could be affected, simply skip those and go on to the next ones.

5. Exposure, Relaxation and Re-scripting Therapy (ERRT)

ERRT is a combination of different steps targeting the anxiety symptoms that exist with the experience of nightmare disorder. If you’re not yet familiar with them, you’ll undertake an introduction to sleep hygiene practices.

Clearing out electronic devices from your bedroom, reducing your exposure to blue light from electronic tablets, television and android phones at least 1 ½ hours prior to wanting to fall asleep…..they all help to reduce symptoms of anxiety that can escalate your experiencing nightmares.

Looking at bedding and undertaking relaxing activities at night before bed time all contribute to creating blissful sleep opportunities.

Once you have your bedroom and pre-sleep activities sorted, you then apply the PDMR strategies which direct your focus on sensations of feeling completely relaxed. You are telling and preparing your mind and body to wind down and prepare for calm, serene sleep.

Looking at problem-solving, rescripting (similar to IRT) and coping strategies when you might awaken are all reviewed so you have an all round plan to (i) prepare your mind and body for sleep, (ii) help catalyze a far better dreaming experience and (iii) also have a plan of what to do when you awake suddenly.

The bottom line

Today might have been a wake-up call and you might have thought medication might be the only solution. You have been suffering and letting those symptoms rob you of your ability to rest, restore and regenerate your mind and body long enough.

If you have not been aware until now of the techniques and strategies above, make the decision today to get acquainted and consider undertaking an assessment with a mental health professional.

You might just turn the tables to discover a whole new lease on life!

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Helen D'Silva

Performance Psychologist for Business and Entrepreneurship, Sport and Personal Development

How to Improve Focus: 7 Ways to Train Your Brain How to Cope with Anxiety at Work: 5 Psychology Techniques How to Cultivate a Positive Mindset (A Step-By-Step Guide) How to Manage Anxiety: Sound Advice from a Mental Health Expert The Scary Truth About Nightmare Disorder And Top Treatments that Work

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Last Updated on August 25, 2021

Under the Weather? 13 Immune Boosting Foods for a Quick Recovery

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Under the Weather? 13 Immune Boosting Foods for a Quick Recovery

Immunity truly does encapsulate the entire physiology of a person.

When you target your immunity by eating a variety of immune boosting foods, then you really can improve your entire body, both physically and mentally.

The immune system of a human being involves all aspects of one’s physiology and one’s daily experience. Eating certain foods can boost your health in a variety of ways. Below I outline several foods that will get you back on track if you’re feeling under the weather.

Be sure to stock up on these foods if you’re in need of a boost.

Immunity Boosting Superfoods

In order to even broach the topic of foods good for one’s immune system, it’s important to consider all aspects of the human body and experience.

What I mean by the human experience is one’s day to day mood, energy levels, and many other factors that signify how one engages with themselves and the world around them.

Before indulging in these foods below, I suggest striving for consistency with diet, activity levels, rest, and incorporating the practice of meditation or spending time in nature as part of your daily routine as well.

If you’re ready to feel better, not just when you’re under the weather but all the time incorporate these foods in your diet regularly.

1. Water is a Wise Choice

Yes I know I’m starting things seemingly simple, but one of my most popular YouTube videos discusses the importance of water!

When I ask people how much water they drink a day, the majority of time the answer begins with ‘not enough’.

So if you know you don’t drink enough water, why continue this pattern of behavior?

Now if you’re one that does hit that 5+ and more (pending activity levels) 8oz glasses a day – good for you! Water is life, and that’s where I’ll leave it.

2. Eggs: The Most Complete Protein

Widely regarded as the universally most complete nutritional protein source, eggs are packed with Omega-3 Fatty Acids and 9 essential amino acids.

Egg whites are rich in Vitamins D/E/K, B2, B5, B6, B12, and minerals such as zinc, iron and copper.

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Meanwhile, egg yolks pack the calories and fats along with cholesterol, fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and lecithin.

It’s important to note that the average medium egg contains 76 calories, 7.5g protein, 5.1g fat, 1.4g sat fat – so consider this while integrating this near perfect super food in your next dish!

3. Raw Spinach Supports Immunity

This leafy green is a personal favorite of mine due to its versatility and great taste!

Spinach is loaded with vitamin C which helps fight cold, flu, and reinforce the immune system.

It’s also quite high in antioxidants and beta-carotene, which supports our immune system in fighting infection and viruses.

When enjoying this plentiful plant, do so raw. Its nutrients are best absorbed when the vegetable is raw; consider adding spinach as a fresh salad, rather than to a cooked dish, to reap the most immune system rewards.

4. Turmerics Benefit on T-Cells

Gaining popularity for its delicious taste, this powerful spice is also gaining notoriety for its anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin (which also creates the vibrant orange-yellow color).

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Immunology notes that curcumin activates the production of T-cells, which are of the primary cells fighting on behalf of your systems immunity. [1]

5. Garlic is Really Good for You

This popular food not only tastes great but packs quite a punch.

Garlic contains a compound called allicin, which boasts a variety of medicinal properties. Garlic is also not very calorie dense; 1 ounce yields about 42 calories with 1.8g protein and 9g carbs.

Garlic also boasts Vitamin C, B6, Fiber, and Manganese.

The properties mentioned above helps maintain healthy bones, prevent diabetes and epileptic seizures, regulate thyroid, combat osteoporosis, reduce inflammation, boost metabolism, improve cognitive function, and regulate glucose metabolism!

So, forget about garlic breath–eat this food in abundance!

6. Wild Salmon is Wonderful

A personal favorite of mine, wild Alaskan salmon is one of those super foods that covers all your nutrient bases!

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Salmon can be cooked a variety of delicious ways, and yields some of the highest immune system boosting benefits.

Salmon contains fish oil Omega-3’s, which protect against developing heart disease and heart attack. Oils contained within such fish are quite unique in that they have Omega-3 fatty acids that are not present in any other food.

Also consider that wild salmon contains (per 4oz) 128% Vitamin D, 95% Vitamin B12, 94% tryptophan, 62% selenium, 53% protein, 53% omega 3’s, 45% Vitamin B3, 37% phosphorus, 32% Vitamin B6, 19% choline, 14% potassium, and 8%(157) calories.

This is one of those super foods that you could stand to have in your diet several times per week. Beyond the incredible taste, its nutritional benefits make it well worth seeking out.

7. Essential Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Many home cooks consider this an essential ingredient in preparing dinner. But it’s also quite good for you!

Extra virgin olive oil is widely regarded as being a healthy addition to any kitchen, with modest amounts of Vitamins E and K and plenty of beneficial fatty acids.

Per 100g of olive oil you can expect 14% saturated fat, 73% Monounsaturated fat, 10% Omega-6, 1% Omega-3, 72%, and 75% Vitamin K.

It also boasts an impressive antioxidant profile. This includes the anti-inflammatory oleocanthal, as well as oleuropein, a substance that protects LDL cholesterol from oxidation.

8. Natural Greek Yogurt Has Many Benefits

When I talk about natural Greek yogurt, I mean the type that is not flavored in any way. Those added sugars won’t help boost immunity.

Many people have convoluted the immunity and health benefits of natural yogurt with the all too popular sugary treats that flood grocery stores. But it’s the plain stuff that’s the best to include in your diet.

Natural Greek yogurt not only goes great with many dishes, but it contains vast amounts of protein which will leave you feeling satisfied.

The reason why I’ve specified ‘Greek yogurt’ is because one cup of plain, low-fat conventional yogurt typically has 5 to 10 grams of protein, where Greek yogurt averages about 13 to 20 grams of protein.

Greek yogurt also contains essential probiotics (live microorganisms). These are bacteria microbes that help improve digestive function, the immune system, and overall gut health.

Add natural Greek yogurt to your diet, whether as a breakfast food, a substitute for sour cream, or as an addition to a healthy smoothie.

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9. Ginseng Tea: Chock Full of Ginsenosides

Ginseng tea’s primary health benefits are due to the naturally occurring chemicals called ginsenosides present in the root.

One of ginseng’s most widely understood benefits include it’s rich anti-cancer properties. [2]

Studies also indicate that people who drink ginseng tea have a lower risk of developing cancer.

Ginseng tea can also help relieve menstrual cramps, lower blood pressure, and improve brain function; and it has also been shown to help with sexual (erectile) dysfunction in men.

10. Green Tea Fights Aging

Just as powerful as ginseng tea, this extremely popular tea is rich in polyphenols that have effects like reducing inflammation and aiding in the fight against cancer.

Green tea is in fact 30% polyphenols, including large amounts of a catechin called EGCG. Catechins are natural antioxidants that aid in the prevention of cell damage and provide several other benefits.

EGCG, and substances like it can reduce the formation of free radicals in the body, helping protect cells and molecules from damage.

Free radicals such as these are commonly known to play a role in aging and all sorts of other diseases.

This wonderful also tea contains small quantities of minerals that are important for overall health, so it may be worth picking up some green tea when visiting your next local tea shop.

11. Dark Chocolate: The Delicious Superfood

Don’t get too excited with this one – everything in moderation, of course!

And I’m not just referring to any chocolate — I’m talking specifically about dark chocolate and cacoa nibs, which are both immune system boosting super foods.

We’ve already covered free radicals in this article, and dark chocolate is one of those wonderful super foods that helps fight against such free radicals.

It does this with its high antioxidant profile which is believed to neutralize free radicals and protect the body from their damage.

Dark chocolate’s antioxidants include vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals – helpful plant compounds. Much like other immune boosting foods on this list dark chocolate will also help balance cholesterol, blood pressure, and improve heart health, and cognitive function.

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You now have a healthy excuse to eat some dark chocolate; but, go for the lowest sugar and highest cocoa content varieties you can find to reap the most rewards.

12. Frozen Blueberries for All!

Personally I love adding frozen blueberries to smoothies; however, sometimes I’ll pop over to the freezer just to grab a small handful as a treat!

Frozen blueberries are loaded with antioxidants, which come from compounds called anthocyanins; these give blueberries their purple hue.

One really neat fact about the ice crystals that form when the berries are frozen is that they disrupt the structure of the plant tissue and make anthocyanins even more available – how cool is that? Talk about hacking blueberries!

Even if not frozen, blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant capacities among all fruits. They have been known to boost memory, cardiovascular system, and eyesight. The fruit also encourages a process called authophagy, or ‘cell clean-up’.

Berries in general (raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries) are extremely high on the ORAC scale. This means they contain some of the highest levels of antioxidants, which help to fight free radicals.

Frozen blueberries in particular may aid in defending colds and flu, as they are high in pterostilbene.

Next time you visit your local grocery store, consider how ideal blueberries are for your immune system and general health.

13. Raw Honey: A Natural Antioxidant

Saving the sweetest for last!

Pure natural raw honey follows the rest of this super food list with its antioxidant profile, however it also contains antibacterial and anti fungal properties.

Raw honey contains antioxidants called phenolic compounds, and certain types contain just as many antioxidants as fruits and vegetables.

Raw honey can help the body kill-off unwanted bacteria and fungus as it naturally contains hydrogen peroxide, which is a strong antiseptic. Raw honey also contains phytonutrients, commonly found in plants, which provides both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Aside from these wonderful benefits, raw honey can also aid with digestive issues, however this typically varies person to person.

Indulge in Better Health

But also, don’t forget to rest! When considering one’s overall health, it’s important to not only incorporate these immune boosting foods, but also to ensure adequate sleep, and take efforts to reduce stress.

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Eating these immunity boosting foods will enable you to take back control of your health and prevent illness… all while satisfying your cravings!

Reference

[1] Journal of Immunology: Curcumin
[2] NCBI: Ginseng for Fatigue

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