Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on January 11, 2021

The Scary Truth About Nightmare Disorder And Top Treatments that Work

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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 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 How to Improve Focus: 7 Ways to Train Your Brain

Trending in Sleep & Rest

1 10 Best Natural Sleep Aids to Help You Sleep 2 How to Fix Your Sleep Schedule And Feel More Well-Rested 3 7 Natural Sleep Remedies (Backed by Science) 4 The Importance of Sleep Cycles (and Tips to Improve Yours) 5 20 of the Best Guided Meditations for Sleep and Insomnia

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on May 14, 2021

3 Simple Steps to Reduce Your Gut Inflammation

3 Simple Steps to Reduce Your Gut Inflammation

One of the most serious – and common – causes of chronic disease is inflammation.

High levels of inflammation in the body cause your cells to deteriorate and lose their ability to function properly. In turn, this leads to the development of diseases such as cancer, autoimmune dysfunction, and other disorders.

Inflammation is a necessary biological process that kickstarts your immune system. Chemical mediators alert the body to the areas that need defending or repairing. Unfortunately, when inflammation continues for too long, it can have serious consequences.

The level of inflammation in your body is influenced by a number of factors, including diet, lifestyle, and environment.[1]

In the gut, inflammation can also be caused by an imbalance of microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract. When harmful microbes or yeast such as Candida grow and spread, they can severely damage the lining of the gut. The resulting immune response can cause further inflammation and damage.

Fortunately, reducing gut inflammation can be a matter of altering the choices you make in everyday life. In fact, there are three simple steps you can take today to reduce inflammation in your gut. Let’s take a look!

1. Drink More Water to Get Rid of Toxins

Every single day, we are exposed to toxins. Air pollutants, heavy metals, mold, and airborne pathogens are around us all the time – without us even knowing it.

Many of our foods are full of toxins too, like pesticides, antibiotics, and even added sugars.

These toxins are serious contributors to inflammation. They ‘turn on’ genes that promote inflammation causing cancer, heart disease. In the gut, these toxins can cause imbalances in your gut flora that allow inflammatory chemicals to be released. This inflammation promotes changes elsewhere in the body that can lead to chronic diseases.

Advertising

One of the best ways to flush toxins from the body is also one of the simplest. Drink more water! Drinking plenty of water each day is an effective and essential way to help your gut and body detoxify:

  • Your intestinal tract needs water to function optimally, moving waste efficiently through the gut and out of the bowels.
  • Your liver and kidneys are two of your body’s most important detoxification organs. Both of these require a constant supply of water in order to function properly.
  • Your sweat also flushes toxins out of your body. Sweat is largely made up of water.

Just as importantly, each of your cells requires adequate hydration to carry out its proper functions. Studies have shown that inadequate cellular hydration can contribute to the release of pro-inflammatory chemicals and even lead to inflammatory disorders.[2]

In general, the more hydrated you are, the less inflammation will be present in your body.

What to Do:

Try to drink 2-3L of water each day, or six to eight glasses. Make sure your water is fresh and filtered, or at least free of contaminants such as chlorine, fluoride and heavy metals.

It may be helpful to carry a bottle of water with you throughout the day, so you can keep sipping it instead of guzzling a large amount of water at once.

One of the healthiest ways to drink water is with a squeeze of lemon juice. Lemon juice is rich in vitamin C and can boost your immunity.

Not sure if you’re properly dehydrated? There’s an easy way to find out! Check the color of your urine when you’re next in the bathroom. If it’s yellow, your body likely needs more water. If it’s clear, you’re properly hydrated.

2. Exercise Regularly to Keep Your Detoxification Organs Active

Daily exercise is absolutely essential for keeping your whole body in good working order, including your gut.

Physical activity stimulates your body’s major detoxification organs, including your intestines, urinary tract, sweat glands, circulatory system, and lymphatics.

Advertising

When these systems are able to move toxins and waste out of the body, inflammation is kept to a minimum.

New research shows that as little as 20 minutes of exercise could have anti-inflammatory effects on the gut and the entire body.

Exercise improves the body’s anti-inflammatory response by activating the sympathetic nervous system. This boosts your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. As a result, your body releases hormones including epinephrine and norepinephrine into the bloodstream, which have the job of activating the adrenal receptors of immune cells.

In a recent study, researchers examined the effects of a single 20-minute session of exercise on immune system activation. They found that even this small amount of exercise was enough to suppress the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines by 5%.[3]

Inflammation is a necessary part of the body’s immune response, but too much inflammation can lead to disease. Chronic inflammation may contribute to diabetes, obesity, celiac disease, arthritis, fibromyalgia, or bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

It seems that even short periods of exercise can reduce the body’s inflammatory response, which may lead to exercise being recommended as a part of future treatment plans for inflammatory conditions.

Exercise also forces fresh blood to your tissues, which reduces inflammation by helping flush away metabolic debris. It provides nutrients to inflamed or damaged tissues, which facilitates repair and restoration.

Just like hydration, exercise also keeps your digestive system moving and promotes good digestive health, further reducing inflammation in your gut.

What to Do:

If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, it’s vital that you make a plan to walk, jog, swim, or stretch for at least 30 minutes every day.

Advertising

Most modern phones now come with some kind of activity tracker. For example, if you own an iPhone then you might already be familiar with the iOS Health app. This handy app will track the steps that you take each day. Many people aim for 10,000 steps per day, which is a very healthy goal to have.

Equally, try to avoid sitting for extended periods of time. If you work long hours, set a timer to get yourself up and moving on a regular basis, at least every hour.

And, as I mentioned earlier, be sure to follow your exercise with plenty of water!

3. Take Curcumin — a Natural Anti-Inflammatory Remedy

Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric, a bright orange spice. It’s one of the most powerful, natural, anti-inflammatory remedies on earth, especially for the gut.

Curcumin aids digestion by relaxing the smooth muscles on the walls and helping with the movement of food through the intestines. It also helps to relieve the buildup of gas and bloating as food is being broken down.

In the colon, curcumin promotes a healthy balance of gut bacteria, which is essential for your immune system to function optimally.  It also encourages cells of the intestinal lining to regenerate and heal following damage caused by pathogenic bacteria or yeast overgrowth such as Candida.

Recent studies have even shown that curcumin may an effective means of inhibiting intestinal fungal infections. Clinical trials have reported that high concentrations of curcumin have a powerful antifungal effect against this harmful yeast, as well as other fungal infections. There is evidence that curcumin can inhibit the growth of Candida albicans more effectively than common antifungal drugs.[4]

Research has shown that curcumin’s medicinal activity is largely due to its phytochemicals. These are plant chemicals that harbor antioxidative and antibacterial properties. These phytochemicals may also help to ease nausea caused by mental issues such as anxiety and stress.

The anti-inflammatory and antibacterial activity in curcumin may also help reduce gut pain caused by spicy foods, alcohol, or pathogenic bacteria. The incredible compounds in curcumin support your natural digestive processes, which can mean that your gut doesn’t have to work as hard to break down food. 

Advertising

What to Do:

Taking curcumin is as simple as finding a quality supplement from a good health store.

You can also blend turmeric powder into smoothies, meals or a turmeric latte. Be sure to add a healthy fat such as coconut oil, as well as black pepper. This helps your body to absorb the active constituents of the curcumin.

The Bottom Line

When reducing inflammation in your gut, your first priority should be to reduce the amount of pro-inflammatory factors in your diet and lifestyle.

The three steps mentioned above are very easy to incorporate into your daily routines, and will help to minimize the inflammatory processes happening inside your body.

By supporting your body’s detoxification functions with adequate exercise and hydration, you’ll be dramatically reducing the amount of harmful toxins that your immune system has to fight every day. Fewer toxins means your body can focus more on healing!

This is significantly improved by adding curcumin to your daily diet, whether as a supplement or in your meals. Curcumin is a remarkable ingredient for an inflamed gut: it will help soothe those irritated membranes, fight off yeasts such as Candida, and support the healing of the intestinal lining.

Take these simple steps and start to reduce your inflammation today. Your gut will thank you!

More Resources About Gut Health

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next