Nightmares can be terrifying. They are often unpleasant or even traumatic experiences in some cases. It is therefore natural to ask why do we have nightmares? What is the interest of a nightmare? What is the purpose of nightmares? As unpleasant as they are, nightmares are useful. Just like dreams, we have them regularly throughout our lives. Whether you dream of falling down, losing a few, fighting with a friend, drop your child on the floor… all these bad dreams have a meaning. They can cause insomnia, night wakings, or sleep paralysis. Moreover, they prevent you from having a really restful sleep. It is necessary to try to understand your nightmares to solve your problem and find peaceful sleep.
What is a nightmare?
In order to answer the question of why do we have nightmares, we must first identify what a nightmare is. A nightmare is a bad dream. It is a dream-like any other, except that it brings back negative emotions and fear.
A dream is the creation of our brain during our sleep. It is a psychic state necessary for the proper functioning of the body and the brain. We dream every night and at each phase of the sleep cycle. We have about 5 sleep cycles of 90 minutes per night. Nightmares occur mainly during REM sleep. REM sleep is the most active sleep state. This is when the brain is most creative in terms of content. It is at this time that the craziest, fantastic, dreamlike, fairy-like and sometimes frightening dreams manifest themselves.
There are several types of dreams and therefore several types of nightmares:
– Repetitive nightmares or recurring nightmares
– The waking nightmares also called the sleep paralysis
To know more about dreams, you can consult our article which explains in detail what a dream is.
To push the subject a little further, you can read our article explaining how dreams are made.
What are nightmares for?
To understand why we have nightmares, we must already be aware that nightmares have a real purpose. It is quite normal to have nightmares as long as they do not occur every night for several days or weeks in a row.
Nightmares allow our unconscious to evacuate all the negative emotions experienced in the waking state. Nightmares allow our brain to decompress by releasing all the negative feelings of anger, fear, anxiety, and stress.
According to a more recent approach, nightmares are a kind of training to face our fears. Our subconscious puts us to the test of our fears. Our brain puts us in scary situations to teach us how to react. So if we are confronted with such a situation in real life, we will be able to react more efficiently and logically because we will have “already lived” this situation. This is a way for our brain to desensitize us to our irrational fears.
What causes nightmares?
Nightmares are caused by our irrational fears. They feed on everyday fears, whether it is the fear of spiders, the fear of emptiness, stress at work, an argument with a friend or your spouse … All the negative emotions that we accumulate are as much substance that we give to our dreams.
Is it normal to have nightmares?
It is absolutely normal to dream and to have nightmares. Sometimes we don’t remember them but that doesn’t mean we don’t have them. Nightmares begin when we are small, almost from birth. Nightmares are often more intense when we are children. Childhood is a learning phase where we learn to deal with our emotions and the world around us, which causes a lot of stress. Nightmares tend to become less frequent as we get older. Let’s not forget that nightmares and dreams are good for our brain. They help it to decompress.
Why do I always do the same nightmare?
You may be asking yourself the question: why do I always have the same nightmare? It is normal that recurring dreams can be difficult to manage and interpret. The notion of repetition in nightmares emphasizes a situation of stress, fear or anger that you cannot manage in life. Your brain is testing you, repeating the same dream several times, to help you find a solution.
Why do we wake up after a nightmare?
It is not uncommon to wake up after having a nightmare or even during a nightmare. This can have several meanings:
– The dream is too intense or frightening and you can’t take it anymore
– You have not been able to process the dream and eliminate your negative emotions
Do kids and babies have nightmares?
Dreams and nightmares begin at an early age. As a natural biological process, they are essential to mental health. Babies have many nightmares. They are in the process of learning and discovering the world around them, which creates a lot of stress and fear. Nightmares allow them to vent these irrational fears.
How to stop having nightmares?
If you have a lot of nightmares, you probably want to know how to solve the problem. There are several techniques that can help you reduce or even stop the nightmares:
– Interpreting your dreams: You have to look for the meaning of the bad dream.
– Solve your problem: you must find the cause of the nightmare by interpreting the dream and solve the source of the problem.
– Have a more positive attitude in waking life: by focusing on the positive aspects of your life, you will accumulate less negative emotions. You will not need to eliminate them at night in your dreams.
– Lucid dreaming: Lucid dreaming is mindfulness dreaming where you are in control of your environment and the dream scenario. If you are aware that you are in a nightmare you can get out of it.
If you want to know more about lucid dreaming, you can read our article on the subject.
We also explain in this article how to have a lucid dream.