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Recurring Nightmares - How Do I Get Rid of Recurring Nightmares?

Updated on February 18, 2014

What Causes Nightmares? How Do I Get Rid of Nighmares?

Trying to stop nightmares is a difficult task. Dreams and nightmares are funny things. Sometimes keeping track of your dreams or nightmares can give more insight into what's going on your life than even a daily diary. Most people enjoy dreaming, even weird dreams, but nightmares are an entirely different matter altogether. Not many people know a lot about nightmares, and whenever they dream nightmares as opposed to regular dreams, far too many people dismiss that as being something that simply "just happens" as opposed to being a sign of some deeper problem or trauma. Most nightmares have symbols that can reveal a lot of hidden trauma by using dream interpretation.

Nightmares are terrible, can be traumatizing, and often can act as an indication that something is seriously wrong.

This is especially true of recurring nightmares.

Trying to stop recurring nightmares can be difficult. I've had recurring nightmares at several points in my life: some night after night, and one that comes back around every few years, seeming to pop up out of nowhere and begins fading away again the very moment I wake up in a panic over something I've already partially forgotten. Nightmares are usually an indication that something is wrong in your life, or something is unhealthy. Often times this can be a repressed problem or a traumatic memory that comes out subconsciously in the form of a nightmare.

So how do you get rid of nightmares?

Well anyone who has had recurring nightmares can tell you that figuring out how to stop nightmares isn't easy. Part of the problem is that there are several different causes of these night terrors, and without knowing what the root cause of your bad dreams are, it's hard to interpret your nightmares and figure out what course of action to take.

There are four main causes that I've found for most nightmares: stress, repressed trauma, physiological changes in your body, and spiritual*. Usually the cause of virtually any nightmare will come from one of these four factors, which I'll go over in the next sections.

*Not everyone believe in this fourth factor, and that's fine. Some people have no use for it, while others have found faith and spiritual practices to be a major tool in helping them deal with nightmares. This hub isn't dealing with any great existential questions - but it is covering how this aspect of life has affected others, especially in regards to nightmares.

"Dream" Photo

Dream & Nightmare Books

Stress Causes Nightmares | How to Stop Stress Nightmares

One of the major causes of nightmares is stress. The reason for this is that stress affects your body physically, causing hormonal changes and imbalances in your body. Stress affects you mind, and this stress can come from many different areas. Stress from being unemployed or laid off can cause nightmares, as can "hidden" stress, like many seniors have before graduating college or immediately after. The pending moment of complete and total change can be stressful even for college students who have a job, career, or marriage lined up. Changes of this magnitude, even the good ones, cause major subconscious stress.

Sometimes having a dream interpretation book can help, because some nightmares are very symbolic. It's extremely weird how this works, but for many people, symbols in the dreams mean the same thing. A common example of this are snake nightmares. Normally this isn't just because you're afraid of snakes, but snakes can represent hidden dangers or fears you haven't dealt with or noticed consciously, or when around a person in your dream, might be warning you that person is dangerous and is giving off signals that maybe they shouldn't be trusted.

I've had several snake nightmares in the past, and the last one the snake bit me while another person was standing there. That individual fit the description of the interpretation. He had never treated me badly, but I was aware of his character, and knew he was the type of person who could drop the friendship like a bad habit. Before that, my nightmare was being stranded on a roof, with the entire world covered in snakes and nowhere else to go.

That was shortly before my parents' business went bankrupt, bullying at school got even worse, the family emotionally fell apart, and the most terrifying supernatural experience of my life occurred. All that during my later years in high school, where I hoped college would offer the promise of a different life, and I was terrified it would be nothing more than the same.

So how do you rid yourself of these nightmares?

If it's stress caused, one of the first steps you can take is to recognize what the most stressful aspects of your life are, and to deal with the ones you have any control over. Sometimes just openly admitting to stress and uncertainty is enough for your body to find relief from nightmares.

The basic stress relievers can often help. Taking one day off just for yourself, massage, yoga, or whatever helps you relax. If that's a five hour walk, put on the walking shoes! Meditation, prayer (if that's your thing), or exercise are all great techniques for dealing with it. Make sure to get enough sleep, and learn not to stress out over the things you have no control over.

For many individuals, these actions can be enough to help prevent recurring nightmares.

Treating Trauma Caused Nightmares


Repressed Trauma Causes Nightmares:

This is one of the rarest causes of nightmares, in part not only because it requires a traumatic experience, but because something in a person's life has to be similar enough to trigger it. This isn't only caused by repressed trauma, but a nightmare can also be about a real life event, with minor details changed, over and over again. A classic example of this could be if you were in a building that was taken over by gun men. If this lead to an extended stand off, and especially if individuals died, you could end up dreaming about this over and over.

If this is a case of a real memory being repeated as the cause of trauma, and likely cause of nightmares, then the way to "cure" the nightmares is going to be with therapy and directly dealing with the traumatic situation.

If the memory is repressed, then the only way to deal with it is to see a psychologist and to figure out what in your life is causing the nightmares, and if there is a repressed memory, to figure it out and deal with it.

This is the rarest cause of constant recurring nightmares, but one that should be recognized, nonetheless. There isn't anything short of professional help that can help you with this one.

Good Video on the Brain and Dreams

Physiological Changes Can Cause Reoccuring Nightmares


Physiological Changes:

Changes to your physical body can directly affect your mind and your dreams. The obvious first culprit is medication. Certain medications are known to drastically increase your chances of having either incredibly vivid dreams, or vivid nightmares. Medications with these side effects should be avoided if possible, or at the very least you need to talk to your physician. Certain drugs are more likely than others to cause this to happen. Some of the prescription medications that have a bad reputation for this include anti-depressants, anti-histamines, and certain "stop smoking" aids. If you're on a new medication and your dreams go to a very unhappy place, talk to your doctor about switching. This alone might solve your problem.

A second factor is caffeine. This isn't true of all people. I'm a caffeine junkie and nowadays I have very few nightmares - as in maybe one or two a year for the last couple. But caffeine is a stimulant that can keep your system moving at heightened levels. Some people who have caffeine within a few hours of bed find themselves more susceptible to nightmares then when they don't have caffeine close to bed.

Getting enough rest is also important. Most nightmares take place during cycles of REM sleep. If you constantly don't get enough sleep, then you end up staying in a constant state of REM sleep instead of cycles, drastically increasing the chance of nightmares. Not getting enough rest can also make you tired and physically, mentally, an emotionally stress yourself out. This can also make you more likely to have nightmares.

In addition to this, times of extreme change like adolescence and puberty can also make you more likely to suffer from nightmares because of the incredible amount of hormones and physiological changes that your body is going through.

Paying attention to all of these factors can help you to cut down on the number of recurring nightmares that you are suffering from.

Good Video on Dream Interpretation

Recurring Nightmares Caused by Spiritual Causes


Nightmares with a Spiritual Cause:

If you're one of those people who believe they're inherently better than 5 billion of the world's people because you're smart enough not to believe in the spiritual or supernatural, don't bother reading or leaving a diatribe comment. For everyone else, I firmly believe based on my own experiences that sometimes nightmares are caused by a spiritual source.

Nightmares can plague individuals who live in a haunted house or haunted area, or from people who have dabbled in demon conjuring. There are a lot of different religious beliefs involving dreams, demons, and everything else, so I'll try to speak carefully and generally and if anyone is offended, it was not intended.

The reason some people are affected this way and others aren't is beyond me. I don't know why some people visit a haunted place and nothing happens, while others get traumatized for life. Nightmares that are caused by a spiritual source tend to be especially frightening.

Some possible telltale signs include an unusually high awareness of the fact that you're dreaming, but none of the control that usually comes with that. The nightmares can feel chaotic, and the nightmares don't have the same symbols that normal nightmares have. In some ways these types of nightmares are like nightmares on steroids, and in my experience they start off as weird dreams that suddenly become violently terrifying, as if being ambushed.

Another sign, which is incredibly rare and perhaps not even tied directly to the nightmare, is waking up with signs of physical damage on your body that are hard to explain. The most common of these rare cases tend to be waking up with claw marks, although in a few cases severe bruising has occurred.

The spiritual solution to recurring nightmares is difficult. I can't give a solution that isn't going to insult at least one person's religious beliefs, but many religions have text about spirits and demons, and if you're dealing with a spiritual attack on yourself, then you need to look to the spiritual for a solution, as well. These solutions not only usually involve a holy man/woman who is a "professional" at dealing with such matters, but also a commitment from yourself to work with them to break free.

If you find yourself in a situation like that, my sympathies and prayers are with you, because I've been there more than once before. Ninety-nine out of one hundred times there isn't anything to fear from the "supernatural" (I love the convenience of this term, though I hate the term because the spiritual is perfectly natural, IMO), but when you're stuck with that other 1% there's nothing fun about it.

That's the most I'm going to go into the spiritual causes/solutions of spiritual causes of nightmares. The recurring nightmares are hard to deal with and hard to get rid of, but the effort is not only worth it, but it's necessary for peace of mind and soul alike.

Dream Like Photographs

Click thumbnail to view full-size
"Red Thoughts" by Vassiliki via"Reflections 1" by cbirrell via"Dreamscape 5" by barunpatro via
"Red Thoughts" by Vassiliki via
"Red Thoughts" by Vassiliki via
"Reflections 1" by cbirrell via
"Reflections 1" by cbirrell via
"Dreamscape 5" by barunpatro via
"Dreamscape 5" by barunpatro via

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