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How stress and nightmares affect each other

Nightmares are more common in people with severe psychiatric disorders, PTSD, schizophrenia, and borderline. But also a common complaint, as stress is linked with nightmares. How about that?

We speak to clinical psychologist Annette van Schagen, who are doing research into nightmares. Also a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Marc Hebbrecht we will explain this issue for, just as a clinical psychologist Ada the Farmer, those people with nightmares guides.

Teeth that are in crumbs demise, stuck in a sinking car or pursue to be seated. Piece for piece nightmares. Hebbrecht: “A nightmare, which mainly takes place during the remslaap we see as an extremely negative, vivid story that is accompanied by intense emotions such as fear, anger, disgust, envy, or sadness.”

That is something else than a bad dream or anxiety attack. “A nightmare you wake up because your body is in a state of readiness and your breathing and heart rate speed up. A bad dream is not so”, explains Hebbrecht.

Van Schagen, “And a anxiety attack is not a story. Moreover, the people around them store and shout, while you are in a nightmare right paralyzed. You make no sound and not moving.”

Stress can be a nightmare cause

Nightmares may be associated with stress, know Hebbrecht and Of Schagen. “That works both ways: stress can be a nightmare cause, but a nightmare can also create stress.”

“Are you during the day, for example, more strained by the tasks that you still need to do, then, is a alarmnetwerk in your brain are activated to remind you of this. The chances are that those memories in the night to come forward and be linked to frightening images,” says the clinical psychologist.

A nightmare, you can, as a dream, see it as a mix of images of what you have experienced, what you have seen and your imagination. During your remslaap play your brain that images as a movie.

“People that are worse with stress, get easier a nightmare”
Annette van Schagen, clinical psychologist

Not everyone gets a nightmare during a busy week or stressful move. Van Schagen: “There are several ways to stress to process. The brain of some people here is very good at, by predisposition and also upbringing and the influence of the environment. Others can be a lot worse.”

“So, we know that stress in childhood the development of the brain influences. One of the consequences is that the stress, therefore, less able to handle. And people that are worse with stress effectively, it will be easier for a nightmare.”

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What can you do against stress?

A nightmare can someone exhaust

At the same time, thus works also vice versa: nightmares increase the risk of stress and tension. Hebbrecht: “They disrupt the sleep, making your day less rested.”

Disturbance of your sleep shows, by definition, stress is on to deliver: “Sleep is important for our physical and mental health. During your sleep, regulate your emotions and process emotional events. Is this disturbed by a nightmare, your brain gets not the chance to other times.”

During your sleep, regulate your emotions and process emotional events. (Photo: 123RF)

Those fearful images while you sleep can be exhausting, says Van Schagen. “You are by something plagued where you have any control over. People are often afraid to go to sleep and set out. This can ensure a constantly high stress level.”

A research that is published in the academic journal Dreaming, published by the scientific organization American Psychological Association, also shows that the frequent return of nightmares leads to a reduced stress tolerance.

It is like a vicious circle. Van Schagen: “the more nightmares you have, the more intense they are, the worse you sleep, the worse you feel and the less you stress you can handle. That results in an increase of nightmares, and so begins the tune again.”

A nightmare as a mental check

Not all nightmares mean, incidentally, disaster, stressed Hebbrecht. “They are common, and even more at the ones with the best sleep. Nightmares are usually transient phenomena, which play a role in the processing of emotions associated with negative life experiences.”

“Generally, people do only to seek help when they are months – or even years-persistently plagued by nightmares. And then stress is almost never the cause, but, for example, a mental disorder or a trauma,” says Hebbrecht.

“A nightmare can be a stresssignaal”
Marc Hebbrecht, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst

Do you have nightmares during a stressful period, so you do also almost never to the call to withdraw. “Usually it is quite harmless and go, the nightmares about once the stressful period is over,” explains The Farmer, especially people treats that are already more than ten years suffer from nightmares.

She continues: “As the nightmare continues to exist, while the stress is over, can be a nightmare of a habit. In that case, can an expert help from the recurring nightmare to come off.”

A nightmare you can especially see it as a mental check, is Of Schagen. “Often enough, there is nothing to worry about, but it can be a stresssignaal. It is good to have something to your stress level. That also reduces the risk of chronic stress and recurring nightmares.”

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