It’s normal to have occasional nightmares, but it’s also possible to have them all the time. If you’re suffering from the latter case, you might be searching for a cure. And we won’t blame you. This sleep disorder is called nightmare disorder. It affects 4 percent of adults, proving kids aren’t the only ones who have bad dreams. Without treatment, nightmare disorder may lead to sleep deprivation, insomnia, fatigue, and daytime sleepiness. Existing mental problems, such as depression, anxiety, and stress, will just get worse.1
People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are even more vulnerable to nightmares. In fact, 71 to 96 percent of PTSD patients report bad dreams. It’s also one of the 17 symptoms of PTSD.2 According to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, some medications may treat nightmares. Examples include tricyclic antidepressants and anti-psychotic drugs. A low dose of cortisol has also been found to help some PTSD patients. However, like all drugs, these options come with side effects. Another option could be cognitive behavioral therapy, and a therapist could help you decide the best among the available techniques, such as these:
Techniques To Treat Nightmares
1. Image Rehearsal Therapy
Image rehearsal therapy uses the power of imagination. To do it, the nightmare is written down. But there is a catch here. You have to change your nightmare into a more positive version. This technique is designed to replace the undesirable parts with better, happier concepts.
2. Self-Exposure Therapy
This approach uses a technique called graded exposure. It requires you to make a list of stress-provoking concepts, ordered from least stressful to most stressful. From there, you think about each item, starting with the lowest situation.
3. Exposure, Relaxation, And Re-Scripting Therapy
This approach focuses on anxiety. You’re continuously exposed to the nightmare through rewritten dreams, coping techniques, and assignments. Muscle relaxation is also used.
4. Systemic Desensitization
Also known as graduated exposure therapy, this treatment exposes you to whatever you fear. Of course, depending on the topic, it might not always be possible. In this case, you’ll still learn how to manage and cope with your thoughts.
5. Progressive Deep Muscle Relaxation Training
Tensing and relaxing your muscles can do wonders. If done correctly, this method will reduce anxiety and stress. You need to work on one body part at a time.
6. Hypnosis Keeps You Relaxed
Hypnotherapy may have benefits for nightmares, so why not give it a try? Hypnosis promotes a deep state of relaxation. The mind is encouraged to focus on a specific thought and ways to change it.
7. Testimony Of The Traumatic Incidents
For nightmares caused by PTSD, the testimony method may help. In this method, you’re made to face the traumatic experience by telling it in the form of a story. With a therapist’s help, your words are written and recorded. 3
These are just some of the possible treatments. After all, there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach. Your mental health, personal experiences, and dreams will be taken into consideration. It also takes time and patience. You might try several methods before finding what works for you, so don’t lose hope. Be open with your therapist for the best results.
|↑1, ↑3||Aurora, R. Nisha, Rochelle S. Zak, Sanford H. Auerbach, Kenneth R. Casey, Susmita Chowdhuri, Anoop Karippot, Rama K. Maganti et al. “Best practice guide for the treatment of nightmare disorder in adults.” Journal of clinical sleep medicine: JCSM: official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine 6, no. 4 (2010): 389.|
|↑2||Nightmares and PTSD. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.|