Ever have a nightmare that seemed so real, you’d jump out of your sleep, and find yourself in a cold sweat? Do you wonder if there is any meaning behind those horrible dreams? Scientific research discovered that nightmares could be an early warning sign of mental and physical health issues that may occur later in life. Children between the ages of two and seven, who experience reoccurring nightmares, are three-and-a-half times more likely to have a psychotic experience, such as hallucinations and hearing voices. Recurring nightmares could provide vital signs regarding current or impending mental and physical health.
According to Harvard Medical Associate Professor of Neurology, Patrick McNamara, people experience terrifying events in our nightmares to prepare us for handling the situation in real life. McNamara stated “Nightmares may also indicate an underlying physical problem that is disrupting our sleep as we dream. We only dream during the stage known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. We experience REM, a very light sleep, on average four to five times a night. Regular nightmares, could, for example, be a sign of “sleep apnoea, which causes breathing to stop temporarily as the airways become obstructed. Patients with sleep apnoea often report frequent nightmares”. A study published in the journal “Neurology in 1996”, found that people with frequent nightmares from REM sleep behavior disorder, developed Parkinson’s approximately 12 years after they began to experience them.
According to Dr. Oscroft’s research, nightmares can also be a sign of heart problems. People who have regular nightmares are 3 times more likely to suffer irregular heartbeat. He stated that “people with heart conditions, in particular heart failure, suffer breathing problems at night. Heart failure leads to a build-up of water in the lungs, which makes breathing more difficult, particularly at night in REM sleep. This is because most of the muscles become paralyzed during this stage, to stop us acting out our dreams. This can affect the breathing muscles”.
As if that is not bad enough, ladies brace yourself! Some researchers believe women are more likely to have recurring nightmares, than men. Dr. Jennie Parker, a psychologist at the University of the West of England, believed that women who are entering the stage of menopause experience frequent bad dreams due to the temperature and chemical changes in the body. It has been linked to PMS-related insomnia. He stated “Premenstrual women tend to dream more aggressively and are more likely to remember dreams”.
What do you believe your dreams represent in “real life?”