How to deal with your worst nightmares, experts offer advice

People experiencing recurring nightmares face difficulty in sleeping again. By relaxing and actively coping with nightmares, one may be able to sleep with content, say experts

How to deal with your worst nightmares, experts offer advice

Nimit (name changed) used to wake up suddenly in the middle of the night after having a nightmare which disturbed his sleep. The 20-year-old Andheri resident finally decided to seek medical help after it started hampering his daily activities.

Dr Harish Shetty, his consulting psychiatrist at Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital said that the nightmares were the repressed of the childhood memory. “Three months ago the patient came me. He was 12 years old, when riots took place where he used to live. Thereafter, he immediately returned to his hometown and started working there. But, he repressed the memory and believed that the memory had gone forever. Later, he started getting nightmares and used to wake up to the images of swords and people attacking him in the middle of the night,” said Shetty.

Dr Shetty further added, “He took a lot of medicines, but it didn’t suffice. So, I evaluated him and found out about his repressed memory. I treated him with Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), which is an approach to communication, personal development and psychotherapy and I rewired his brain.”

Nightmares are very vivid and bad dreams that occur during the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep say doctors. “Sometimes nightmares may be persistent. This may occur due to deep-seated fears, anxieties, and guilt in a person that may be repressed at a conscious level. Nightmares are most common in those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Most commonly experienced nightmares are of being chased, taking an exam and not knowing what to write, or seeing oneself naked in front of a crowd,” said Arti Shroff, a Clinical Psychologist in Mumbai.

Although, it is very common in children, nightmares can happen to anyone. “Nightmares are commonly seen in children. The child will wake up and have a vivid recollection of the dreams,” explained Dr Heena Merchant, Consultant Psychiatrist and Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, KEM Hospital, Parel.

Shamsah Sonawalla, Associate Director, Psychiatry Research and Consultant Psychiatrist, Jaslok Hospital, informed that nightmares can become a recurrent problem in adults causing immense distress. As over a half of adults  occasionally experience nightmares.

Dr. Shetty added, “It can adversely affect the health and one may feel anxious, low, fatigued, angry, irritated, sad and depressed. There will be increased blood sugar level and blood pressure as well.

While speaking to My Medical Mantra, Sankalp Chapekhar, a 30-year-old resident from Borivali, who works in an IT firm, said, “I often get nightmares while sleeping. I feel like someone is constantly pulling me down and I also have experienced a falling sensation, it scares me. I wake up in the middle of the night and drink water, meditate or pray or listen to music. This helps me calm down and fall asleep again.”

According to Arti, if the nightmares are persistent, psychotherapy and counselling can serve to be useful in addressing a person’s underlying emotional issues. Also listen to calm and soothing music. Avoid consuming alcohol, and spicy food. Keep away from your mobile phone, television or computer for two hours before sleeping.