An open window overlooking a balcony with sounds of the ocean waves crashing as you fall asleep; this is a peaceful evening sending you off to dreamland. When you wake up, you have a smile on your face. Many do not even remember trying to fall asleep much less their dreams. Unfortunately, there are those of that wake up from non-pleasant dreams!
Estimates of how many adults experience nightmares vary, depending on who you ask and most occur during the REM stage of sleep. They can be quite troublesome as a bad dream lingers in your mind as you struggle to make sense of the bizarre in waking hours. In our subconscious, there are no impossibilities, no boundaries and not much makes sense. Thus, the content of dreams is often bizarre in the light of day and appears nonsensical.
After taking a graduate level class on Dream Analysis at the urging of a Professor in college, I realized I had spent too much time on my own deciphering peripheral items. This is the most common mistake in trying to understand your dreams. Our subconscious allows our creativity to go into overdrive! The brain has this capacity to come up with the wildest things. But in understanding your dreams, it is sifting through the guise of white noise where you will find the true meaning. And make no mistake, for individuals with a troubled life or with issues, it may take a trained therapist to work with much more than the dream analysis to get a reoccurent pattern to break if an issue in ‘real time’ isn’t being addressed.
Our class was required to keep journals. One of our tasks was to record any dream we remembered, each and every detail including any feelings we remembered, if in color, all colors, outlines, other persons, voices, etc.. We began to learn how to, not only understand ours but classmates, at least starter questions to begin the process of deciphering dreams. Note: in our class it was not only negative dreams, it was also positive experiences. The interaction with other’s dreams was indeed helpful because we are often more objective and less protective looking at others dreams than we are at ours.
Good starter questions to stimulate thought around a dream are:
- · How did you feel when this happened? Is this something you are feeling now in your waking hours?
- · Who are the people in your dreams? Are they currently in your life and what relationship do they have with you? What feelings does it create in you to interact with them?
- · Has anything even remotely happened to you like this before? If so, what was it? Can you draw any parallels?
- · Do any of the surroundings or items in your dream remind you of anything or anyone in your present life or past? Did you have closure with them or is there some unresolved issue hanging in the air?
- · Is your creativity much wider in your dreams than in reality? Why do you think that is?
There are millions of questions you can ask but start with the most basic.
Nightmares, a negative dream is more common with adults than one would think. Persistent issues can cause many a sleepless nights. Adults can also have night terrors, similar to children. This is especially true of those with PTSD where the nightmare progresses to the point where it can involve screaming, kicking and make the individual need to be shaken to be physically woken up from a sleep stage. PTSD can also occur at any age, bringing on these nightmare episodes, depending on anyone’s individual perception of stress and bizarre incidents in life. Everyone processes events in life differently so PTSD is not a diagnosis solely for veterans and abuse victims. E.g. a woman woke up during surgery but could not speak so was awake during the extensive surgery in Minnesota 5 years ago. She is currently in treatment for PTSD and has night terrors reliving this experience.
Bedtime for adults should be as it is for children, a routine of peace and calm. As I write this I think of all those young parents out there that as soon as they get a chance, literally fly like Superman and Wonderwoman into their bed! But if you suffer from lack of sleep from nightmares or night terrors, know that this single step can be a life changer.
Switch sides of the bed, upgrade your pillow, put a diffuser in your bedroom with a favorite scent, spray your sheets before you slip in, read a magazine in bed before you turn off the lights but add in something new! A good night’s sleep is priceless and when you are tired you are more likely to not sleep well, thus be more restless with more negative thoughts through your sleep cycle.
And remember, a dark thought during the day creates dark dreams. Work on positive thoughts of life and you during the day so you go to bed with a smile, sleep that way and wake up ready to spread some joy!