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"I still get nightmares. In fact, I get them so often I should be used to them by now. I'm not. No one ever really gets used to nightmares." Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves.
Remember some of your nightmares? While we are frequently told that we are supposed to outgrow our nightmares as we move into adulthood, that isn't always the case. Just about everyone experiences nightmares once in a while and an estimated two to eight percent of adults report problems with nightmares that can keep them from getting a good night's sleep. Frequent nightmares are usually related to emotional issues stemming from personal crises or other life problems that won't leave us alone when we are trying to sleep.
For people dealing with trauma especially, frequent nightmares and disturbed sleep is usually one of the hallmarks of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Not only do nightmares serve to reinforce existing PTSD symptoms, but severe nightmares can also "re-traumatize" people who find themselves re-experiencing their original trauma due to what they are experiencing at night. Over the past two decades, researchers have been taking a closer look at how nightmares and insomnia can be treated in people with PTSD. This includes developing specialized treatment programs aimed at helping trauma victims work through their nightmares and learning to sleep comfortably at night.
To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.
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