Nightmares: what they are and why they appear (causes)

We spend a large part of our lives sleeping, which is not surprising given the large amount of energy we need to replenish ourselves to cope with everyday life. However, there are times when the stage of sleep, which we usually associate with calm and well-being, turns into a hell that we are desperately trying to get out of.

And this is it what we call nightmares came to have such a strong impact on humanity that some time ago they ceased to be a simple unpleasant experience that we have individually to become a source of all kinds of mythologies or, directly, the definition of what we want to run away from. In fact, we use the word “nightmare” to refer to any highly unpleasant or traumatic experience, equating reality with what just happened in our head.

However … What are nightmares and what are their causes? Let’s see.

    What are nightmares?

    Nightmares are a state of anxiety and agitation that appears when dreamingOften associated with images and sensations that cause fear, sadness or any other negative emotion, in such an intense way that interrupts sleep.

    We therefore consider that a bad dream does not become a nightmare otherwise it causes us to wake up or reach a state of consciousness between sleep and wakefulness.

    This sudden break with sleep happens easily because the REM phase, which is the one that passes while we sleep and dream (That is, when we sleep we are at the same time in a state of consciousness directed inward and not outward), it is the stage of sleep that most resembles waking up in attending neural activation patterns at this time. A little ‘nudge’ can bring us back to the real world.

      Why does a nightmare appear?

      Like everything that surrounds the study of dreams, little is known about the causes of nightmares. But there are several things on which there is consensus.

      The first thing to know is that it is very unlikely that there is a single cause that explains the existence of nightmares. This, which applies to virtually any psychological process, in the case of nightmares is reflected in the effect that various elements have on the frequency of occurrence of these unpleasant experiences. For example, leading a busy and stressful lifestyle makes them appear more oftenAnd alcohol addiction has a similar effect, making what we dream of storing more unpleasant and anxious.

      On the other hand, there is another sure thing about nightmares: Sigmund Freud was wrong about his origin. For the father of psychoanalysis, the nightmare is what happens when a part of the unconscious emerges in the state of sleep without our being able to repress its content, which is why we have been forced to keep those ideas, memories or beliefs sealed. The state of anxiety caused by starting to see what we want to keep ignoring prompts us to wake up to stop such revelation.

      Why do we know this is not happening? Among other things, because the theories on which Sigmund Freud relied to provide this explanation to the phenomenon are not valid, because they are based on speculations on case studies. There is no part of our mind that tries to hide certain content and prevent it from emerging into consciousness, there is simply some content that at some point is not relevant enough to grab our attention. on them.

        Are they useful?

        Since Freudian ideas about nightmares do not serve to understand the nature of this kind of experience … What are nightmares for?
        Some theories point out that nightmares are of no use and are the consequence of evolution which has not been promoted by natural selection as a beneficial trait; they’re just there, and they’re harmless enough that the genes that make them possible don’t disappear over generations.

        Other theories, however, attribute utility to nightmares. More precisely, they point out that their daily presence can prepare us for stressful events, Maintain a certain state of anxiety which will be useful to us in the short term to overcome specific obstacles, and which appear when there is something in our predictions that worries us. In this way, the nightmare would be a kind of mental training to put oneself on alert more easily and therefore react quickly.

        However, in some cases the possible usefulness of nightmares would not make up for the damage they do, so we went a vicious cycle of stress and anxiety that has a negative impact on our health. In any case, most people are not significantly affected by the onset of nightmares, as they usually do not occur very often, and although in many cases what they see is very disturbing, we do not. ‘don’t experience the same rudeness one would live with if it were real.

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