I have them regularly. They don’t bother me enough to try to seek medical help. Mine are pretty much a result of a combination of not enough sleep, crappy food, stress, and exposure to scary media.
Interestingly enough, it is scary MEDIA. I have worked in front line health care thirteen years now and have seen a lot patients who look like horror movie survivors, and quite a few who the movie audience would have assumed would not have survived their injuries but I don’t really dream about them. Patients are rarely scary, they are getting help and that is a good thing.
My bad dreams are generally random subject matter with my body suddenly dumping a lot of fear hormones into my blood stream. I can wake in a cold sweat with my heart pumping having a complete fight or flight response after a dream about grocery shopping. Even on 10% Tuesdays, grocery shopping just isn’t that scary. I don’t like it, but I am not living in fear or having anxiety attacks over it.
- Lack of sleep - I’m trying but my house is a mess and smells like paint fumes
- Crappy food – Hello, Christmas Holidays!
- Stress – Did I mention about the torn up house?
- Exposure to scary media – not so much directly, but there has been lots of upsetting news in the last few weeks.
Last night, the thing that propelled me out of bed so that I (I hate to use the word literally here) honestly sat up and half climbed out of bed before I was all the way awake was dreaming about Little Girl. We live on a busy street and I dreamed she was balancing on the snow pack next to the road and fell into traffic. I woke as she was falling and a large truck was barrelling down the street.
There are all kinds of reasons why this is very unlikely to happen. There is lots of snow pack in the parking lanes in our town, but the street in front of our house has them cleared away on a regular basis because there isn’t a parking lane. Our front yard is huge and little girl knows to only play in the half of it that is close to the house. Mostly that I never just put on her snow suit and send her out unattended.
Anyway, as I was waking up and jumping out of bed, I also said something like “No! It isn’t real” And once I was all the way awake, I knew that it wasn’t. I was prepared to just go back to sleep, but I heard a little voice call “Mommy?” So I went to check on Little Girl. She asked what happened and I told her that everything was fine, I just had a bad dream.
“Oh. Ok” she says as she climbed out of bed. She took my hand and said “I snuggle you up and make it better.” Sure enough, she lead me back to my bedroom and tucked me in, than curled up next to me and patted my face. ”It’s OK” she says, “It’s just a bad dream” Then she gives me a hug. It was the exact routine I do when she can’t sleep and in that moment having a cuddle and knowing she was safe was exactly what I needed.
Every once in a while, I think I must be doing something right.
* I really mean bad dreams. Nightmares was originally a medical diagnosis for sleep paralysis often with reoccurring dreams of strangulation. That isn’t what I have. However, the vernacular definition has changed over the years, and most people now consider nightmares to be fear filled dreams, which I think applies here.