Yesterday there was a headline article on CNN about former POW Jessica Lynch. She describes for CNN her life the past twelve years and the challenges she has had to face. Now traveling and speaking to groups as a motivational speaker, she acknowledges that for twelve years she failed to seek help for her mental health. Apparently, this year she has changed her mind and is now getting professional help.
The reason this story caught my attention is her assertion that she has had the same nightmare for the last twelve years. Apparently, this is not uncommon for those suffering from PTSD as the result of combat or some other traumatic, life-changing event. In her case, the nightmare is a replay of Iraqi soldiers coming to get her as she tries to escape. This fits the classic definition of a nightmare as a disturbing, realistic dream. Nightmares, as contrasted with normal dreams, only occur during the REM dream cycle.
If you are suffering in a similar fashion with a recurring nightmare that affects the quality of your life, I urge you to get professional help. Even a few weeks can seem a long time with a recurring nightmare. And a period of twelve years is an extremely long time to experience the same nightmare. Sometimes those suffering from PTSD after returning from war have experienced nightmares the remainder of their lives.
The nightmare resulting from some traumatic event like enemy capture is one type of nightmare and professional help may be needed to help the individual face and resolve the cause of the nightmare. For most people, the underlying cause could be stress due to something in their individual lives. Perhaps they are failing at something regardless of the effort made. It could be marriage, a job, a sport, or finding themselves unable to pay the bills. This stress could trigger a recurring nightmare in which they are sinking or being chased. Or they may be climbing up a slippery or treacherous slope unable to reach the top and find themselves falling or in fear of falling.
I believe that nightmares can also be triggered by coming events seen by the subconscious, which triggers a response in the form of a nightmare. As a young child less than five years old, I frequently had dreams, including nightmares. In fact, in the family I was known as the dreamer and sleepwalker. I can recall a recurring dream that terrified me at the time. I dreamed that I saw a gigantic ball of snow and ice starting to roll down a hill headed toward our house. As the ball started to roll over and crush the house, I awoke. Now, I lived in Vermont, so ice and snow were common sights. However, in the dream we were being destroyed by the snow and ice.
This dream recurred until my father died from a kidney disease when I was five years old. After his death, our family fortunes went downhill very rapidly. My mother went back to work outside the home after being out of the labor force for almost twenty years. She was forced to accept a low paying job, which had to support two young boys. A load of medical bills left from my father’s illness added to the pressure. Within a few years, we were destitute. We were indeed crushed by the death of my father.
I believe that my subconscious mind saw the coming death and drastic change in our financial situation. This information took the form of a nightmare in my dreams, and it continued until the actual event occurred. Regardless of whether your nightmares are precognitive or dealing with known situations, if they are recurring, you should pay close attention and try to determine the cause.
Individual nightmares might be triggered by strong medications that can disrupt the sleep and dream cycle, so examine the list of side effects associated with any medications you are taking. My own philosophy is the fewer medications, the better. However, you may be dealing with a serious illness, and the medication you are taking may be the prescribed treatment. If you find the side effects unacceptable, you should discuss them with your physician. He or she may be able to find an alternative medication that is equally effective without the unpleasant or harmful side effects.
Some think that certain foods can cause nightmares, and there is limited evidence to supports this view. However, I cannot think of any examples from my own dreams. Nevertheless, this is a common view. In fact, when I reported my nightmares, and even non-stressful dreams, to my mother and grandparents as a young boy, they concluded they were caused by something I ate. Of course, their view of dreams was based on folklore and not a serious study, but sometimes there is an element of truth to folklore.
As I have mentioned in other posts, for the most beneficial dreams you should eat a proper diet, get adequate exercise, and stay away from drugs, unless prescribed by your doctor.