Children have nightmares of the boogieman and adults fear of career, sickness, death and more. Our minds are capable of compiling a host of things to create nightmares. Nightmares are not only a very unpleasant experience to wake up from but they cause a lack of sleep that can turn into sleepless nights and start to cause health problems.
Until recently nightmares were viewed as not a major concern. Currently it has been estimated that 30% of all adults have nightmares at least one time a month.
There are several alternative treatments in which can aide in the prevention or at least decrease the rate of frequency of having them.
Imagery Rehearsal Therapy
Maimonides International Nightmare Treatment Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico uses the treatment of Imagery Rehearsal Therapy to help persons seek relief from their nightmares. The patient is taught on how to use visualization during the waking hours in order to change the nightmare into a more positive situation therefore, changing it into a whole different dream. Through the use of training the mind during the day hours the nightmare becomes less incapacitating.
In a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, August 1, 2001, a randomized control study was conducted involving 168 women, all victims of rape who were having nightmares repeatedly. The women were divided into two groups, one the study group the other the control group. The study group had learned to concentrate on a relaxing situation that they would be able to recall in their minds and write down their nightmare and alter it anyway they wanted. They had spent around ten minutes each day visualizing the new dream setting. This had gone on for six months. The group that used the imagery rehearsal therapy had less nightmares and they were also were less intense than those persons in the control group. Also in the study group symptoms like insomnia and post-traumatic stress had improved.
Other studies have been conducted in children and veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq war. The veterans were part of a program funded by the Pentagon and given by the University of Pittsburgh. All these studies had shown improvement in the nightmares.
An example used may be a person is following you in a dark alley and you are running from them, you can change it so in the dream instead of running from the person, you turn around and notice a friend you have not seen for a while. The frightening fear is changed into a pleasant one.
White Light Imagery
Another imagery practice is when awaken from a nightmare, close your eyes and in vision yourself being surrounded by a white light. The light is to protect you from anything harmful or negative. Image the light increasing in size till it is three times as large as you are. Acknowledge that the light is love and will not let anything bring harm to you. Open your eyes and turn off light that is if you turned it on when the nightmare had woken you. Keep in visioning the white light surrounding you. Get comfortable in bed and close your eyes. As you start to fall asleep, you have a sense of the light and feeling that you are totally protected.
Dr. Vasant Lad, director of the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico believes that dreams such as falling from heights are a sign of increased vata dosh. His suggestion is eating early evening, avoid beverages with carbonation and drink a cup of warm milk with a pinch of nutmeg before going to bed.
Nightmares usually are of the violent nature. Dr. Lad believes that heart burn, acid indigestion and other upsets to the stomach could cause the nightmares. If nightmares are causing fever and sweating to take a ½ teaspoon of the herbal preparation sundarshan churna two or three times daily.
If you have dreams of drowning Dr. Lad suggests a combination of powdered herbs. Take a pinch of pippali to ½ teaspoon each of punarnava and licorice mixed with a teaspoon of honey. Consume this mix at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The herbs can be found through a Ayuredic practitioner, some herbalists and online. Licorice can be found in most of the health food stores.
Bach Flower Remedies
For nightmares that occur from time to time the emergency stress relief formula is recommended it is sold under the names of Calming Essence, Rescue Remedy and Five-Flower Formula.
The remedy Rock-rose used at bedtime can aide persons who are susceptible to nightmares.
Hops reacts like a strong sedative and has the possibility to aide in sleep and halt nightmares for the short term.
Passion Flower calms the nerves and produces sedative effects.
Valerian is a sedative herb with muscle relaxing abilities.
Wild Lettuce calms and induces sleep.
Chamomile tea before bedtime provides relief from nightmares.
Stramonium #1 usually for children with nightmares of waking up screaming and cannot recall the dream.
Calcarrea carb for nightmares which come from television or scary movies.
Sulfur for nightmares that could cause messy situations like feet becoming hot and sweaty and sticking to the sheets.
There are three Chinese herbal formulas that can treat or give relief from nightmares.
Jian Nao Wan among its many actions it calms the mind so you can have a sound sleep without fears or anxiety.
Shen Jing Shuai Ruo Wan not only helps nightmares but also aides insomnia and restlessness.
Gui Pi Tang not only aides nightmares but also disturbing dreams.
In Chinese medicine the mind is in the blood especially the heart blood. It acts as a ground for the mind to stop it from wandering off. When it becomes weakened there is no grounding for the mind so it can wander and bring about excessive dreams. Acupuncture is based on various types of dreams such nightmares and awakening screaming, In Chinese medicine it is associated to wandering of the soul.
Even though the Heart organ is involved with excessive dreaming other organs like the stomach can also be involved.
Therefore, the acupuncturist will collect information to get a total idea of what is causing the dreams.
An example would be a dream of crying would aim at an excess lung condition due to the fact these emotions are associated to the lungs.
Treatments usually are once a week or more often if the dream is extremely disturbing in nature.
Some essential oils have a sedative effect that can soothe and calm the mind from being overactive. Promoting good sleep and decreases nightmares.
You can use them before bedtime in several ways:
Oil burner which comes in numerous styles. Some of these do have a candle so never leave it unattended or near children.
Bath oil by adding a few drops to warm bath water.
Steam inhalation by adding two drops to two pints of hot water in bowl.
Place head over bowl by at least 18″ away, hot steam can burn the face. Drape towel over both your head and bowl. Make sure steam is caught in the towel around your head. Inhale slowly and deeply in and out. Do this for around five minutes. Afterward splash face with cold water.
Some of the essential oils to use for a sedative effect are chamomile, juniper, lavender and rose.
Listen to a CD of sounds when going to sleep these consist of nature sounds, waves and even dolphins can bring a calming sense to your body and relaxed sleep.
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