Why do we get nightmares?


Haven’t we all experienced waking up in the middle of the night, terrified with what we saw in our dream? These are known as nightmares which leave you shaking, breathless and terrified for quite some time. These nightmares lead to many mental and physical problems. But why do we get nightmares?

Stress, anxiety and depression:

Stress, anxiety or depression are the main causes of nightmares. The pent-up emotions and feelings that a person does not let go, haunt him in his sleep. If a person does not remain calm and continuously feels stressed about things, he will most likely see those things in their worst forms in his nightmares.

Seeing yourself fail in an exam or job interview in your dream, can be because of you stressing over it all day.


Post-traumatic stress disorder causes nightmares when a person re-experiences the traumas and bad experiences in his sleep. Childhood traumas also re-appear as flashbacks in the dreams. It also makes PTSD worse. Either the trauma is repeated in the same manner in the dream, or it shows symbols that relate to the trauma.

For example, if you have witnessed a car crash in front of you, it may disturb your sleep and cause you nightmares for some time.


The deaths of loved ones stir up many emotions and hit you with a feeling of loss on a full level. These emotions may haunt you in your nightmares for a long time.

Medications or their withdrawal:

Medicines affect the brain with certain chemicals. The side effects of antidepressants, narcotics, amphetamines, sedatives and blood pressure medicines cause nightmares. Whereas, withdrawal of sleeping pills results in the disturbance of sleep and nightmares.

Alcohol and drugs abuse:

Your body metabolises alcohol, drugs, and breaks down its components when you are sleeping. This process gives you intense and vivid dreams. Excessive consumption of alcohol and drugs lead to diseases which affect your sleep and cause nightmares.

Medical conditions:

A disorder of interrupted sleep during the night, called Sleep Apnea results in nightmares. Sleep paralysis, hallucinations, excessive day time sleeping, drowsiness, all become the cause of nightmares and disturb your sleep.

Eating before bed:

Eating extra food before bed means that the metabolism boosts up, the body temperature increases and the brain starts to perform extra tasks during sleep. This process not only causes nightmares but leads to obesity as well.

Other causes:

An improper sleep schedule, jet lag, sickness, tiredness, fears, fever and flu are other common causes of nightmares.


Sleep deprivation disorder also known as insomnia interrupts the sleep and waking time, which causes the brain to function improperly. The irregular sleep patterns and reduced amount of rest become the common cause of nightmares.

A person having extreme nightmares develops a fear of returning back to sleep or sleeping at night at all. This results in sleep deprivation and can increase the symptoms of depression and anxiety in you.

Did you ever experience a nightmare that left you breathless in the middle of the night? Share your experience with us in the comments below.

Until Next Time,

Team Doctor ASKY!


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