Why are my dreams always negative

Your partner falls down the abyss or you are chased by a murderer: Such scary scenarios play out again and again at night. Everyone knows nightmares. Usually they are quickly forgotten. Frequent night-time horror trips can also make life hell for those affected during the day.

What is a nightmare?

Nightmares make you feel so strong and negative that you wake up from them. In addition to fear, this can also be sadness, anger or disgust, explains Prof. Michael Schredl. He is the scientific director of sleep research at the Central Institute for Mental Health in Mannheim.

As a rule, those affected can remember the nightmare very well. Most of the time, nightmares occur in the second half of the night. However, bad dreams that do not wake you up can also result in considerable suffering, says Hans-Günter Weeß, chairman of the board of the German Society for Sleep Research and Sleep Medicine.

Do nightmares also affect the day or even life?
“Everyone has nightmares. They only become a problem when there is a lot of suffering, ”explains Judith Koppehele-Gossel from the Institute for Psychology at the University of Bonn. For example, when the dreams terrify you during the day or when those affected do not want to go to bed for fear of renewed nightmares.

In addition, if nightmares occur more than once a week, those affected would likely be diagnosed with an anxiety dream disorder. This is recorded in the ICD-10 diagnostic catalog and belongs to the sleep disorders. Overall, around five percent of adults in Germany are affected.

What are the typical nightmare scenarios?

Falling, being persecuted, feeling paralyzed, arriving late and the death or disappearance of a loved one - these are the five most common nightmare topics for adults, according to Schredl.

Many people with nightmares believe that they always dream exactly the same thing, reports Koppehele-Gossel from her work. "But when you then keep a dream diary, you quickly realize: There are only certain elements that keep coming up, but the sequence or the context, for example, is different."

Why do some people have nightmares?

The exact causes of nightmares are not clear. "People with post-traumatic stress disorder are particularly often affected," says Koppehele-Gossel. In their nightmares, one topic usually recurs over and over again.

Stress can also be associated with nightmares. Weeß adds that predisposition and medication such as antihypertensive drugs or antidepressants can lead to nightmares. And: alcohol. "If you have problems with nightmares, you should avoid having a drink in the evening."

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Can nightmares be influenced?

You shouldn't come to terms with nightmares, they are treatable. If the worst comes to the worst, your family doctor can recommend a psychotherapist or a sleep specialist. Affected people can also try special techniques:

Confrontation: Those affected write down the nightmare and then read it out several times in a row. "By reliving the dream over and over again, you get used to it - like desensitization," explains Weeß. "In addition, the nightmare loses its horror in an everyday context."

Imagery Rehearsal Therapy: Even with this form, those affected write down their nightmare and deal with it. But that's not all, because those affected are looking for a new, positive end to their dream, explains Schredl. This does not mean running away or waking up, but rather imagining helpers. “It's about changing the basic principle.” The new principle is: “I'm afraid and think about what I can do.” You should go over this in your mind once a day for two weeks. If it works, you will react as if you were practicing while you sleep. (dpa / tmn)