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Nightmares Cause Health Scares

New Sleep Therapies May Help

Chronic nightmares can lead to health issues.

By John Salak –

Nightmares aren’t just scary in the witching hours. Those who suffer from particularly disturbing dreams on a regular basis can face all sorts of unsettling consequences during the day too. 

There is even a name for the condition caused by chronic nightmares. It is called parasomnia. 

Dreams are common even if most people aren’t aware they dream for perhaps two hours every night. The occasional “bad dreams” can even help individuals process their emotions more effectively, according to some research. 

Nightmares are a bit more troubling and intense. The good news about nightmares is that it is normal to have them—every now and again. The bad news is that chronic nightmares—at least one bad dream per week—can lead to scary health issues, the Sleep Foundation warns. 

One obvious consequence is a lack of sleep or rest, which causes fatigue. This, however, can cause stress, anxiety and depression. Nightmares can also pose a particular risk to those suffering from psychosis. 

Imagery Rehearsal Therapy (IRT) has been used to alleviate this problem but is it not always effective. Researchers out of Switzerland now claim they may have developed a promising alternative technique that combines IRT with Targeted Memory Reactivation. The research may even open up opportunities to apply the combined therapies to help individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress.

The more commonly applied IRT is a cognitive technique that requires patients to imagine alternative and positive outcomes to their nightmare scenarios every day for five to ten minutes. The approach can help some individuals decrease the rate of nightmares within two weeks. Targeted Memory Reactivation, in turn, involves sending specific stimuli to the brain of the sleeping person usually in the form of odors or sounds previously associated with recent experiences. The stimuli help reactivate memories related to the IRT exercises.

”While the results of the therapy coupling will need to be replicated before this method can be widely applied, there is every indication that it is a particularly effective new treatment for the nightmare disorder,” explained Lampros Perogamvros, a University of Geneva faculty member. “The next step for us will be to test this method on nightmares linked





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