Nightmares are the absolute worst. The dread feels so real until you wake up and are relieved to find you weren’t actually being chased by an angry crowd. Thankfully, psychology recognises nightmares which are commonly defined as terrifying dreams and studies have found that many people experience them. For the most part, there are two main types of nightmares – “garden variety” ones and post traumatic ones. the former category refers to nightmares that most people have while the latter affect people who have been through immense trauma and sadly relive those moments while asleep.
Dreams occur during the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep when the body is resting but the brain is still consuming a lot of energy and firing off commands. The reason why dreams can take on more terrifying characteristics and become nightmares is not fully understood. However, figures show that these are common occurrences. Nightmares are more likely to affect children. Studies have estimated that 10-50% of 3- to 6-year-olds and over 80% of 7- to 9-year-olds occasionally experience bad dreams. However, even though older adults are 20-50 percent less likely to have nightmares compared to younger adults, many adults still report having bad dreams. A review found that 85% of adults reported having at least one nightmare in the previous year. 8-29% had monthly nightmares, and 2-6% reported weekly nightmares.