Nightmares, Night Terrors and ‘The Old Hag’ in Dreams

Nightmares are otherwise terrifying dreams which may even cause you to wake up. There are a number of different reasons for nightmares including medication, lack of sleep, changes in diet but they will often acknowledge that you are going through a period of stress when they occur. Some people may have had nightmares for a long time, others will only experience them after a traumatic event.  A room being too hot can cause a nightmare (hence one of the reasons you wake up sweating). Your bedtime routine will also play a key role in the quality of your sleep – and dreaming.

Remember, dreams – including nightmares – are good for you. Nightmares are trying to get your attention, asking you to acknowledge a particular emotion, event or situation which has been getting the better of you, so that you can take positive action.  If your dreams are affecting your sleep, have a chat with your doctor to see how they can help.

Top Tips for Managing Nightmares

* Acknowledge the role that stress is playing in your life. Are you taking on too much? If so, how can this be managed?

* Learn to delegate tasks to other people and say ‘no’ when people are asking too much of you.

* Practice a relaxation technique such as focused breathing. You can do this sat at your desk at work. Sit quietly, taking a breath in to the count of five, and exhale to the count of five. Do this three or four times then relax your breathing to its normal pattern. Focus only on your breathing during this exercise.

* Make the hour before bedtime yours. Listen to some calming music or have a nice, warm bath. No TV, no computer – just relaxation.

* Remember to write your nightmares down and explore the message being offered in your dream diary. Perhaps consult with a close friend or a qualified professional to help you understand their meaning.

* Speak to your doctor if your nightmares are adversely affecting your sleep or general wellbeing.

Nightmares are subjective, so what some people find scary other people don’t. The key is understanding the message being offered so you can use this information for your personal benefit. The underlying theme with a lot of nightmares is a fear or anxiety over something. What are you frightened of and how is your dream trying to convey this to you?

Are night terrors the same as nightmares?

No. Night terrors occur during a different stage of sleep to nightmares which is why someone having a night terror is often harder to wake, as they are in a deeper sleep. Night terrors are more common in
children, particularly of a young age (between 2 – 4 years old). One theory is that they are temper tantrums during sleep; what a child can’t articulate at such a young age, they are forced to express during sleep. If you’re worried about your child’s night terrors, have a chat with them about anything which may be on their mind in a language they would understand or speak to your doctor or health visitor if their sleep becomes a problem.

A small percentage of people continue their night terrors in to adult hood. The most common thought for night terrors in adults is stress related, so again it’s worth looking at the role stress plays in your

What is Old Hag syndrome?

This is the sensation usually described when you wake up but can’t move and sense a presence in the room. The most common theory for this scenario is that the sleep paralysis, present during Rapid Eye  Movement (the stage of sleep most commonly associated with dreaming) continues in to waking. The name is thought to derive from old folk tales where a “witch” or evil spirit was believed to rest upon the body of the dreamer (usually the chest) whilst asleep. The experience can be accompanied by hallucinations, hence the feeling that something is watching you. It can be a frightening sensation but it is most likely to be a stress response. Take a look at the role of stress in your life and how it can be managed and, if it becomes a problem, pop along to see your doctor.

Common and Recurring Dreams

Take a look at The Dreams Maven™ – a dedicated resource to sleep and dreams by Helping You Sparkle. ™

Common Dreams: Death of a Child or Loved One

Dream question: dreaming of the death of a loved one- will it come true? Click here for details. 

Common Dreams: Nightmares

Dream question: Why do I have nightmares? Click here for details.

Common Dreams: Pregnancy

What do dreams of being pregnant mean, are they news of a death? Click here for details. 

Common Dreams: Toilets

Dream question: Why am I dreaming about toilets? Click here for details. 

Common Dreams: Getting Married

Dreaming of getting married? Click here

Common Dreams: Lucid Dreams

Dream question: what does it mean to be awake in a dream? Click here for details. 

Common Dreams: Visitations

Professional Dream Analysis Consultations

Your question: Visitations (Dreams about the deceased)

“I have dreamt of someone I loved who has passed away, does this mean they have visited me from the other side?”

Dreaming of a lost loved one often represents the feelings of loss which have manifested because you miss the person who has died. There may be events from your past which involved this person which are still relevant to your present situation, (emotionally, physically, financially and so on) which has then manifested in your dreams as a message for you to acknowledge.  You may have experienced something significant and wished this person was “here” to see it.

There is still much we don’t know about dreams and it’s important to remember when we are dreaming we are in a different state of awareness (we are not unconscious).  Some cultures still believe dreaming is a way to communicate with the dead.

I have also spoken with people who have picked up the ‘phone in their dreams and communicated with a deceased loved one, as if they are still alive today, and the deceased person has provided relevant information about current events (which the dreamer didn’t know).  In these experiences there are common themes which stand out.

People who have been visited by a deceased loved one state, when they wake up they are filled with an incredible feeling of peace – as if something very special has just happened. Several people I’ve spoken with mention this and these dreams ‘stand out’ from other dreams in which their deceased loved ones may have featured.

Remember, if in the dream the loved one is acting out of character, or is being unkind and hurtful in any way, it is unlikely this dream is a visitation but perhaps another message for you to explore, perhaps around an unresolved feeling (like guilt) or conflict from when they were alive.  Speaking with a professional can help you explore these dreams safely and in confidence.

These dreams are not to be confused with death dreams (losing someone you love in a dream.)

(c) Copyright Delphi Ellis

Back to common dreams.

Professional Dream Analysis Consultations

Common Dreams: Having affairs

Click here for details.

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