Why Do We Have Nightmares?

Nightmares are basically disturbing and scary dreams that we associate with negative feelings like anxiety. Sometimes nightmares disturb us so much that they cause us to wake up because our mind cannot deal with them. Nightmares occur at any age, even though children are most likely to be experiencing them. Everybody experiences nightmares at different frequencies. Also, it is more than normal to experience nightmares occasionally. But they should not be ignored, of course, because a high amount of nightmare experience could mean some things about your bodily or mental health. 

Nightmares sometimes turn into disorders, even though that is very rarely the case. If you are dealing with frequent nightmares, and they cause you extreme stress, insomnia, or fear of sleep, you should see a doctor. Other than that, nightmares, again, are a very natural part of our lives.

Nightmares usually occur during the REM sleep period, and their actual root is still unknown to the scientific world. However, there are a lot of studies and experiments that show what triggers or increases the chances of seeing a nightmare. 

If you are not sure whether or not you saw a nightmare, here are some common symptoms of nightmares: 

  • If you experience vivid dreams that turn into disturbing experiences as the dream goes on.
  • If you feel scared, anxious, stressed, or breathless after you wake up.
  • If your heartbeat is faster than usual when you wake up, or you are sweating extremely.
  • If the dream awakens you suddenly.

As mentioned, even the root of it is not agreed upon or discovered yet, nightmares are triggered by several factors, according to studies. So, if you wonder why do we have nightmares, you might want to check the list below.

Stress and Anxiety

Stress is a part of our lives, but extreme stress could lead to problems with our physical and mental health. Moreover, studies have found that people who deal with extreme stress or anxiety tend to have nightmares more often. Sometimes, it is normal to be extremely stressful. For instance, if you almost had a car hit you, you will naturally be stressed for a while. But if the stress keeps continuing and not decreasing, you will have more and more nightmares. 

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Traumatic Experiences 

It is a well-known fact that people who deal with trauma or have PTSD struggle with continuous nightmares. Sometimes, grief could also trigger high amounts of nightmare experiences.


Some medications like antidepressants are known to be triggering nightmares. Of course, it is normal to experience nightmares but if you are doubting that your medication causes you to have extreme amounts of nightmares, you should talk to your doctor and have them change your prescription if possible.

Sleep Deprivation or Insomnia

Not having an adequate amount of sleep on a daily basis will cause irregularities and dysfunctions in your brain. In such a case, you will have nightmares more often. Therefore, having a sleep schedule that allows you to have the right amount of quality sleep will decrease the chances of you having nightmares. If you are dealing with insomnia caused by nightmares, of course, it is best to see a doctor as soon as possible. 

What You Do Before Bed

The activities before bed are crucial when it comes to spotting the causes of seeing nightmares. Eating foods, especially oily and salty food, is known to trigger nightmares, for example. Moreover, watching scary movies or reading scary books right before bed will possibly cause you to experience nightmares. Thus, if you are disturbed by nightmares, you might consider changing your habits.