What are Nightmares?

               Nightmares are lengthy, elaborate dreams with imagery that evokes fear, anxiety, or sadness. The dreamer may wake up to avoid the perceived danger. Nightmares can be remembered upon awakening and may lead to difficulties returning to sleep or even cause daytime distress. Isolated nightmares are normal, but when dreams that bring extreme terror or anxiety recur often they can become a debilitating sleep disorder.

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               Researchers agree that most nightmares are caused by anxiety—but they are rarely a literal interpretation of what’s bothering us. A small study by researchers at Tufts University looked at dreams and nightmares after the 9/11 attacks; their theory was that the events produced at least some level of trauma to everyone in the United States. While all the subjects (none of whom were directly affected by the attacks) reported a marked increase in intense or vivid dreams and nightmares, none of them dreamed specifically about the Twin Towers, the planes or even about tall buildings falling, despite the images being played over and over on TV.

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