Hypnotherapy for nightmares

Thought nightmares were just for children? Think again. Both children and adults can experience nightmares, which are different from night terrors. These unwanted disturbances may just happen on the odd occasion and cause little lasting impact but if they are a regular feature in your night of sleep or if they have suddenly started, there could be something that has triggered them which can be dealt with in order to help you sleep easily once more. 

For adults, there are significantly different reasons as to why we experience nightmares so it is important that we distinguish between adult and child sleep disturbances. 

Admitting to having nightmares as an adult can seem a little silly or embarrassing. Surely we should have grown out of those by now? But waking in the night terrified or distressed is far from just a bad dream.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggests that between 50% and 85% of all adults occasionally have nightmares. Furthermore, it is thought that between 2% and 8% of adults regularly experience nightmares. So, for a start, you are not alone. But what is causing yours and can they be eased?

Nightmares are so commonly associated with children that we, as adults, can neglect to take them seriously when we, or our loved ones, experience them. They may only occur on the odd occasion but their intensity can have a significant impact. Often, getting back to sleep after a nightmare can be more challenging and it’s understandable that the subject matter can leave us with a great sense of unease. 

When we were children, our nightmares may have been filled with strange creatures and feelings of being lost or chased. But as adults, they often have familiar faces in them and the feelings of fear, shame, guilt, helplessness and pain can have a far greater impact than we may anticipate in our older years. 

What causes nightmares?

There are a number of reasons why we may experience nightmares as adults. Hypnotherapy can help with many of these but it is important that time is given to understanding why nightmares are occurring as other changes to your lifestyle or treatments may be more advantageous.

So, what causes these night disturbers? Well, there’s a range of possibilities; in adults, some causes are psychological, hormonal or even medicinal. 

Depression and anxiety can cause more frequent nightmares which seems logical, as we know that nighttime is when the brain processes the events, thoughts and emotions of the day. If you are suffering from depression or anxiety, it stands to reason that this will seep into your sleep as well. Frustratingly, antidepressants are one of the main medications that can trigger nightmares so there is no guarantee that medicating the depression will aid in a better night’s sleep. This is one example of when hypnotherapy can be a good companion to combat nightmares. There is an element of counselling that sits within hypnotherapy which can assist you in getting to the root cause of what may be troubling you. Facing that trauma or worry can be hugely beneficial to your general state of mind as well as your night of sleep. Because hypnotherapy deals directly with the subconscious, unearthing these triggers can be much quicker and so too is the time spent dealing with it and healing.

If you’re not in the right frame of mind to tackle the underlying trigger, then hypnotherapy can soothe and settle you into a peaceful sleep. A lot of therapists offer recordings for you to take away that can be used at your own discretion. If you’ve awoken from a nightmare, having a short recording on your phone may not address the cause of it, but it can help you to relax back into a calm state of mind.  

Hormone levels within women can be another reason why nightmares occur. During perimenopause, the hormones become more imbalanced and this can trigger greater night disturbances such as night sweats and alarmingly vivid dreams. Often these dreams are fuelled by anxiety and so negative and distressing in their content. The intensity of these dreams can leave you feeling incredibly unsettled and disturbed. Medication can be a support during times such as menopause but again, HRT can be a cause of nightmares, so it is worth keeping a diary as to when you are affected by these night disturbances. Do they feature regularly enough that it links to your menstrual cycle or is it unrelated?

Stress is another huge trigger for nightmares in adults. Again, we see the links between the brain trying to process all that it is having to deal with and that trickling into our subconscious thoughts at night. Hypnotherapy is a great assistant in situations like this. It has the power to peacefully unlock what is lurking in your subconscious – situations you thought you had dealt with, current challenges you are unsure of how to proceed with, feelings of inferiority, frustration or guilt. All these, and so much more, can be overcome with the help of hypnotherapy.

What’s the difference between nightmares and night terrors?

With children, we need to take a different approach. But first, it is worth unpicking the differences between nightmares and night terrors. The first is a bad dream; unpleasant and unsettling, but night terrors are quite different as often the child is not awake when they experience them but it can seem as if they are as their eyes may be open. 

A child having a night terror may thrash about, scream, cry and shout. They can appear very distressed and it is hard not to intervene and comfort them. However, it is recommended by the NHS to not interact with the child when they are experiencing a night terror. These are triggered by a sudden disturbance to their sleep, such as a loud bang or needing to go to the toilet, and while the experience can be very intense for a parent who witnesses these episodes, the child will not remember them in the morning, so it’s advised that they’re not discussed the following day to avoid unsettling the child.

Nightmares in children

Children’s nightmares are similar to adult ones, in that they occur as the subconscious tries to make sense of the feelings, emotions and experiences of their day. This is also a time when children project anxieties that may occur to them which is why being chased or being lost is such common content for nightmares.

As they grow and make sense of the world around them, nightmares can be more common for little ones and so treatment may not be necessary. However, if you do have concerns about the content, intensity or regularity of your child’s nightmares then it is worth seeking the support of a professional.

As hypnotherapy is bespoke to each individual, your therapist will tailor your sessions to you and your needs. It is something unique to you and therapists avoid anything that resembles a ‘one size fits all’ model. As we’ve seen, the reason why you may have nightmares can be very varied and so too should the approach of the treatment. Alongside your therapist, you will agree on a course of treatment that you are comfortable with and is right for you.

Want to know more about hypnotherapy? Read What is hypnotherapy? 

Find a hypnotherapist dealing with nightmares

There are over 1,800 hypnotherapists listed on Hypnotherapy Directory, working all over the UK. Whether you’d like to explore hypnotherapy online or face to face, it’s likely you’ll be able to find someone to help you.

Depending on what you suspect is causing your nightmares – whether it be stress, depression, anxiety or something else entirely – you can browse therapist’s profiles until you find someone you resonate with. Once you’ve found someone, simply send them an email. Be sure to ask any questions you have – this will help the hypnotherapist to understand you better and ensure you get the help you need. 

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Written by Jessica Chapman
Jessica Chapman is a therapist and teacher with a passion for the outdoors and being creative. She enjoys assisting others in making positive changes to their lives alongside working on her own aspirations.
Written by Jessica Chapman
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