Nightmares and lost sleep

In my work as a dream therapist, I’ve noticed that more than half of first time appointments are booked by people suffering nightmares and lost sleep, or on behalf of their children who are plagued by scary dreams and fear of going to bed.

Sometimes all it takes is one chilling nightmare for someone to seek out a professional consultation, especially a dream that scares the dreamer into wondering if they, or the person they’ve dreamed about, is going to get sick or die, or a dream that leaves the dreamer anxious about their partner’s fidelity after a dream of cheating and betrayal. Thankfully their fears can be laid aside and the symbolic nuts and bolts of the dream explored in one session to help them understand why they had the dream, how it relates to their life, and the gifts this new knowledge holds in terms of how to step through issues and challenges in rewarding ways.

But it’s more often the building anxiety, long-term sleep deprivation, and exhaustion induced by recurring nightmares or recurring frustrating dreams that eventually drive people to book a consultation.

We all tend to be at our most wakeful immediately after a dream, and this wakefulness can be heightened if we feel fear, anxiety, or stress in the dream because the dream emotions cause corresponding hormones (fear and stress hormones) to be released into our body, often jolting us awake. Then there we are, sitting up in bed, the body pounding and pulsating with physiological fear, stress, and anxiety as if something terrible has actually happened, and it’s easy to draw the conclusion that it has, somehow, or will soon, because your body is telling you so.

If you’ve ever had a recurring nightmare you’ll know the fear of going to sleep the next few nights after each recurrence, and the emotional, mental, and physical drain that results.

Productivity at work can go down, creativity can subside, relationships can suffer, and your immune system can be compromised. On top of all of this, you don’t know how to stop the nightmares and get back to good solid, restorative sleep.

Nightmares recur – as do some dreams – when the waking life situation they reflect is not being addressed. A recurring waking life issue becomes a recurring dream or nightmare, as the dreaming mind and brain tries to process the issue but fails to find a healing, positive resolution. Dream therapy – and often a single consultation – helps the dreamer to see how the dream is connected to the waking life issue and opens avenues of healing and resolution through dream therapy techniques.

There are two ways to stop a nightmare from returning.

One is a simple technique that can be applied in the first consultation and continued by the client over the next few days and weeks. This stops the nightmare and begins to reprogram the dreamer’s mind toward healing and resolution. The second way is to accelerate this process through a run of dream therapy sessions that assist the dreamer into a deeper exploration of her dreams and guide her toward long-term healing and growth at every level.

I usually find that people who begin dream therapy with me because of a nightmare or recurring nightmares continue to see me well after the nightmares cease and sleep returns because of the other benefits they’ve experienced. As people begin to explore their other dreams (the non-scary, even uplifting ones), they discover positive shifts in perspective, heightened creativity, increased sense of purpose and meaningfulness, and an overall sense of wellbeing and engagement with life.

As a dream therapist I am deeply privileged to witness the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual results clients experience through working with the rich material of their inner lives, screened, each night, in their dreams.

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Jane Teresa Anderson

Graduating with an Honours degree in Zoology specialising in neurophysiology from the University of Glasgow, dream analyst and dream therapist Jane Teresa Anderson has been researching dreams since 1992, and developing and teaching dream alchemy practices that shift perspective and reprogram unconscious limiting beliefs. Jane Teresa is a multi-published author, and appears frequently in the media on television, radio, and in print. She is also host of the long-running podcast, The Dream Show, and offers her online study and certificate courses through The Dream Academy.

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