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Why nightmares torment you at night and why sleep paralysis occurs: a somnologist told about mysterious phenomena

Date: June 25, 2024 Time: 12:22:34

Somnologist Professor Buzunov: people with high intelligence have nightmares more often

Photo: Shutterstock.

Who among us has not woken up in a cold sweat after a nightmare? First thought: something is wrong with me. What if this is how a serious hidden illness manifests itself? Or is it too big a dinner? Why people have nightmares and when there is really cause for concern – we talked about this with a famous somnologist, Doctor of Medical Sciences, professor of the Central State Medical Academy of the Administration of the President of the Russian Federation, author of the book. “Intentional calm. A program to combat stress and anxiety”, published by the KP publishing house, by Roman Buzunov.


– Roman Vyacheslavovich, in recent years several studies have appeared, the authors of which claim that creative people have nightmares more often. For example, in one experiment the thinking of two groups of volunteers was compared. And those who had frightening dreams performed better on creativity tests than those lucky enough to get restful sleep. How can this be explained?

– People with a higher level of intelligence and creativity have more active thought processes. Their psyche is more labile (that is, mobile, unstable, produces more violent reactions. – Ed.). And since our brain continues to work during sleep, as a rule, these people have more vivid, colorful dreams with a complex plot. These could also be nightmare scenarios.

It is also known that mental disorders are statistically more common among people with high intelligence. They can also cause bad dreams.


– If you have nightmares too often, with frightening regularity, people start to worry. Is this really a warning sign?

– In general, dreams, including nightmares, if they are diverse and repeated from time to time, are a reflection of the normal functioning of the brain. While sleeping, he represents various situations we have encountered. Analyze and decide what to do with them: forget them or keep them in memory. After all, it is in a dream that we form long-term memory based on past experiences and recent events.

In most situations, the brain successfully decides to “forget,” explains the expert. And “they let us go.” But it happens that some incident causes severe mental trauma (and we don’t even always realize it). The brain cannot forget this and at the same time does not understand how to “collect” this information, how to use it to predict the future. And then the image repeats itself in a dream, spinning like a broken record. A man wakes up in a cold sweat.

In a word, it is obsessive nightmares, of the same type and repeated, that indicate problems, says Roman Buzunov. They mean that the brain is unable to deal with a problem. “Normally, in these situations, communication with psychotherapists or psychiatrists helps. There are special techniques that help the brain get rid of obsessive and frightening dreams,” says the doctor.


– Some people claim that they do not dream at all. Happens?

– In fact, absolutely everyone has dreams. Dreaming takes up about 20% of total sleep time. We see them during the rapid eye movement phase or REM stage of sleep (see “KP Help” below). But some people remember their dreams after waking up, others don’t.

– What does it depend on?

– Very often, a person wakes up right during sleep or immediately after it. Then he remembers what happened in the dream. But just 5 minutes of transition to another stage of sleep and you will be sure that you were not dreaming. There are people who for some reason almost never wake up in the REM phase. They are the ones who say they don’t dream.

– Is it more useful to wake up during the dream stage?

– Yes, it is best for the body to wake up in the REM phase of sleep or immediately after ending it.


What stages is our dream made up of?

– Stage 1 – drowsiness: 2-5% of total sleep duration;

– 2nd basic stage: 45%;

– deep or delta sleep: 20-25% (at this stage hormones are produced, the immune system is activated and basic metabolic processes occur);

– REM sleep, or rapid eye movement phase: 20-25% (at this time we dream).


What else influences our dreams?

“We live in constant information stress,” says Professor Buzunov. -There is such data: the English peasant throughout his life knew less news outside his village than what is stated in the Sunday supplement of Times magazine. What happens if you open the Internet? How does a person start their day? There is a disaster here, a flood there, etc. Naturally, the psyche digests all this in a dream. And we see the corresponding images.

– Can dreams be an indication that a person is developing some type of illness?

– Certainly. Our brain never sleeps. During sleep, the centers that interact with the environment change to check and restore the functionality of the body’s internal organs and systems. The immune system is active, hormones are produced, etc. At the same time, the brain, without being distracted by external stimuli, begins to better perceive signals from internal organs. Even about interruptions in your work and developing illnesses. This can be reflected in dreams. For example, people with sleep apnea, meaning they hold their breath during sleep, often dream of being strangled or drowned. Women can dream of a pregnancy that they do not yet know about.


In case of alarming calls, contact a doctor.

At the request of KP, Professor Buzunov listed the main situations in which dreams can be alarming signals. In such cases, it is recommended to consult a doctor.

1. Same type of recurring nightmares. “It is important to distinguish between terrifying dreams and simply bad ones,” clarifies the somnologist. – A nightmare is a condition that is accompanied by a feeling of imminent death or serious psychological, social and physical trauma. For example, if you dream that you go out to give a talk and you forget what to talk about, it is not a nightmare.”

Advice: you should consult a psychotherapist.

2. In a dream, a feeling of lack of air regularly arises (a picture before your eyes: a person is being strangled, he is drowning, etc.). Or it feels like a snake has gotten inside you and is biting you. That is, any painful sensation appears.

Tip: It is worth having an examination to make sure there are no hidden diseases. A general medical examination with cancer screening would not hurt (all this is free according to the compulsory health insurance policy). If you have specific complaints, you should start by contacting a therapist. Will issue referrals to specialized doctors (cardiologist, endocrinologist, otorhinolaryngologist, etc.).

3. Constantly tormented by painful dreams: something bad and sad happens in them. This often means that psychological problems exist.

Tip: you should consult a psychotherapist or psychologist.


Who is affected by sleep paralysis?

– When we dream, the brain is actively working. Give orders: run, catch up, fight,” says Roman Buzunov. – But so that we can continue lying peacefully in bed, a neurochemical blockade is activated in the body. It prevents impulses from the brain from reaching the spinal cord and triggering movements.

When we wake up, first motor activity is restored, and then consciousness. But some people fail. A part of the brain is still asleep, dreaming and movement blocking is activated. And a part of the brain has already woken up and begins to be aware of the surrounding situation. The man realizes that he is in his room, lying on the bed. But he can’t move, the blockade hasn’t passed yet. This is called sleep paralysis.

Sometimes it gives rise to hallucinations. This happens when the sleeping part of the brain injects dreams directly into the waking state. Hence all the stories about goblins, elves, ghosts: a person wakes up, cannot move, and some monster approaches him. The explanation is simple: you are partially awake and partially asleep. And paralysis, along with dreams, invades wakefulness.

-Who is more prone to this?

– Almost everyone experiences sleep paralysis at least once in their life. About 15% of healthy people suffer from it from time to time. As a rule, this is a normal physiological reaction to severe lack of sleep, schedule disruption (e.g. time zone changes), or stress.

The book by Roman Buzunov and Sofia Cherkasova “Intentional calm. Program to combat stress and anxiety.”

* This website provides news content gathered from various internet sources. It is crucial to understand that we are not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, or reliability of the information presented Read More

Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.

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