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As we shake off today’s Halloween hangover, some of us may have experienced nightmares about the weekend’s ghost, goblins or vampires.
According to the American Sleep Association, nightmares are extremely common. Nightmares are common in both males and females. And, CBS News states as many as one in four adults have one nightmare or more a month. Roughly one in 17 reports being frightened by nightmares at least once a week. Nightmares begin as early as age 3 and are common in young children. Nightmares lessen as a person grows up but most adults will have nightmares on occasion during their lives.
ʺThere are some personalities more disposed to having nightmares,ʺ said sleep specialist Dr. Ross Levin. ʺPeople who are anxious, people who get distressed a lot, particularly when something bad occurs, are much more likely to have frequent nightmares,ʺ said Levin.
Levin believes you can turn nightmares into sweet dreams. Dr. Levin says he can stop bad dreams from happening in as few as three sessions using something called Image Rehearsal Therapy.
This desensitization method simply requires you visualize the nightmare and imagine a different ending.
"Imagine the nightmare and imagine changing the nightmare in a way that becomes less nightmarish, and practicing that imagery over and over again during the day," said Dr. Levin. "And that tends to rewire the nervous system, we think."
"I had one patient, for example, who had the recurrent nightmare that someone was chasing her into a dark alley, over and over," said Dr. Levin. "So, we worked on changing that to her turning around and the man turns and says, 'Miss, you left your wallet on the table.' "
Also, in a recent study, patients were instructed to select a recent nightmare and write it down, change the nightmare in any way they wished, write down the changed version and rehearse the changed nightmare in an imagery relaxed state. Patients were instructed to rehearse the changed version once a day for three consecutive days after each nightmare or until the nightmare went away.