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Types of Nightmares

The 7 Types of Nightmares That a Person Might Experience

A nightmare is a frightening dream that causes feelings of distress and fear within an individual. A person can have numerous types of nightmares during his/her lifetime, which may be extremely disturbing, even when one is awake. Here's a bit about the different kinds of nightmares one may experience.
Reshma Jirage
Last Updated: Mar 22, 2018
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Much like the humans, all birds and animals also dream and thus, also experience nightmares. Interestingly, only cold-blooded animals do not dream.
Getting unpleasant and disturbing dreams is not an uncommon phenomenon. In the ancient times, it was believed that such disturbing and scary dreams are caused by evil spirits that haunted people while sleeping, and suffocated them to death. However, modern research has shown that nightmares may be caused due to fear, insecurity, stress, trauma, problems related to family, relationships or work, and as an after-effect of taking certain drugs. Moreover, nightmares seem to be more common in children aged between 3 to 13 years, after which, girls seem to get more of these disturbing dreams than boys.
Generally, nightmares occur in that stage of sleep, when the brain is actively processing all the information it has gathered during the day, and before that, so that it can be stored in our memory. This happens in the second half of the night's sleep, when our eyes are continuously moving underneath our closed eyelids. This stage of sleep is known as Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage, when all things, major and minor, which we have experienced (and otherwise might not remember clearly, while we are awake), are again brought before us by our subconscious mind. Such dreams often tend to wake us up from our sound sleep, with negative feelings often taking a toll on our mind.
Different Types of Nightmares
According to a research, an individual has more than 100,000 dreams during his/her lifetime, with at least some of them being nightmares. Everyone gets a nightmare at some or the other point in life, and in many cases, it is absolutely normal to have one. As long as they do not repeat themselves every single night, there may not be any cause of concern. However, if they are recurrent, one might have to visit a psychiatrist.

Much like the normal dreams, nightmares can be of numerous types. The catch is to break the most bizarre visions into smaller, understandable parts. One would then realize that not all nightmares might mean what they seem to. When one thinks about the different types of nightmares, he/she may think about terrifying dreams such as one being chased by a dangerous creature, or being trapped in the dark room. However, it should be noted that these are not the types of nightmares, but only the images that we see, when we experience a nightmare. Nightmares can be broadly classified into the following major types:
Release Nightmares
Release Nightmares
Here, the boy is actually not running away from the ghost, but from his own frustrations and insecurities.
Girl and dog
The dog may represent the inner worries and fears of the girl and so, she seems to be scared of it.
People are often unable to express their insecurities, fears, frustrations, worries, regrets, etc. while they are awake, not because they don't want to, but simply because they are not able to deal with such feelings, consciously. These, then get stored in the subconscious mind, and make their way through the release nightmares. Release nightmare visions are, more often than not, abrupt and jumbled. Consciously, one might not be able to make any sense out of them, but they can be terrifying enough to send chills through one's spine, while sleeping.

According to psychologists, we are usually having a release nightmare if we see ourselves running away or trying to escape from something dangerous, such as a knife-wielding murderer or a vicious-looking monster. It has been opined that the murderer or the monster that we are trying to get away from, in such nightmares, are actually nobody else but ourselves. It is that part of us, which we cannot confront, while we are awake. So, if we want to get rid of such nightmares, the best thing to do is to confront our fears and insecurities, and such murderers and monsters will leave us alone.
Nightmares that Clear Mental Chaos
A nightmare that one's house is on fire, and a firefighter is trying to extinguish the same, indicates that all the mental chaos can be cleared if genuine efforts are made.
Back Stabbing
Similarly, a nightmare of backstabbing one's partner, seems to suggest that it is time to move on in life.
Some dream analysts have suggested that when a person dreams, his/her mind is actually in the process of erasing certain tendencies that are the causes of mental/psychological troubles. By releasing disturbing images, a person's subconscious mind and brain cleanse themselves in order to take in new experiences, and to prepare for new tasks.

The visions that may occur in such nightmares usually relate to, for instance, a relationship that is on its way out, or some other fear that haunts a person even when he/she is awake. According to psychologists, the best way of getting rid of such disturbing nightmares is to let go, what is on its way out. This way, a person's brain also becomes free of past experiences and becomes ready to absorb and process the newer ones.
Recurring Nightmares
Recurring Nightmares
A child standing in front of a mysterious fog, might point towards a terrifying incident that the dreamer may have experienced as a child, and is deeply rooted in his/her subconscious mind.
According to some dream experts, a recurring nightmare of an old, spooky-looking mansion might indicate some connection of the dreamer with it, perhaps in his/her previous birth.
Recurring nightmares are those which keep on repeating night after night, sometimes for several years. There may be varied causes of recurring nightmares. They may be rooted in some traumatic or terrifying event that the dreamer may have experienced in the past, perhaps as a child, an event that he/she may consciously remember, even as an adult. Similarly, the source of such nightmares may also be a past event that a person may not remember consciously, but is remembered by his/her subconscious mind, and so continues to haunt him/her in the dreams.

Some dream experts have also proposed that recurring nightmares may be related to the previous life of a person experiencing it. According to them, a person's soul recognizes certain events, which he/she has already been through during the previous birth. Such memories get stuck into the subconscious mind, which in turn, attempts to free itself of them, which is why they are replayed in the nightmares. However, the theory of reincarnation does not have a solid evidence as yet.
Different Nightmares Based on a Similar Theme
A man falling off a cliff, and a ship caught amidst a storm and about to sink, may both indicate some sort of a downfall in the dreamer's life.
Man Falling Down
In many cases, a person gets different nightmares every time. However, after giving an afterthought, it may be realized that all of them are more or less based on a similar kind of theme. For example, a person may see himself/herself running away from something. In one instance, it may be an animal; in another, it may be a demon; and in yet another one, it may be an enemy. Nevertheless, such nightmares often result in a person waking suddenly from the sleep, trembling and palpitating.

Psychologists often associate such nightmares with conditions such as stress, insecurity, and depression. They may also result from the intake or discontinuation of certain medications, to which the body may be trying to adjust. Such nightmares will cease once the body gets used to the new changes that it may be undergoing.
Prophetic Nightmares
Prophetic Nightmares
A dream of stormy sea waves followed by rays of light may be an indication of order after chaos.
Similarly, if the dreamer sees a broken windshield in a nightmare, it might signify a possibility of an accident.
A nightmare of an abandoned and a ruined factory may point towards a possibility of heavy financial losses.
Prophetic nightmares are those which carry a prophetic or a psychic message for a person in question. The classic example is the famous dream of Abraham Lincoln that he saw in 1865. He dreamed that he heard some weird noises coming from the East Room of the White House. When he went there to find out what had happened, he saw a corpse on the funeral platform. On inquiring about the dead person, one of the guards told him that it was the President's corpse. Lincoln was assassinated one week after he got this nightmare.

According to some psychics, a person often sees prophetic nightmares in color, and if they do come true, they unfold in a definitive sequence. Such nightmares may be intense and extremely disturbing. They are also confusing at times, as they intend to deliver a message or a warning. A thing to be kept in mind, however, is that though dreams may be good indications of what may happen, they need not always come true. Prophetic nightmares are extremely rare occurrences, and it depends completely on the dreamer, whether or not to believe in them.
Inspirational Nightmares
Young Woman Dive Into Deep Water
In a nightmare if one sees himself/herself going deeper and deeper into the sea, it possibly indicates the dreamer's capability to dive as deep as possible in order to achieve the desired goal.
Inspirational Nightmares
If a dreamer rides a vicious monster in a nightmare, it signifies his/her capacity to achieve everything that he/she might wish for.
Though nightmares are often terrifying and disturbing, they can also prove to be an inspiration at times. In other words, apart from being frightening, they can be fantastical and creative as well. According to some opinions, what a person sees in the dreams, is often what he/she has been thinking about since quite some time. Mary Shelley saw a terrible monster in her nightmare, and came up with the idea of how Frankenstein's monster would look.

People often tend to remember the weird and strange things that they have seen and experienced in their dreams. Some of them might actually turn out to be valuable inspirations, and might as well change the course of one's life. So, dealing with such nightmares may require utmost patience.
Night Terrors
Night terrors often cultivate the fear of the unknown within the minds of the people.
Night terror or pavor nocturnus is a parasomnia disorder in which a person dreams about dreadful things, and often wakes up screaming, shaking, and sweating. Until the REM was discovered, night terrors and nightmares were deemed to be one and the same. However, advanced researches have shown that they are, in fact, distinct from each other. Unlike nightmares that occur during the REM phase, night terrors happen during the first few hours of sleep, and sometimes, even during daytime naps.

Night terrors are common in children aged 3 to 8 years, and they cease after a certain age. Moreover, they are rare occurrences in adults, with only about 1% complaining about the same. The person either remembers nothing about the dream after he/she wakes up, or remembers only certain bits and parts of it. However, people getting night terrors are almost impossible to calm down immediately after the dream, but are absolutely normal the next day.
Because of the frightening and/or emotional content that the nightmares have, they tend to make a deeper impact, even on the waking mind, than the other dreams, which a person might experience. This is because the images from the nightmares can be often remembered by a person even when he/she is awake as they tend to be more clear and vivid. Some researches indicate that sensitive, creative, and imaginative minds tend to have more number of nightmares than the others, probably because they are more prone to be affected by their surroundings.

While some nightmares might turn one's attention towards a situation or a problem that has been long avoided, and help cope with the same; some others might indicate something that is troubling one's subconscious mind. Although having nightmares can be a normal phenomenon, discussing them and consulting a psychologist or a dream analyst may be very helpful, not only in analyzing them, but also in getting rid of them.
Disclaimer: This  article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for the advice of a mental health expert.
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