Adult nightmares. It’s not something we talk about very often.
It’s estimated that approximately 2%-8% of the adult population experience nightmares. I didn’t actually realise how unusual this was for a long time because for me it was such a normal part of my life. It was only after mentioning it in passing a few times that I discovered other people my age weren’t having the same problem. I started looking into it and found that actually, it’s pretty uncommon.
Nightmares are associated with children, which in some ways makes it a slightly embarrassing problem to have. Being afraid of sleeping, and of things that aren’t real, doesn’t feel like something that should follow you into adulthood.
I can remember having nightmares since I was little, and there’s no period in my life in which they have stopped. They come in many forms for me. Some are abstract and nonsense, and I can’t really recall them when I wake up. Others are realistic and at times lucid. One is recurring: I am in a situation in which either a person or some sort of force is stopping me from being able to scream or move and I am being attacked in various different ways. The situation is always different but the premise is always the same. Sometimes when I wake up I don’t realise it’s not real and those moments are genuinely terrifying.
I frequently need to be woken up by my boyfriend, and recently woke us both up screaming. A friend had to wake me up out of a nightmare when we went on holiday together. It shouldn’t be embarrassing, but it is.
I don’t have them every night, probably once or twice a week, and it’s not enough that I fear going to sleep. But I am afraid to fall back to sleep afterwards. I am frequently tired from my sleep being so disturbed, and sometimes the trauma of what I have dreamt follows me into the day, despite me knowing full well that it’s not real.
I don’t really see this topic be discussed very often – which makes sense given that it’s not a common problem, but if you are an adult out there having nightmares, don’t be ashamed! You’re not alone.
And if you have experienced this as an adult, I would love to hear anything you have tried that has helped you.