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Why do traumatic experiences lead to nightmares?

15 Answers
Last Updated: 12/10/2018 at 11:15pm
1 Tip to Feel Better
United States
Moderated by

Stacy Overton, PhD.


I am an enthusiastic life-long learner and also a professor of counseling. I have a passion for peoples stories and helping to guide and empower the human spirit.

Top Rated Answers
March 4th, 2015 3:20am
Sometimes our brain takes a while to sort out our emotions post-trauma, which happens subconsciously
June 30th, 2015 11:05pm
dreams are said to be a part of what we think and our memories. whatever is dominantly there in our subconscious mind frames our dreams most of the time. If we are sad, scared or stressed we usually have nightmares and when we are happy or relaxed it is rare to have nightmares. Traumatic experiences have a long lasting effect on us which forms scary or disturbing dreams and usually the nightmares reduce in frequency with time.
July 6th, 2015 6:31pm
Nightmares (like flashbacks) are the result of the brain attempting to make sense of an unprocessed memory. As recovery from traumatic experiences progresses the frequency and intensity of nightmares usually decreases too.
July 24th, 2015 1:06am
Dreams are left over pieces of our day. What ever we have not processed, our dreams try to do that. Flashbacks and nightmares can be scary and overwhelming. But the more you process while you are awake, the less flashbacks and nightmares you will have.
October 27th, 2015 11:28pm
Traumatic experiences lead to nightmares because they are experiences that you are scared of. Unfortunately, the brain likes to replay those things.
July 3rd, 2017 5:38am
Because they become so embedded in our brains that our subconscious takes over. Sometimes therapy is required to try and 'undo' these experiences. Often nightmares are a result of unresolved issues, or issues that haven't been dealt with properly.
May 15th, 2018 12:27pm
Because by blocking the experience from your daily life you push it into the realm of the dreams where you cannot control it.
March 4th, 2015 6:23am
Traumatic experiences are often left unresolved, and so our subconscious finds various ways to make us re-live the experience until we have resolved those issues within ourselves. Nightmares is often one of the ways our subconscious is telling us we are not over this event that occurred in our life. Issues like these need to be handled with care by a professional therapist.
April 20th, 2015 4:55pm
Trauma has probably got something to do with the unconscious mind. And this is how traumatic memories reappear in dreams.
May 12th, 2015 1:42pm
traumatic experiences lead to nightmares because the memory of the experience haunts you. You never really forget when something bad happens to you. It gives you nightmares because you relive the moment in your mind.
June 8th, 2015 9:17pm
Some times these can be vary traumatizing to the brain and heart . Some times these things can`t be erased from the mind and the heart and its not easy . This is my view of why night mares happen
June 17th, 2015 11:37am
Its a scary situation and the mind held onto it. PTSD does stuff to the mind. Its something thats not really understood, unless you have experienced such experiences that are just scary to you.
October 26th, 2015 10:59pm
because you haven't moved on. once you come to terms with your circumstance moving on is easier and eventually makes you stronger.
September 11th, 2018 2:09am
We (science!) don't really know a lot about nightmares, and the way that the brain processes trauma is super complicated. What we do know though is that this happens during REM sleep (rapid eye movement). During this time, our brain processes a massive amount of information - everything from memories, things that we've experienced, new sensations, feelings that we've had during the day etc etc. It's believed that a lot of this stuff is subconscious (not things we're aware of). When we have traumatic experiences, our brain is constantly processing it and trying to make sense of it. Our brains both want to understand it, make us feel safe and learn about trauma so that we can function in everyday life. Even though they can be super scary, when we start to process that trauma (like through therapy), you'll find that you do get less over time.
December 10th, 2018 11:15pm
I think that night dreams are about what we fear or what we like: brain may also try to find solutions to what sounds to be a "no way out" when we are awake. If during daily life something triggers us then here there are nightmares. To try to focus on what we feel during/after nightmares, maybe can help understanding if we are still fighting with some fears or any other emotion. There are also different kind of traumas: some may require professional help, more when we see they impact on our daily life than for the nightmares themself. The nightmare can also tell us about something we haven't yet overcome but we would tend to avoid/hide when we are awake. It's like to have to deal with our subconscious that is linked to our inside and needs to be heard too. To consider nightmares and try to track when and why they happen may help us to be aware if there is something we need to pay attention to, in order to have a better life after traumatic experiences.