Some of my readers may recall that I suffer from Nightmare Disorder. It is an exceedingly rare, unpleasant sleep disorder which results in vivid, cruel nightmares that drag on all night. I've had it for as long as I can remember.
Athough Nightmare Disorder is not depression or anxiety, a mild anti-anxiety drug (Celexa), when taken at night, has been able to reduce it somewhat. Never the less, it remains there, lurking in the back of my subconscious, desperate to rear its ugly head whenever possible.
However, new research on REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep gives me some hope. Studies show that those of us who experience extended periods of REM are more prone to depression, vivid nightmares, and a negative outlook in the morning. Well, let's face it - if you faced Freddy Krueger every night, wouldn't you be a bit crabby in the mornings also?
So researchers agree that the way to combat such a problem is to reduce REM sleep, which goes contrary to what many of us learned in the psychology classes of the 1980s and early 90s when we were told all we needed was more REM. And, recent studies prove that these researchers are correct.
So, how do you reduce REM?
In sleep study labs, people who are woken up each time they go into REM sleep report less depression when they rise in the morning. But, this is hardly practical in everyday living. However some of the things that we can do to reduce REM are:
1. Have a little wine before bed
2. Up our intake of L-Tryptophan (small amounts are found in turkey and milk, but in order to reap the benefits, supplements are recommended)
3. Antidepressants of certain types
4. Any combination of the above
Of course it's not a license to become a wino or a pill popper. Instead, as with everything, moderation is the key.
But finally, there is hope.