“A soldier, wielding a sword, would chase me on his horseback in an ancient city. I would run for my life. As he inched closer, I would stumble and fall. I would try screaming, but would be unable to. I would try to get off the ground, but my legs wouldn’t move. Then, I would feel the cold pierce of his sword through my abdomen and the hot blood gush out of me. I would wake up panting, soaked in sweat, making the night colder,” recollects Sayambrita Mukherjee, an art teacher based in Hong Kong.
She is not alone in having such a vivid memory of the nightmare that had haunted her as a child. A lot many people easily recall recurring nightmares of the class bully who pushed them off the towering cliff or the predatory animal that tried to eat them. It is probably because they wake up soon after they experience horror. Explains psychologist and hypnotherapist Tishya Mahindru Shahani, “A nightmare usually occurs during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) phase of sleep. So, after a nightmare, orientation is fast. It leaves a detailed memory, often evoking anxiety, terror or fear.”
What are these wretched dreams that elicit such horror though? According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, nightmares are vivid, realistic and disturbing dreams, which involve threats to survival, security or self-esteem.
Why do people experience nightmares? Are there any underlying reasons behind them? Modern psychology has managed to give us some insight into the subject of nightmares, but much remains unexplained.