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Psychology Term Paper

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Describe the following sleep phenomena: nightmares, night terrors, sleepwalking, and sleeptalking.

Nightmares are terrifying dreams that occur during REM sleep, or rapid eye movement sleep. These dreams include exceptionally disturbing emotions, such as anger, guilt, sadness or depression, but the most common feelings are fear and anxiety. The most common nightmare is being chased. Adults are commonly chased by an unknown male figure while children are chased by an animal or some fantasy figure. Nightmares are less common in adults than in children. Nightmares are upsetting enough to us that they wake us up during our dreams. Just about everyone has a nightmare one time or another. Everyone can vividly remember their nightmares, but people don't get nightmares very often. We think that we have them more often than we do, because we don't remember a majority of our dreams. Some nightmares can be caused by certain drugs of medications, or by rapid withdrawal from them. Many people experience nightmares after they have suffered a traumatic event, such as surgery, the loss of a loved one, an assault or a severe accident. The content of these nightmares is typically directly related to the traumatic event and the nightmares often occur over and over. Other people experience nightmares when they are undergoing stress in their waking lives. Recurrent nightmares are the most defining symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Night terrors are less common than nightmares, but can be more frightening. A person suddenly wakes up in a state of panic, with screaming, heavy breathing, thrashing about, confusion, rapid heart rate, the inability to explain what happened, and sweating. Usually, the person has no memory of an accompanying dream. Some may have a vague sense of frightening images. Night terrors occur during the deepest part of non-REM sleep. Night terrors are most common in young children, but sometimes adults experience them. The causes of night terrors are not well understood. They may be associated with stress in adults.

Sleepwalking is a sleep disorder effecting an estimated 10% of all humans at least once in their lives. Sleepwalkers often have a strong family history of sleepwalking. Sleepwalking occurs during non-REM sleep. Sleepwalkers rise out of bed and can carry on very complicated activities. A sleepwalker can go back to sleep some place other than bed, depending on how far he or she has walked. Sleepwalkers are usually unaware of their activity. Many sleepwalkers have had the experience of waking up during their travels. They often describe a dream that they were actually acting out in sleep, like opening a door or dancing. Episodes usually last from one to five minutes, but may last as long as one hour. Behavior can range from simply sitting at the end of the bed, to leaving the room or going outside, to getting into a car. Some cases have even involved the physical and verbal attack



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