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The Dark Science Behind Nightmares

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You shoot awake jolted with fear and dripping with cold sweat—you just had a nightmare. You may be the frequent victim of scary dreams or hardly suffer them at all.  However, many factors can leave us prone to horrific dreamscapes creeping into our slumber.  So take a deep breath and gather up your nerve, let’s explore the dark science behind nightmares…

1. What Causes Nightmares?

According to statistics from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), young children between the ages of 5- and 12-years old are the most frequent age group plagued with nightmares.

The most common sources of nightmares for kids are likely exactly what you’d expect—watching a scary movie or television program or listening to a spine-tingling story before bedtime. However, real life events can also disturb a child’s (or even an adult’s) sleep cycle and cause vivid and terrifying dreams. For example, the AASM points to stress, changes in schedule (i.e., new school year), or even a family death as common nightmare culprits.

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