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How to Tame Your Nightmares
Shelby Harris, Psy.D., C.BSM is Director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center and Assistant Professor of Neurology as well as Psychiatry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. A graduate of Brown University, Dr. Harris received her doctorate in clinical psychology from Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, Yeshiva University.
As a licensed psychologist, Dr. Harris specializes in behavioral sleep medicine and CBT for anxiety and depression. She has published and presented research on the neuropsychological effects of insomnia in older adults as well as behavioral treatments for insomnia, parasomnias, narcolepsy and excessive daytime sleepiness. Dr. Harris is also a consultant for the New York Times "Consults Blog."
Question: How are nightmares different than regular dreams?
Shelby Harris: So nightmares are distinctly different from dreams in the way that people feel them and experience them. So a lot of people think that a nightmare is something where something is chasing them and you have to wake up screaming. Yes, that’s one of the more common nightmares that we see is the person chasing someone or they’re being chased. But really, a nightmare just really has to evoke some sort of, we call it, dysphoric emotion or something uncomfortable. You could be sad, you could be unhappy; you could be scared, anxious. But traditionally, the definition is you have to awaken from this nightmare. So you have it, you awaken from it and you can recall, in detail, what just happened, that’s a nightmare. So it’s very different from a dream where you generally don’t wake up from it and you don’t have this dysphoric emotion.
There’s some debate as to whether you need to awaken from them because there are some patients who are actually starting to say, “I had these horrible nightmares, but I never woke up from them.” But they can still recall them when they get up in the morning. So there’s still some debate in the field.
When it comes to the reason why we have nightmares, we’re still debating that. It’s a new area of research, nightmares. And the way I like to think about it is, our brain – we have stress during the day and our brain needs to learn to process this stress. So there are people who have repetitive nightmares. And what happens is their brain is trying to process the stress and help their brain actually deal with what happens if this stress happens again, so their brain’s preparing them to deal with it in case the stress happens again, but it’s so scary that they awaken from it. So they’re never actually able to finish the file and put it away, it just keep happening because they awaken from it.
Question: How does IRT help one overcome nightmares?
Shelby Harris: So Image Rehearsal Therapy, or IRT, we’ll call it for now, it’s a very, very simple treatment that was developed by Barry Krakow in the late 90’s, early turn of the decade to really help change the imagery that you’re having at night. So we think of it as imagery during the day, seeing things, picturing things in your head, painting a picture is very similar to imagery at night. That’s what dreams are, nightmares; imagery in the night. So what we do is we take these very simple techniques by basically telling someone if they have a nightmare – so take someone who has a recurrent nightmare of being chased by someone. We’ll have them come in and we’ll say to them, “Okay, not take that nightmare, tell me what it is, but now I don’t want you to think about it anymore. Just take it almost like it’s on at piece of paper and throw it out. Change that nightmare anyway you want. You change a tiny bit of it; you can change the whole thing. It doesn’t matter.” And I’m not the one to tell them how to change it. It’s their dream that they’re making. “so change it anyway you want to make it – just it could be neutral, it can be positive, whatever.” So the person chasing them could be a very scary experience.
What they would do is for example, I had a patient yesterday who changed his nightmare from him being chased to actually having his two younger brothers chasing him around in his old apartment and they were playing. So just by still having the chasing element, but making it a fun, playful chase with two people he knew, made it a much different dream than the nightmare he was having.
So then what I had him do was to close his eyes and I had him picture the story of his brothers came in they started chasing him, his mom yelled at them to stop, then they stopped for a minute and then they kept running after each other. He pictured that whole story in his head into the picture and he could see what everyone was wearing, the smells he could tell, he could see the carpet, every detail. And once he took himself through that picture for about five minutes, practiced it morning and night, if you keep doing that it actually helps reduced the nightmare frequency because you’re getting control over your nightmare.
Question: Does the patient then have this new dream while they’re asleep?
Shelby Harris: For some patients, they’ll have that new dream, for others it just reduces the nightmare frequency. We don’t know why yet. But it’s such a simple technique because it gives you control over it, over the nightmare that it works – there have been studies that showed for upwards of 90% of patients who actually do this treatment actually report it getting better, the nightmare frequency.
Question: Are night terrors different from nightmares?
Shelby Harris: Night terrors are very different from nightmares. A lot of people will think they’re the same, but they’re really not. Night terrors – you want to look at the time of night when you’re having the problem. Night Terrors happen in deep sleep. Nightmares tend to happen in a lighter REM sleep. So, night terrors are in deep sleep, and they’re more common in kids, as are nightmares, but what happens in a night terror is like a flash – we think a flash of some image or something happens in the brain. We don’t really quite know what. And it usually ends up with the child screaming almost like screaming bloody murder. It’s very scary for the parents or whoever else is around. But it happens very fast and the child has no recollection of it. They tend to stare off into space when they’re screaming. You can’t really engage them at all. And the child will go right back to sleep afterwards and have no recollection of it in the morning, or very little recollection. Usually there’s no recollection. It’s more scary for the parents.
So in kids, what we think is happening in the brain, the way I like to think about it is, it’s almost like, you’re brain is going through all these stages of sleep and it’s developing in children so fast that it’s almost like you’re shifting gears in a car. And at some point, you actually stall out a little bit, and that’s kind of what happens during a night terror. They’re brain is shifting so fast that it stalls out, they have this episode, but then they go back to sleep and everything regulates itself.
Very common in kids, like I said, it tends to get better as you get older. Now there’s some night terrors that happen in adults. And if it starts as an adult and you’ve never had them before, then there might be other things that are happening; it might be anxiety, depression, stress. And that’s when you might have more of a thorough psychological evaluation. In kids we don’t generally attribute it to any psychological basis.
Harris practices Imagery Rehearsal Therapy, which teaches patients to take control of nightmares by rehearsing them during the day and changing them into positive scenarios. 90% of Harris’s patients report this therapy to decrease the frequency of their nightmares.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Vaccines find more success in development than any other kind of drug, but have been relatively neglected in recent decades.
Vaccines are more likely to get through clinical trials than any other type of drug — but have been given relatively little pharmaceutical industry support during the last two decades, according to a new study by MIT scholars.
Want help raising your kids? Spend more time at church, says new study.
- Religious people tend to have more children than secular people, but why remains unknown.
- A new study suggests that the social circles provided by regular church going make raising kids easier.
- Conversely, having a large secular social group made women less likely to have children.
Be fruitful and multiply<p>Scientists in the United Kingdom collected data on more than 13,000 mothers and their children. Most of them were religious, but 12 percent were not. The data included information on their church habits, social networks, number of children, and the scores those children achieved on a standardized test.</p><p>In line with previous findings that religious women have more children than secular women in industrialized countries, a connection between at least monthly church attendance and fertility was confirmed. However, religious parents showed they could avoid the pitfalls that having more children can bring. </p><p>Typically, more children in a family leads to reduced cognitive ability and height in each <a href="https://academic.oup.com/ije/article/37/6/1408/729795" target="_blank">child</a>. Some studies find that children do less well in school for each <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13524-016-0471-0" target="_blank">additional sibling they have</a>. This makes a kind of intuitive sense, as parents with more children would have to divide their time, energy, and resources among more people as families expand. One would expect that the larger families would also lead to things like lower test scores. </p><p>Despite the expectation, the children of religious parents didn't have lower scores on standardized tests. There were small positive relationships between the size of the mother's social network, the number of co-religionists helping out, and the children's test scores. However, this association was small, didn't show up in all of the testings, and was unrelated to other variables. </p> These effects might be explained by the size and helpfulness of the social networks around the more religious. Women who went to church at least once a month had more extensive social networks than those who never go or who attend yearly. These social networks of co-religious people mean that there are more people to turn to for help with child-rearing, a point also demonstrated in the data. The amount of aid women got from their fellow churchgoers was also associated with a higher fertility rate. <br> <br> Conversely, an extensive social network was associated with fewer children for secular women. This finding is in line with <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1207/s15327957pspr0904_5" target="_blank">previous studies</a> and suggests that the social networks comprised of co-religious individuals differ from those found elsewhere.
So, how quickly should I join a local religious group?<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="6RrmYM8M" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="9eb4740a7d1e10108a75fd2ed627a90f"> <div id="botr_6RrmYM8M_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/6RrmYM8M-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/6RrmYM8M-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/6RrmYM8M-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>The study is not without its faults, and more investigations into the relationship between fertility, childcare, ritual, and social networks are needed.</p><p>These findings all show correlation, not causation. Though it might be said the results point towards causation, various alternative interpretations of the data are apparent. The authors note that most religions are explicitly pro-natal. It is possible that religious women have internalized these values and simply choose to have more children than secular women do.</p><p>This idea is similar to a potential interpretation of why large social networks have the opposite effect for secular women. The authors suggest that, in some cases, these more extensive social networks are associated with work and exert an anti-natal influence. Again, the people who build such networks may be people unlikely to have large families under any circumstances.</p><p>However, the researchers' hypothesis endured. The help religious women get from their church-based social networks allows them to have larger families than those who lack these support systems. In some instances, these support systems also prevent the adverse effects of larger families. </p>
The community religion offers<p>As we've mentioned <a href="https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/what-is-secular-humanism" target="_blank">before</a>, religion offers a community, and a community provides social capital. As religion continues to decline in the West, the social bonds of faith communities that used to tie social communities together begin to decay. However, as has been noted by a variety of observers for the last few decades, fewer and fewer new organizations appear ready to replace religion as a source of community in our lives.</p><p>While many different organizations might offer social support that religion once provided the whole of western society, this study shows that different social circles can differently affect the people in them. This finding must be considered by those trying to find new communities to join or the authors of future research. </p><p>The community offered by religious groups provides real benefits to those who join them. As this study shows, having the support network religious community offers allows some parents to avoid pitfalls that bedevil those lacking similar support. It suggests that previous studies demonstrating that group ritual offers benefits like increased amounts of <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0956797612472910" target="_blank">group trust</a> and <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1069397103037002003" target="_blank">cooperation</a> are onto something and that those benefits have a variety of applications. </p><p>While this study is not without its blind spots, it offers a strong starting point for further investigations into the nature of ritual in our modern lives and how local support networks remain vital in our increasingly globalized world. </p>
What would it be like to experience the 4th dimension?
Physicists have understood at least theoretically, that there may be higher dimensions, besides our normal three. The first clue came in 1905 when Einstein developed his theory of special relativity. Of course, by dimensions we’re talking about length, width, and height. Generally speaking, when we talk about a fourth dimension, it’s considered space-time. But here, physicists mean a spatial dimension beyond the normal three, not a parallel universe, as such dimensions are mistaken for in popular sci-fi shows.
Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.
- The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
- Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>