nightmares? Why would your brain scare you?


nightmares? Why would your brain scare you?

In: Biology



What if the chemicals that make you experience fear are already present and the dream is a rationalization of your emotional state?

There are theories that say dreams/nightmares are your brain “trying to prepare you for future potential threats”.

When you sleep, your brain goes through emotions and feelings you might not experience often when you are awake. This way you are familiar with them when it does occur. Think of it as training.

It doesn’t know it’s scaring you. The brain has a fluke whereby when it’s processing data and sorting it, it actually has to access it to see what it is. This makes your conscious self experience the thoughts.

It’s like if you were a library assistant to audio books without any titles. Well, the Librarian would have to listen to every one to figure it out, and you have to manage to do your job through every dumb noise.

Now this is just a theory of mine, but neurochemicals can act like little keys on the synapses. We have drugs called “reuptake inhibitors.” It keeps them in place. Caffeine and other drugs are like pushing the button down or pressing down on the gas and not letting up, depleting our energy stores. Look up people’s experiences taking 5HTP, a precursor to serotonin, and the effects it has on their dreams. Most people report nightmares, at least at first.

So my theory is that when the chemicals release from the neurons, or are taken back up (reuptake) it has a negative feeling. It’s basically a retraction or a withdrawal, if you will. One way or another, you gotta lift your finger off that pleasure/energy button or you’ll fry. So this uncomfortable feeling can happen during the day, or perhaps many people experience it at night, when they’re relatively safe in the dream world.

I think everything everyone else said about dreams is accurate, but I just thought I’d add why you might experience feelings of dread or fear in a dream when you have no real logical explaination since your waking life is just fine. Not to mention the fact that weird stuff can happen in a dream that might freak someone out.

Dreams are the portion of your brain’s filing process that you remember.

(“Filing” ~= reviewing, organizing, discarding as needed, sent for further processing as needed, etc. And, finally, archived in your brain by creating a map/index to the relevant pieces of information in long-term memory storage.)

Nightmares are just dreams – usually ones that involve processing emotions or emotionally-charged memories. Or sometimes because you just ate food (usually sugar) too close to bedtime.


The way I’ve come to understand it in my studies, is that it’s when an issue has become a problem to the whole body, and a part of the brain wants to see how the consciousness would react to a situation it was put in… but can’t use easy stuff, so it kinda Sandbox G-Mod’s mishmashes current subjects and topics being processed into long term storage, into a scenario that will let you confront an anxiety with no fear of death to the body…

**If you have a fear of being lost, you’ll have nightmares of being lost in a mall… this is your brain trying to train you to figure out ways to overcome obstacles. It’s kinda like holo-deck exercise or VR training.**

Blame evolution. We have evolved to stay safe. That is a reason why we constantly relive our mistakes of the past and why we have bad dreams hammering this worry and fears into our brains. Animals that worry too much and so take greater care still live long enough to procreate and pass along thee worry and bad dream genes. Even if they don’t live the happiest of lives. Evolution does not work to make us happy, only to procreate.

Nightmares might be a means of your brain “training” you. If you have a nightmare about being chased by a dog, your brain might learn a few things by thinking about the scenario and prepare you just in case you get chased by a dog in the future.

Scientist are getting closer to recording dreams, actually.
I remember even seeing them managing to record a small speck of the dream one guy had, if I recall correctly.

It wasn’t clear or anything but it was almost an object/image. The guy sleeping was hooked up to electrodes and such.

The Freudian view is that it is a way of hiding the ‘wish’ of a dream.

So, according to Sigmund Freud, there are a bunch of changes going on called the ‘dream work’, which are there to modulate a stimulus from the subconscious in a metaphorical fashion, that stimulus, always representing a subconscious wish. The problem becomes modifications that are indeed scary.

Another important thing is the source of the stimuli. All initial stimuli are from the prior day, however the modifications can be pulled from memories across your entire life (even if you can’t remember it). If you have ever felt a moment of fear (of course you have, we all have), then that can be used in a dream as a metaphorical device to hide the so called wish. Importantly, logic isn’t present in [most] dreams, and thus the child-like fears we had cannot be mitigated in dreams by our adult wisdom; so if you were scared of shadows as a child, your mind can use that fear in your dreams despite no longer being afraid of shadows as an adult.

Not everyone agrees with Freud, and after reading his 600+ page book on dreams, I definitely am skeptical to some aspects. However, it is insightful in many ways, and it takes a very different perspective to the typical science perspective. I’m a science guy (hence why I’m a med student), but I can’t help to be fascinated and curious about Freud’s ideas, and at some points, outright convinced.

One theory, especially for recurrent nightmares, is that they’re your brain’s way of practicing for emergencies. Here’s a [source](

Off-Topic: Imagine if we made video game AIs so advanced, we had to make sure they didn’t “figure out” they were inside a game and refuse to continue playing along. We’d have to make sure they didn’t see things like loading screens, menus, respawning, etc. Or would we? Maybe they’d just make up their own explanations for us. “Dreams” perhaps. Imaginings. Maybe you even could load a bunch of AIs from different games into a weird mash-up crossover remix game, and then put them back into their worlds with their memories in-tact.

I’ve read a theory that people have nightmares to prepare you for the real life situations.

For example: when cavemen had nightmares it would probably be about being attacked by animals. So next time they would encounter something like that they already have some “experience”

Could be a reason why children have more nightmares than grown up people (based on what I hear and remember myself)

There’s a theory that nightmares are sort of like “practice” for real-life scary situations.

My brain does a lot of things while I’m awake that I don’t approve of/scare me. I can only assume it’s going to “do its worst” when fully off the leash, so to speak.

One theory is that nightmares or other scary dreams are essentially “dress rehearsals” for your brain. You brain has fears, so one way to deal with them is to play out the scenario while you are sleeping in a way that won’t hurt you.