They can be particularly disturbing and interfere with sleep patterns, but, to an infant or young child, this may not be so damaging because sleep will be caught up. For adults, whose life structure may not allow them to sleep as much or as long as they would like, frequently disturbing dreams or nightmares may be a health hazard.

Dreams, pleasant or otherwise, are neurological impulses that pass into the conscious centre from the sensory receptor areas of the brain. The speed with which the brain can transmit these impulses is very rapid and an epic dream lasting several hours may actually be imprinted through the conscious centres within seconds.

A dream may be the brain’s attempt at reflecting upon an event or trauma and may be used by the subconscious to help sort out problems.

A frightening movie before bed may create images as the brain tries to sort out whether it should be concerned at the recently raised levels of ‘fear chemicals’ such as adrenaline.

Past-life therapists may consider dreams to be carried over and their relevance may be of great import in certain therapeutic techniques. Although much study has been made of dreams, their significance is still poorly understood both from an orthodox scientific or an Eastern philosophical point of view. From a health stance, their only relevance is if they are disturbing sleep.

The contents of a dream do not necessarily reflect an underlying angst. It is hypothesized, for example, that dreaming of death will represent a marriage or birth. These associations are not strictly founded on any scientific studies but on the anecdotal evidence of people who have studied dreams for years. It is more likely that the brain will try to create either an answer or an escape for the consciousness. Ayurvedic physicians from India would consider the dream from the point of view of its dosha-vata (space and air), pitta (fire) and kapha (earth and water): a pitta nightmare may often be violent or heat-filled; tidal waves or drowning may represent excess kapha; and flying may be a vata excess. A tidal wave may also represent being overwhelmed by events beyond the individual’s control and may give a pointer to the area of the psyche that needs to be confronted.

Review your life structure and change stress patterns.

Counselling by a psychotherapist with an interest in the relevance of dreams may be of great use if no obvious anxiety is apparent.

Avoid stimulating foods or compounds that affect the nervous system, for at least 6hr before going to sleep. These include caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes and other drugs. Foods containing amines, such as chocolate and cheese, are also culprits.

The flower remedy Rockrose and good old Rescue Remedy are both useful if taken Ihr before bed-time.

There are hundreds of homeopathic remedies associated with scores of different dream/ nightmare subjects. The best remedy is chosen by reference to a homeopathic Materia Medica or a homeopathic prescriber. The remedies Aconite, Arsenicum, Belladonna and Nux vomica should all be reviewed for children who are having nightmares. Potency 30 before bed for five nights should do the trick. Please refer to your preferred homeopathic manual for the best remedy.