Ask mr Brain...all will be explained

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 August, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 August, 1999, 12:00am

Why do we have nightmares? MARGHERITA Nightmares are disturbing dreams that cause the dreamer to wake up. They are often accompanied by feelings of fear and anxiety.

It is quite common for children between the ages of three and eight to have nightmares. Adults tend to have nightmares only occasionally.

It is thought that childhood nightmares reflect the process of learning how to deal with normal fears and problems.

Nightmares that repeat a traumatic theme can be signs of a natural process of psychic healing if the intensity and frequency diminishes over time.

Sometimes people who recently had a traumatic experience, such as a death in the family or an accident, will suffer from nightmares. Veteran soldiers who have experienced the atrocities of war often have nightmares which occur repeatedly.

Other people have them when they experience stress at home, work or school. People who are sensitive, artistic and emotional sometimes have frequent nightmares that seem unconnected to their daily life.

Some therapists see nightmares as an opportunity for exploring one's mind. It is possible, with practice, to learn to minimise the distress associated with nightmares, decipher the visual and symbolic language of dreams.

Suggested ways to defuse the distress of nightmares include writing them down, creating images to describe themand imagining a more desirable ending.

Where did the expression 'touch wood' come from? Touching an item made from wood is an ancient European superstition.

When discussing their plans or hopes, people often touch wood in the belief it will protect their plans from misfortune.

The custom originated in pagan times when trees were held in high esteem. People believed that trees and woodlands were inhabited by wood spirits.

In pre-Christian Britain, Ireland and France, Druids worshipped nature spirits, especially oak trees and the mistletoe which grew on them.

Touching a tree meant the person was seeking help or protection from that particular spirit.

In later times the action may have been combined with Christianity. Christ was crucified on a wooden cross and touching a fragment of the cross was believed to heal or bring better fortune to the believer.

Although some consider touching wood to be a superstition, many people still carry on this tradition, even unconsciously.

How are soft drinks made? Soft drinks are made with syrup that is mixed with water. The syrup then goes through a machine about the size of small car, called a carbo- cooler. The carbo-cooler has pipes with little holes that release carbon dioxide into the syrup.

The fizzy mixture is then transported to a big machine which pumps the soda into bottles and cans.