Nightmares happen to all of us at one time or another. Though a lot can be learned from these spooky and unsettling dreams…they are often unpleasant and can start your day off on the wrong foot. Especially if they disrupt your sleep schedule. So, the question remains: is there any way to avoid them? To skip those frightening dreams and enjoy a more peaceful night of sleep? Perhaps. Some believe that it is possible to prevent nightmares from occurring. Here are a few suggestions to help you achieve a better (and potentially nightmare free) rest.
More About Nightmares
Yes, nightmares happen. Even though most of us would much rather they did not! There are many reasons someone may want to prevent nightmares. On a surface level, they can be scary or uncomfortable and may even force you to face your biggest fears. Whether that happens to be spiders, being followed, or falling…those dream scenarios can feel all too real. Not only can nightmares be scary, but they can also impact your ability to fall back asleep. There is nothing more frustrating than waking up from a particularly frightening nightmare and feeling your heart hammer in your chest as you struggle to return to a state of slumber. The next day, you might feel extra tired and fail to accomplish everything on your to-do list.
Every dream has a meaning and the same is true for nightmares. (Check out the Spirit Earth Magazine article, “Nightmare Meanings – Interpret What Your Dreams Are Really Saying,” for more on that.) While it is always possible to dig deeper into what your subconscious is trying to tell you…sometimes you just want to prioritize a peaceful night of rest. That’s okay! There are many ways to avoid nightmares altogether. However, it is important to remember that sometimes nightmares occur due to certain medications or underlying health conditions. If that is the case, be sure to speak to your doctor about what can be done.
Prevent Nightmares with Stress Reduction
There is no doubt about it. Stress can impact the body in countless ways. Not only is stress associated with low energy levels, headaches, insomnia, stomach issues, body aches, chest pains, weight gain, depression and anxiety…it can also impact the types of dreams that you have at night. Excess stress levels are associated with poor sleep and can even trigger nightmares. How can you reduce the number of nightmares you experience? Start with stress reduction techniques. There are many possibilities to consider. For instance, counselling or therapy to address stressful situations, guided meditations, breathing techniques, and regular exercise (yoga and tai chi are especially relaxing and can be modified based on your fitness level). It is also a good idea to avoid watching loud, violent, or scary television shows a few hours before bed (as they can increase your stress levels and trigger nightmares). Something lighthearted is a better option before bed. Or taking time to read a book can also be beneficial for stress reduction.
Set a Regular Nighttime Routine to Avoid Nightmares
Never underestimate the power of an evening routine. It can prevent nightmares! Having a set time that you wake up and go to sleep (even on the weekends) is important and can reduce the likelihood of nightmares occurring. Equally important is making sure that the place you sleep checks off all the boxes. Add blackout curtains to your windows to prevent light from disrupting your slumber and turn the thermostat down slightly at night. Curious about the latter? According to the National Sleep Foundation, overall sleep quality is improved in a cooler room. The recommendation is to set the thermostat to 65 degrees Fahrenheit or 18.3 degrees Celsius. To prevent nightmares, do what you can to make your bedroom as calming and serene as possible. For example, re-paint the walls to a soft and soothing blue colour or add in some nature pictures. The less you associate your bedroom with nightmares and stress…the better.
Prevent Nightmares By Making Changes to Your Diet
The old saying is true: you are what you eat. When it comes to dreams, what you consume can significantly impact whether you have sweet dreams or terrifying nightmares. It is recommended that the use of caffeine and alcohol be limited several hours before you plan to go to sleep. Alcoholic beverages in particular can make you more restless and disrupt sleep patterns. That makes you more likely to remember your nightmares. There have also been studies that link eating junk food before bed with experiencing nightmares. Alternatively, spicy foods have been found to disrupt sleep. Yes, different types of late-night snacking can cause your brain to become more active. That increases the chances of a nightmare occurring. What can you do? Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and snacking at least two to three hours before bed. Chances are, the number of nightmares you experience will decrease.
Try Imagery Rehearsal Therapy if a Nightmare Occurs
So…what happens if you experience a nightmare? Despite all of your best efforts to prevent nightmares from occurring, you managed to experience a spooky or scary dream. All is not lost. It is time to take control of that dream. After waking from a nightmare, most of us rehash the details in our minds over and over again. (Even though we don’t want to!) Imagery Rehearsal Therapy is one suggested solution. This is where you mentally change the ending of the dream. Need an example? Say you were being chased in the woods and the nightmare had a bleak ending. Change that ending so it is no longer scary. Imagine that your dream self was able to find a way out of the woods and into safety. Create any scenario that makes you feel comforted and at ease. Not only will this help you feel safer in the moment, but it may also be able to prevent nightmares from happening in future. Do whatever you need to do to feel safe.
Say so long to difficult nights of sleep and wave goodbye to dreams that leave you chilled to the bone. There are many ways to prevent nightmares. Find what works for you!