Everyone has an occasional nightmare. They’re not fun, but after taking a few minutes to calm down, most people simply go back to sleep and move on. Recurring and frequent bad dreams, however, can significantly diminish the quality of your sleep and make the idea of climbing into bed at night downright frightening. If you’re struggling with disturbing dreams, try these eight tips that can help you reduce or eliminate your nightmares.
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Check Your Meds
Even if you prefer using natural and holistic remedies to treat health problems, sometimes a little help from prescription medications is necessary. Unfortunately, these medications do come with side effects, and bad dreams can be one of them. Statins, for example, are often used to treat high cholesterol when diet, exercise and fish oil supplements aren’t quite up to the task. Doctors know, however, that these drugs easily cross the blood-brain barrier and cause vivid dreams in patients. That’s fine when you’re dreaming about puppies and flowers, but it’s quite a different story when your dreams turn unpleasant. If you’re having bad dreams while on prescription drugs, talk to your doctor about whether your medication could cause your issue and find out if there are alternatives you can try.
Avoid Bedtime Stimulation
It’s possible that your bedtime routine could stimulate you, even if you’re doing something quiet. You may think that watching television or reading a book before bed is soothing, but televisions and books can both stimulate your brain and activate it. Even though your body is calm during these activities, your mind isn’t. Shutting down your brain before bed is crucial to restful and peaceful sleep. To combat your nightmares, try doing some simple stretches, meditating or taking a hot bath before bed. These activities will calm your body and your mind. Meditation doesn’t always come easy to everyone and can take some practice, learn more from experts by reading well know books based on mindful meditation to improve sleep.
Optimize Your Environment
Try combatting your nightmares by optimizing your sleep environment. Keep your bedroom dark, eliminating bright alarm clocks and other light sources. If you are unable to do this try using a sleep mask. The optimal sleeping temperature is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. If your room is too hot, try using a fan to cool it down a bit. At bedtime, diffuse an essential oil in your bedroom. Lavender, chamomile, and cedarwood all promote restful sleep. If you prefer, add a few drops of the oil to a bedtime bath instead.
Analyze Your Dreams
Some dreams result from your subconscious mind working through the events and stresses of your day. Others are psychic dreams. Psychic dreams are dreams that are trying to tell you something, and they’re not likely to go away until you get the message. While it’s tempting to try to ignore or forget bad dreams, they’re likely to go away faster if you face them head-on. Write down your dreams in a journal or talk them through with a trusted friend. Actively thinking about your dreams in these ways allows you to examine them consciously, sort them out and perhaps discover their meaning.
Play More Video Games
In a world where excessive screen time gets blamed for many of society’s ills, gamers will rejoice at the news that video games can reduce the number of bad dreams they have. A study by the American Psychological Association showed that playing video games reduced the number of nightmares experienced by soldiers in the military. Although further analysis is necessary to know for sure, the theory behind the study’s results is that video games allow gamers to face mock dangers and overcome them. Overcoming certain game scenarios teaches the brain that it can overcome adverse and dangerous situations. When it encounters a dangerous situation again in the form of a nightmare, it’s more likely to resolve the issue than react to it with the fear that causes agitation and sleep disturbance. Screen time isn’t recommended right before bed, but working some game time into your day may help you sleep better.
It seems counterintuitive to add noise to your bedroom for improving sleep, but doing so works on two levels. One is blocking out bad sounds. Your ears don’t go to sleep with you. They keep picking up on noises all night and sending those signals to your brain. Your brain then processes those signals and decides if the sound is worth waking up for. Even if it’s not, your mind might still incorporate the noises you hear into your dreams. Noises with negative associations like police sirens and arguing neighbors can trigger bad dreams. You can block these bad sounds out by playing calming music, ocean waves, crickets or other noises that you find soothing or happy. Get a White Noise Sound Machine. Use the machine to mask unwanted noise, these positive noises can block out negative ones, but they can also create associations of their own. If you have happy memories of the beach, listening to the sound of the waves while you sleep can trigger good dreams in the same way that scary noises trigger bad ones.
Avoid Bedtime Snacks
According to Harvard Medical School, science has pretty much debunked the notion that eating before bed causes nightmares. That doesn’t mean, however, that there isn’t any correlation between the two. Eating before bed charges your body up as it starts to digest and metabolize food. Food gives the body energy, which isn’t conducive to restful sleep. Eating before bed can also aggravate acid reflux. Extra energy from food and any associated heartburn both make you more prone to waking up in the middle of the night. Those who wake up during or immediately after a bad dream remember it more vividly and may be more affected by it. If you avoid snacking before bed, you increase the chances for more peaceful sleep and increase the odds that even if you do have a bad dream, you’ll sleep right through it and forget all about it come morning. If you have a tendency to get hungry late at night try a cup of chamomile tea or warm turmeric milk to help curb that need to eat and it will help also help you to relax.
Nightmares aren’t child’s play. They can be very disturbing and cause substantial disruptions in your sleep that leave you exhausted and make getting through the day difficult. If you’re having disturbing dreams that are impacting your quality of life, seek out the help of a doctor or psychiatrist. There is nothing shameful or childish about needing help to deal with your nightmares, especially if they are a response to a traumatic event. Whether you’re dealing with PTSD or just need a little help learning how to reduce your stress level before bed, psychotherapy is a valuable tool that can improve your sleep to energize your waking hours.
List of Sleep Aids
This is a Quick Reference list of the sleep aids mentioned in this article.
AVANTEK White Noise Sound Machine
Silk Sleep Mask
Buddha’s Book of Sleep
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