Nightmares can be a part of everyone’s sleeping cycle, whether they’re children or adults. It’s natural and every once in a while when it occurs that you have one, it’s likely that you’ll forget about it in a matter of minutes or eventually hours. Unfortunately, to some people, nightmares became a routine in their sleeping time, induced by poor sleeping patterns, diet, lifestyle, stress or an ongoing condition. We crafted this article and put a lot of thought to include leading causes of bad dreams and how to stop nightmares.
Most common nightmares include the incapability to shout or scream for help when you’re being chased, the sensation of drowning or being trapped, teeth falling out, or falling from an extreme height. Even a Germany-based study confirms it. Still, if your child or you are going through more realistic and lively nightmares that affect your lifestyle and productivity throughout the day here’s how to stop nightmares.
7 common cause of nightmares
Children may have nightmares because of a bad event throughout the previous day that may have triggered them. On the other hand, nightmares in adults happen spontaneously and they don’t always have to indicate a deeper disorder with psychological implications. Here are some factors that may cause you to have nightmares.
- Meals – In some, midnight snack or a large meal during the late dinner can result in a realistic and deep nightmare that will lead to you feeling disturbed in the morning. The reason for that is because eating food, regardless of the time of the day results in the metabolism and digestive system is more active. In turn, the brain becomes more active too.
- Medicines – Some drugs have an effect on brain activity causing a more active REM phase (sleep phase where the dreams get created.) causing vivid dreams and eventually nightmares. Some people who drink antidepressants as well as consume narcotics can end up having nightmares. Additionally, people who have a cardio-vascular issue and take blood pressure medicines can have nightmares too.
- Avoidance – People who’ve decided to be abstinent from alcohol, drugs, tranquilizers or other substances may have nightmares until the hormones in their brains stabilize, resulting in a healthier sleep cycle. Change in medication, which can trigger hormonal disbalance can contribute to scary dreams too.
- Insomnia – People who suffer from sleep deprivation and insomnia, in particular, may end up having disturbing nightmares as a result of exhaustion, which leads to an additional loss of sleep.
- Mental disorders and conditions – From time to time, we may al feel anxious or depressed, and our fear of stressful situations can lead to our real-life worries replicating in our sleep. People who are clinically depressed can also have nightmares, as well as because of the medications they are taking, as stated above. Lastly, if you’ve had a TBI (traumatic brain injury) or suffer from unsightly events that caused post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) you can end up suffering from nightmares.
- Other sleep disorders – Some people suffer from sleep disorders which can replicate to their sleep cycle. Sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and other sleep disorders can cause loss of sleep or manifest as nightmares.
- Chronic nightmares – This condition could be associated with recurrent nightmares if no other case messes with your sleep. In that case, you should consider your doctor or therapist on things you could do.
How to stop nightmares?
Below, we underlined the best practices to stop nightmares. If no other remedies at home or changes in regular lifestyle don’t cause the nightmares to reduce or disappear, you may need to consult a psychologist or other type of therapist in case you have a distinct disorder.
1. Try to improve your sleep cycle
Naturally, the first thing we ask ourselves when we’ve been experiencing nightmares for a good while is how to fix that. While eliminating bad dreams permanently is impossible there are a few things we can do. Let’s start with our lifestyle and sleep hygiene.
Note: Many studies throughout the last years and decades concluded that the best sleep times are between 10 pm and 6 am. During that time, the body has an optimal time to rest and restore its metabolic functions, both physically and spiritually.
If you’ve caught yourself sleeping late, and waking up even later, you’re likely pushing your brain over the limit, to a point you lose every control over your cognitive capabilities while sleeping. Air your room after waking up and before going to sleep, fill the room with fresh air and make the ambient just right. Of course, if you go to sleep past midnight, it’ll be hard for you to get used to sleeping between 9 and 11 pm that easily. Still, you can give your brain a chance to rest properly.
Additionally, try to keep the temperatures in your room breezy and fresh. That means that in addition to airing frequently, it’d be best to keep your room in the temperature range from 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Lastly, disable light sources like TVs, VCRs, and put the phone away from you. Practicing sleeping hygiene may improve your night rest to a point you may no longer require an alarm clock to wake you up.
2. Improve diet and be mindful
As mentioned above, excess and late meals can contribute to having nightmares, as well as alcohol and narcotics. To improve your dreams, it’d be best to reduce heavy metals in the evenings and not eat past 7 pm.
Another thing that could be greatly helpful in improving your sleeping cycle is avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. Nicotine in the evening can lead to poorer breathing quality in the night, which in turn could lead to having nightmares. Don’t eat late night snacks and finally don’t eat too spicy food because it may trigger your metabolism and thus make your brain more active.
3. Write your dreams down
Some people who frequently visit their therapist or have psychologist friends who they often discuss with about various dreams including nightmares often prefer putting their thoughts on paper. Usually, people will forget their nightmare in a matter of minutes after they wake up unless the dream was so unnerving it left you with strong impressions.
Try to write your dreams down because every dream is just a replication of your daily activities that your brain tries to process and reciprocate while you’re sleeping in the REM phase. That way, you can conclude whether something ails or bothers you, causing to shape itself in the nightmares.
4. A talk helps
Sometimes, the best cure to most problems can be a heartwarming conversation with people who mean a lot to you. There’s no better way to let your emotions, fears, and anxieties out than talking to people who’ve known you for a while and know your lifestyle and pace.
Even if a stranger or an acquaintance knows their way with words, they can be a great help for venting and letting it all out. In the end, after having a good conversation and a warm cup of coffee, you will also feel better and sleep more peacefully.
5. Control your stress levels and put your worries away when going to bed
Everyday fast-paced life can carry a lot of stress, inducing nervousness, anxiety, and anger into our sleep routine. That can be bad for many reasons, not only it affects your sleep, causing restless nightmares and disturbance, it also leads to weaker appetite, poorer productivity and other unnerving situations occurring.
When going to sleep, try to eliminate the thought of worries that stress you out. Put your phone away and don’t check things that can trigger you, practice yoga or pilates, drink tea, read a book, draw and write. Do everything that will make you more thankful when going to sleep and more relaxed in the process.
Also Read: Should You Take A Bath Before Sleep?
6. Indulge in physical activities
Various research is the testament of numerous benefits of sports and physical activities on nights rest including pilates, jogging, gym, swimming, and others. Not only you’ll be too tired to have bad dreams, but you’ll also be cleared and worried about any negative thoughts you have while working on a fit and healthy physique.
7. If needed look for help
In the end, if neither of the aforementioned solutions works seeks professional help. There is no shame in having hormonal disbalance or suffering from a recurrent sleep disorder. Therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists exist because they want to help you. After all, you need to fix a problem caused by something that has been going on in your life.
You can talk your feelings out, describe your nightmares, talk about your workflow, lifestyle or possible stressful situations that make you snap in your sleep. There’s no reason to be afraid to seek help, it’s for your good.
While nightmares can make you feel unnerved, restless and scared, it’s important to understand that they aren’t real. Try to deep breathe and look at your surroundings so that you can distinguish between a nightmare and real life as soon as you start waking up or