Nightmares can be very unpleasant, cause fear and anxiety, and affect the quality of your sleep. This can result in physical exhaustion and mental stress. However, it is important to understand the causes of nightmares before you can tackle them. Get started with Step 1 below to understand the causes of your nightmares and steps to prevent them from appearing in your sleep.
Method 1 of 3: Understanding Nightmares
Step 1. Recognize that having nightmares as an adult is relatively normal
Many people associate nightmares with young children, believing that they are something that will pass when they grow up. However, it is not uncommon for adults and teens to experience nightmares.
- In fact, 1 in 2 adults will have nightmares every now and then, while 2% to 8% of the adult population suffer from chronic or recurring nightmares.
- Nightmares are characterized by vividly realistic images, thoughts, and emotions, which cause your heart to beat faster and sometimes even wake you from sleep. Sometimes the details of the nightmare will be remembered and the frightening or disturbing image is difficult to shake off.
- As a result, nightmares will affect the quality of sleep, causing physical fatigue, stress and mental anxiety. If your sleep is disturbed by nightmares, it can cause problems in other aspects of your life and even lead to long-term health problems. Therefore, it is important to understand the source of nightmares and take steps to prevent them from occurring.
Step 2. Understand the difference between nightmares and night terrors
Nightmares and night terrors are two different sleep disorders that are sometimes confused with each other.
- Nightmare tends to occur during REM sleep, so you'll usually experience it in the early hours of the morning. Nightmares come as scary or disturbing dreams that seem real as if they really happened. The content of dreams varies from person to person, but many adults report having nightmares about being chased or falling from a height. People who experience a traumatic event tend to relive the event in their nightmares.
- Night terror occurs during the deeper stages of sleep and tends to occur in the first few hours of sleep. It is usually experienced as an intense feeling of fear, which is not accompanied by a dream or image. It is often accompanied by movement (struggling or sitting up in bed) that may wake the person up. After waking up they usually don't remember why they were so scared.
Step 3. Understand that nightmares can be a symptom of a bigger problem
Although nightmares in adults often occur spontaneously without a serious cause, sometimes they are the result of psychological conditions such as anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Nightmares are more likely to be experienced when the sufferer has recently experienced a traumatic or life-changing event, such as the loss of a loved one, hunting or job loss, giving birth, undergoing surgery, or being involved in an accident.
- Sometimes nightmares are a symptom of another sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome. Other times, a person is more likely to have nightmares due to a genetic problem, as research shows that the tendency to have nightmares runs in families.
Method 2 of 3: Preventing Nightmares
Step 1. Treat all the distractions that cause it
If your nightmares are the result of problems such as sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome, then treating these problems should help reduce nightmares.
- If your nightmares are related to anxiety, depression or PTSD, certain therapies or medications can help relieve these problems and reduce nightmares.
- In particular, a drug called Prazosin is usually prescribed to help patients suffering from PTSD, anxiety and panic, thereby reducing nightmares.
- It's important to talk to your doctor so you know the best treatment option for you.
Step 2. Avoid eating before bed
Eating before bed can trigger nightmares, because food speeds up metabolism and sends signals to the brain to be more active. Therefore, it is a good idea to avoid snacks, especially those high in sugar.
Step 3. Reduce stress
Stress can play a role in creating nightmares, so take some time to relax during the day and aim to go to bed with a clear and calm mind.
- Both Yoga and meditation are great activities to reduce stress and clear the mind. Consider taking yoga and meditation classes, or practicing for a few minutes each day in your own home.
- Other activities such as reading, knitting, running, or just spending time with family and loved ones can help relieve stress.
- Taking a hot shower before bed can help you release the stress of the day and make you feel calmer and more relaxed.
Step 4. Talk to your doctor about any medications you are currently taking
Certain medications can increase your chances of having nightmares, so talk to your doctor if you think it's a problem.
- Certain antidepressants and blood pressure medications are often responsible for causing nightmares, so talk to your doctor about switching to another medication.
- Sometimes a change in dosage or certain medications can cause nightmares, in which case the nightmares will lessen as the body adjusts.
Step 5. Improve your sleep quality
Although nightmares can cause sleep deprivation, sleep deprivation can also cause nightmares. Therefore, taking steps to improve your sleep can help you prevent nightmares.
Make the bedroom a relaxing place.
Keep your bedroom neat and clean, make sure the room is dark enough and avoid temperatures that are too hot or cold. Make sure your bed is comfortable. Use a white noise machine to drown out unwanted noise. The bedroom is only used for sleeping, working in the bedroom can make you associate it with stress.
More physical exercise.
Exhausting yourself with physical exercise is a great way to improve sleep quality. Find an activity you enjoy, whether it's running, strength training, dancing, rowing or rock climbing, and practice 3 to 5 times a day. If possible, schedule exercise in the morning. Do not exercise before bed, you will feel too excited to sleep.
Reduce intake of caffeine, alcohol and nicotine.
These substances can affect your sleep, it's a good idea to stop them or at least reduce them. And also avoid drinking, smoking, or consuming caffeine less than 3 to 4 hours before bedtime.
Step 6. Try an imagery rehearsal treatment
Imagery rehearsal treatment is one type of cognitive therapy that has been shown to be effective in reducing nightmares in PTSD and insomnia patients.
- With imagery rehearsal treatment, patients are encouraged to imagine an alternative ending to their nightmare, a more pleasant or satisfying ending, while they are still awake.
- Sometimes this is done verbally, other times the patient is asked to write, draw or paint an alternative ending to their nightmare.
Method 3 of 3: Inviting Pleasant Dreams
Step 1. Find a fun place
Imagine a place that is pleasant and peaceful, such as a tropical beach or a secluded mountain top. You can create the picture, or imagine a real place. No matter what or where the place is, you just have to make sure it is peaceful and relaxing. Apart from just imagining the scene, try to imagine the sounds, smells, and overall atmosphere.
Step 2. Think pleasant thoughts
As you try to sleep, try to think pleasant thoughts. It can be anything you like, try to imagine yourself as a superhero who saves the world, as a famous actor or actress, or going on a dream vacation. It can also help to focus on your goals and imagine yourself achieving them, such as getting your dream job, achieving your ideal weight or finding true love.
Step 3. Talk to someone about your dream
Find someone you trust, and describe the dream you had. Also explain to them why the dream scares you. Letting go of feelings can make things better. You can also record your dreams in a dream journal, but be aware that sometimes it's more effective to talk to a real person who you know will be listening.
Step 4. Try to manipulate your nightmare
See if you can manipulate the nightmare by making things happen and changing the outcome so it's less scary or upsetting. This ability comes faster to some people than others, so don't be frustrated if you can't do it on the first try.
Step 5. Relax
Nightmares can be caused by stress, such as worrying about whether or not you will get a job. Throw away your worries, and start having pleasant dreams. You can relax with meditation or spend a nice day at the beach. Just make sure you're in a quiet area where you can relax and cool off.
- Don't look at scary pictures before going to bed or watch and hear something scary.
- Watch something funny or happy before going to bed.
- Try not to think about the scary thing you thought could happen.
- Listening to relaxing or uplifting music can help free your mind of negativity. More pleasant dreams are likely to occur now that your mind is fixated on the positive.
- Don't watch anything violent or scary movies before going to bed.
- Make sure the environment in which you sleep is ideal. Heat or cold can cause physical discomfort which may be interpreted as mental discomfort which is a nightmare.
- Think about the good things that happened in your life. Imagine the things you can achieve. Think nothing but pleasant thoughts.
- Talk to your parents or siblings, or someone you can always trust completely. Maybe you can ask them for help when you wake up in the middle of the night. Getting a parental hug when scared can always help!
- Have someone you can talk to in the middle of the night. You can call or talk to someone in your home.
- Have a dream catcher or a gemstone as protection (amethyst) to help you forget bad thoughts psychologically.
Try to find triggers for nightmares and if possible eliminate them when nightmares occur Try using natural calming herbs to calm your mind Try to sleep on your own don't close your eyes and force reading until you feel tired then lie down with your eyes open until you fall asleep (You don't know you fell asleep until you wake up the next day)
- Remember that most dreams are not real and cannot happen in real life. Just relax, take some time to recuperate, put a big smile on your face, and welcome a beautiful (normal) new day.
- Keep a Dream Journal and fill it out regularly, even after the nightmares stop coming.
- Try talking to a few different people, and see what works best for you.
- As soon as you wake up, take your cell phone and record your explanation of the dream you just had. With this step, when you listen to the tape, you hear your mind processing what really happened.