How to have less nightmares

Nightmares are truly terrifying. Our bodies do not distinguish between what we are dreaming and what is real and so waking after a nightmare can leave us with our heart racing and our bed sheets wet with sweat. A few of us may even be prone to a throwing a few punches or kicks (whilst fast asleep) in an attempt to defend ourselves during those particularly vivid zombie nightmares…

Whilst there is not much you can do once the nightmare has started, there are a few things you can do to decrease the frequency of your nightmares-

  1. Avoid upsetting content– What you see or hear just before bed can be critical. If you are sensitive viewer, then you may need to avoid the evening news or heated discussions just before bed. For example, choose some happy reading material such as a romance novel over a crime thriller…
  1. Write down you worries– Do not allow yourself to mull over stressful decisions just before you sleep. Write down any pressing concerns that keep intruding as you try to go to sleep. Keep a notebook next to your bed and deal with these in the morning.
  1. Avoid going to bed very late– Overtiredness can be a trigger for some individuals who are prone to nightmares. Try your best to get into bed each evening at a reasonable hour to help prepare your body for sleep.

Want to know more about nightmares? Check out these helpful blog posts.

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Reader question: Why am I having nightmares?

Humans have been fascinated by dreams and nightmares for centuries – but even after all these years, there remains more mystery than fact. Read on to find out more about research into dreams and nightmares:

Psychiatrist Ernest Hartmann studied the personality traits of those who experienced nightmares and over his lifetime found two key factors- 1. vulnerability and 2. creativity. Vulnerability describes people who have a ‘greater ability to be touched by the world’ – that is, they feel deeply happy when they see a rainbow or hear a song they like, but equally deeply troubled when they see an injured dog or homeless person. Creativity describes people who are likely to pursue creative exploits such as dance, writing, art and music.

It is no wonder then that children are more prone to nightmares if you consider how vulnerable and creative their young minds are.
It is also now widely accepted that what we do and think influences how we sleep and what we dream at night. This means that nightmare sufferers who are vulnerable and creative will take their deep feelings and thoughts from the day into their dreams.
Those who had an unpleasant experiences during the day went on to be more likely to have unpleasant dreams, whilst those who had a great day went on to have pleasant dreams. This is similar to the findings of further research, conducted in Finland, that identified the following factors that lead to nightmares:

1. A depression-related negative attitude toward the self
2. Insomnia
3. Exhaustion and fatigue

Getting rid of your nightmares may require you to change something about your everyday life – figure out what it is in your waking life gives you a feeling similar to the one you’re experiencing in your nightmare. You may also have to analyse the way you see yourself and the world around you. It may mean accepting that you are a vulnerable and creative person who has been given a gift to feel deeply and the downside is you may have a nightmare every now and again. If your nightmares are recurrent and interfere with how you function during the day then a visit to a healthcare practitioner is recommended.

Read more:

The five most common nightmares