Have you had a nightmare recently? While disturbing dreams are more common in children, 50% of adults have nightmares from time to time. Additionally, 2% to 8% of adults have nightmares on a regular basis. If nightmares are interrupting your sleep or causing distress to you, it’s important to determine what’s causing them—this will help you to take steps to prevent these bad dreams from happening in the first place.
Nightmares are realistic and disturbing dreams that wake you up from sleep. Nightmares tend to occur most often during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, because this is when most dreams occur. Nightmares are most likely to occur in the early hours of the morning. Read on to learn how to prevent nightmares.
How to Prevent Nightmares
Treat the underlying disorder
Your nightmares could be related to an underlying disorder, such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, anxiety, depression, or PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder). Getting treatment for these disorders may help alleviate your nightmares. Talk to your doctor about the best treatment option for you. If you suffer from PTSD, a drug called Prazosin may be prescribed to prevent nightmares.
Relax your body
Stress can be a contributing factor to nightmares, so make sure that you manage your stress throughout the day and take some time to relax before bed. Yoga, meditation, reading, running, knitting, or even just spending time with loved ones are good ways to reduce stress. Taking a hot bath before bed can also help.
Try imagery rehearsal treatment
Imagery rehearsal treatment is a type of cognitive therapy that can be helpful in treating nightmares. While you’re still awake, try thinking of a happy or pleasant ending to your nightmare. For example, if you dream that you’re falling, try imagining that a parachute saves you. You can do this orally, write it down, or even draw or paint it out.
Check your medication
Unfortunately, certain medications can sometimes cause nightmares. Examples of these include antidepressants and some blood pressure medications. If your medications are giving you nightmares, talk to your doctor about the problem. He or she may suggest changing your dosage or switching to a different medication.
Foster healthy sleep patterns
Wondering how to prevent nightmares and sleep better? Make sure that your environment is conducive to sleeping.
Keep your bedroom clean, dark, and cool.
Your bed should be comfortable.
You can use a white noise machine to block out any unpleasant noises.
You should also avoid working in your bedroom.
Use this area for relaxing activities only.
Do not consume alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine 3 to 4 hours before bed.
Fragrance is also an aspect to focus on if you want to know how to prevent nightmares. Some experts believe that smells can affect our dreams. Smelling sweet fragrance may lead to sweet dreams, so keep your sleeping area smelling nice.
Paint and analyze your dream
If you continuously have the same nightmare over and over, that may not be an accident. There could be something going on in your life that comes out in your dreams. It may be helpful to analyze your dreams. Or, if you can’t verbally express how your nightmares make you feel, try painting or drawing them. Artistic expression can make you feel better and help you to get some relief from nightmares.
Avoid watching horror movies
The last thing that you do before bed can impact your dreams. So, if you suffer from nightmares, it would be wise to avoid reading or watching anything scary before going to bed. This is an important step to remember if you’re wondering how to prevent nightmares. If you absolutely must indulge in some horror at night, try taking a few moments to clear your mind and think of something happy and positive before turning off the lights.
Keep a happy journal
Journaling is a great way to cope with stress, anxiety, or negative emotions. Unfortunately, writing about negative experiences can sometimes make us focus on negative things. If you do this right before bed, it can also give you negative dreams. Instead, try taking a few moments before bed to write about something happy. This will keep you in a positive frame of mind for sleep.
Visit a doctor
If all else fails, you may need to seek help from a professional. And if you’re having a hard time during the day, it makes sense that you’d have a hard time at night, as well. Seeking the assistance of a doctor might be just what you need to manage negative emotions, prevent nightmares, and finally get some uninterrupted sleep.