Many adults would love to know how to stop nightmares, particularly when they most associate nightmares with children. However, it’s not just kids that have nightmares – adults can have them too. Here are some tips to avoid bad dreams and some possible reasons why you have them. Firstly, however, what are nightmares. When do you have them? In what phase of sleep are nightmares most common? Let’s answer these questions first before we explain how to stop having nightmares and give you some tips to avoid bad dreams.
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Nightmares Meaning: What are Nightmares?
Nightmares are particularly bad dreams that are very realistic and frightening. They can waken you abruptly from a deep sleep feeling extremely frightened and with your heart racing. Children can wake up screaming and afraid, and frightened to go back to sleep again.
It is possible for this type of night terror to become stronger the more they occur, and come again and again with the same themes whether they are being chased by somebody or something, of falling from increasingly high heights or even just experiencing a feeling of sheer terror. They may be more visual and display scenes your brain creates from horror movies you may have watched. This often happens with children who watch X-rated horror movies.
What is more dangerous to you or your children is when such bad dreams reoccur with increasing strength of terror – this is when people can be psychologically harmed. A lack of sleep brought on by such nightmares can make these hallucinations become real to those suffering them. It is essential that they are then dealt with using professional help.
Effect of Worry and PTSD on Nightmares
Studies on adults have indicated that high levels of worry, sleeping for longer periods than normal, hallucinations and PTSD can lead to nightmares. One study in the UK concluded that “worry, depersonalization, paranoia, and hallucinatory experiences were significantly associated with the severity of nightmares.” Up to 8% of the population get nightmares, which amounts to up to around 680,000 in New York alone. It is not an insignificant issue.
Nightmares can be extremely stressful for people, particularly but not confined to children. Bad dreams can change a person’s personality, particularly if they tend to wake up terrified during the night and are scared to get back to sleep again. They may be able to avoid bad dreams if their causes can be identified. Here are a few possible ways of how to prevent nightmares and getting a peaceful, comfortable sleep at night.
Tips to Avoid Bad Dreams
There are some ways to help you avoid bad dreams, both for yourself and for affected members of your family. They include things to avoid and positive actions that can be taken to stop having nightmares. Up to 8% of adults suffer nightmares, which amount to around 650,000. First, some things to avoid:
1. Avoid Scary Movies: A lot of people insist on watching horror movies at night and fail to associate this with the nightmares they experience. In fact, many people have nightmares after watching a frightening movie. Your brain has a tendency to exaggerate what you see with your eyes, and something unbelievable when you consciously watch it can turn into something totally believable when your brain replays it when you sleep.
If you get nightmares and tend to watch scary movies before sleeping, then stop watching them. Your brain might replay them for a while after you stop, but after 2 or 3 days you may find that your bad dreams have stopped. Rather than watch horror films before bed, watch a comedy, listen to some soft music or read a book (not a scary story!)
2. Check Your Medication: Check any medication you are taking for side effects. Some meds can lead to hallucinations, so if you are taking these then let your doctor know of your bad dreams. It may be possible for your medication to be changed to help you stop having nightmares. Perhaps a different type of drug or even a reduction in your existing treatment might help.
3. Avoid Triggers: Avoid taking recreational drugs and alcohol at bedtime – these can lead to nightmares when you fall asleep. The caffeine in coffee, tea, and energy drinks can also keep you awake and ultimately lead to bad dreams. However, withdrawing from drugs and alcohol can also lead to nightmares although these should go as your withdrawal continues.
And here are a few positive tips to avoid bad dreams. These are steps you have to actively take rather than things to avoid:
a) Rationalize Your Dream: If you can remember your bad dream when you wake up, try to analyze it. Try to associate with something you heard, saw or experienced within the previous day or two. Those who are able to rationalize their nightmares often find they disappear once it is understood what they were dreaming about.
A child may have seen a trailer for a horror movie or you may have been hunting for snakes in your yard and dream about snakes hunting you down! Get an association you can understand, and the dreams may go.
b) White Noise and Calming Sounds: It is important to get to sleep in a calm, peaceful environment. Use white noise or calming sounds, such as waves breaking on a shore, bird calls or falling raindrops. You can these on CD or download them, and let them play until they finish – by then you should be sound asleep and nightmare-free! Do not watch horror movies on TV!!
c) Don’t Eat Just Before Bed: The old adage that you will have nightmares if you eat cheese in bed is not far off the mark. Snacking is Ok for some, although larger meals are more likely to lead to bad dreams than smaller ones.
d) Stressed? See a Specialist: If you are having nightmares after undergoing a recent traumatic event, you are advised to refer to a specialist – or let your doctor know. If you suffer symptoms of PTSD or are stressed in other ways, it is best to refer to a therapist than to try to self-treat. Your first contact should be with your regular physician who should then be able to arrange an appointment with a specialist or therapist in your type of stress or syndrome.
e) Sleep Comfortably: Make sure you have a comfortable bed to sleep on. It may help you if your mattress is suited to your needs, and that you are not tossing and turning during the night trying to get comfortable. Check out our Best Mattress Reviews: Our top 15 mattresses for 2023, each mattress top of its class for the property or benefit it offers to you.
How to Stop Nightmares: Conclusion
If nightmares are ruining your life and regularly interrupting your sleep, then you need professional help. It’s important to understand what bad dreams and nightmares are, and how to handle them. They can be caused by many different conditions such as restless legs syndrome or sleep apnea: you will know what these are if you suffer from them!
Your bad dreams may be due to medication you are on or anxiety, depression or PTSD. Each of these can be treated by professionals – you should contact a professional who can work with you to reduce and eliminate your nightmare episodes and show you how to stop having nightmares. Take everything above into account, and make your bedroom a place for relaxation and sex and not for nightmares. Follow our tips to avoid bad dreams and how to stop nightmares, and associate your bedroom with tranquility. You will soon find how to stop nightmares and enjoy your sleep without experiencing bad dreams.