Trying to interpret our dreams the day after having them can be an interesting activity but it’s not always so fun with nightmares. Nightmares are lengthy, elaborate dreams that can trigger negative emotions like fear, anxiety or sadness.
They also have the ability to interfere with our sleep. Which can have a negative impact on the body’s ability to refresh itself. Not getting enough sleep can sometimes leave us anxious the following day, which might lead to another night of poor sleep, starting a cycle of nightmares, sleepless nights and anxiety in our daily lives.
Sometimes nightmares can be a sign of an underlying problem we might be harbouring unknowingly. This often shows itself through reoccurring nightmares and, depending on severity, might be best dealt with professionally.
If you’re prone to bad dreams and don’t think you should speak to a doctor, there are a few steps you can take towards preventing nightmares. But let’s first talk about what causes nightmares.
What causes nightmares?
Scientists believe that we spend more than two hours each night dreaming but they don’t know much about how or why we dream. They also know that dreaming occurs during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep when brain regions used for learning are stimulated.
Nightmares can often be spontaneous and difficult to attribute to one cause. However, there are several factors that are known to contribute towards nightmares.
Certain types of prescription medication, especially anti-depressants and blood pressure medicine can contribute towards nightmares in adults.
Ongoing daily stress, whether you’re conscious of it or not, can be an underlying factor in nightmares, and you might even find that they’re based around your stress triggers.
Poor sleeping pattern
Lack of sleep can also trigger nightmares, causing a vicious cycle where lack of sleep leads to difficulty sleeping leads to lack of sleep, and so on.
Eating before bed is another likely cause of nightmares in adults as it can increase your metabolism temporarily, waking the brain up and leading to overactive thoughts in bed.
How to avoid nightmares
You can begin to take action to avoid nightmares once you know how they are caused.
Check your medication
If you’re suffering from regular nightmares that you suspect might be caused by medication you’re taking, visit your doctor and ask if your medication is known to cause nightmares and if there are suitable alternatives. It’s essential that you don’t stop taking your medication without first seeking medical advice.
SSRIs are regularly reported to cause nightmares and vivid dreams. Sedatives, anti-Parkinson’s medications, tri-cyclic antidepressants, beta blockers, and even vitamin B6 and B12 have led some people to have extremely vivid nightmares.
Work through your dreams
This doesn’t have to be scary or intimidating. By working with your dreams you’ll start feeling comfortable in the realm of the subconscious, and more confident addressing some of the causal factors in your lifestyle. These can be as simple as making time to de-stress, talking about what is bothering you or eating healthier.
Create a pre-sleep routine
Create a good pre sleep routine that gives you consistency in your bedtime and activities before bed. Allow yourself to switch off by avoiding anything too strenuous mentally or physically.
Avoid eating too close to bedtime
Don’t eat too close to bedtime, taking dinner earlier and avoiding late night snacks. This will prevent your metabolism from activating just as your going to bed, leading to a more relaxing night of sleep hopefully free from nightmares.
Check your surroundings
This can form a part of your pre-sleep routine. Make sure your bed and bedroom are as comfortable and relaxing as possible, with calming interior design, comfortable mattress, etc. Try journaling in low light, listening to calming music, or using white noise to cancel out any distracting sounds.