We all get nightmares. It doesn’t matter how old we get, or when we stop being scared of the ‘monster under the bed’, there is always going to be something that will haunt our dreams. Bad dreams are the product of our unconscious mind releasing fears and tension as we rest, and are beyond our physical control.
This can be distressing for many people, and cause them stress not only in their sleep but during day-to-day activities as well. Because of this, it is important to understand both why nightmares occur, and what we can do to prevent them from happening.
We have researched and created a list of possible reasons as to why you are experiencing such bad dreams, as well as 10 top tips to prevent having them.
What Causes Bad Dreams?
Stress and Anxiety - One of the main and most common causes of nightmares in adults is stress and/or anxiety. If you find yourself worrying, stressed or anxious during the day that can transfer into your sleep. Your unconscious brain takes these thoughts and turns them into the nightmares that you experience.
Bad Eating Habits - Interestingly, another cause of having bad dreams is an unhealthy diet. Consuming sugar before bed will cause interrupted sleep and increase the likelihood of nightmares occurring.
Caffeine and Alcohol - Not only will caffeine or alcohol prevent you from sleeping, but it will also contribute to the likelihood that you will have a nightmare or bad dreams during your sleep.
Trauma - If you are suffering from trauma then that may also subconsciously manifest itself into your dreams.
Mental Health - If you are suffering from mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety, it may cause you to have nightmares and disrupted sleep.
How to Prevent Bad Dreams - 10 Top Tips
1. The Importance of Comfort - It seems an obvious thing to start with however we often forget the importance of comfort when it comes to sleeping. Having a soft and comfortable mattress will help to prevent any bad dreams as you will feel much more relaxed when going to sleep. Alongside this, your body must be comfortable when you are sleeping. Sleeping on your back is known to increase the chance of nightmares, so sleep on your side or front for the best dreams and a better night’s sleep.
2. Your Diet - Another way you can help to prevent bad dreams from occurring is to take a look at your diet and make healthier choices. If your diet consists of a lot of salt and sugar then it may be contributing to your nightmares. Eating cheese before bed, although a delicious snack, is also another well-known way that increases nightmares. You should also avoid any fizzy drinks, or drinks containing caffeine as this will not only prevent you from sleeping but also increase the likelihood of nightmares or bad dreams. By eating a healthy and balanced diet you will minimize the risk of nightmares caused by food and drink intake.
3. Cut Back on Alcohol - Although it is fun to indulge in alcohol once in a while, it can also be the reason that you are having bad dreams so frequently. Something as simple as cutting down the units of alcohol you are drinking will help to prevent bad dreams from occurring. Alcohol is known to induce stress and restlessness throughout the night, so instead of relaxing with a glass of wine, try reading or talking to a friend or partner instead.
4. Stress and Relaxation - If you believe that the main cause of your nightmares is due to stress, then it is important to take the time to relax your mind and body before you go to sleep. You can do this by meditating, yoga, or even simple breathing exercises. The less stressed you are before you go to sleep the less likely those stresses are to interfere with your dreams and cause nightmares. You can easily download free relaxation apps to help with this, or you could read a book or listen to some peaceful music before you plan on going to bed.
5. Pros of a Routine - Establishing a routine is extremely important and beneficial both to your physical and mental health. We have natural body clocks that tell us when we are sleepy or tired, and disrupting any set routine can also disrupt this internal system. Creating a routine that you stick to will help your body know when it is time to wind down and go to bed. This will ultimately give you a better night’s sleep and should also help prevent any bad dreams from occurring.
6. Confrontation - If you have recurring nightmares it may be a good idea to confront these worries. Write down what happens in your dream and try to understand the meaning of it and why it is happening. Is there something in your life that is bothering or worrying you? Once you have determined the cause simply confront this with yourself. Facing your fears or worries will help to relieve the stress and thus the eventual stop of the bad dreams.
7. Scents - Aromatic oils will help you to fall into a deeper and happier sleep. Floral oils such as lavender, have been proven to increase the quality of your sleep and have a positive effect on the dreams that you have.
8. Review Your Medications - If you are on any medications, you should check the side effects or have a chat with your doctor to see if this may be the underlying cause. Some medications can cause nightmares and insomnia, so it may be worth switching medications to see if that will have any effect on your dreams.
9. Journaling - Dream journaling is a great way to review the dreams you have and establish the reasons as to why you may be having them. Simply write down your dreams when you wake up to make better sense of them. Even regular journaling about day-to-day life will help decrease your level of stress and help you to reflect on what has been happening in your life, which hopefully will help in the long run to prevent bad dreams from occurring.
10. White Noise - White noise is a great way to fall into an effortless and deep sleep. You can buy white noise machines or even just play one from your phone.