Livestrong.com article By Jaime Osnato
How to Stop Your Nightmares
Here are strategies to get a sounder night’s slumber and dream more peacefully during the pandemic.
1. Focus on Optimistic Thoughts Before Bed
“Research has shown that our levels of optimism and peace of mind, or pessimism and anxiety, have a direct effect on the subject matter and emotional content of our dreams,” Michael Breus PhD says.
“If your dreams are currently disruptive and disturbing right now, create a nightly ‘Power Down Hour’ that focuses on bringing you to a positive frame of mind before bed,” he recommends.
Need some inspo? Here are a few ideas from Breus:
- Watch a funny or inspiring TV show
- Talk to a friend or loved one who lifts you up
- Pray or engage in a spiritual practice that elevates you
- Look at old photo albums and enjoy some positive memories
Yoga or meditation can also put you in a zen state of mind before drifting off to dreamland.
2. ‘Re-write’ Your Nightmares
A technique called “image rehearsal therapy” — where people re-write the stories of their nightmares, turning their scary scripts into happier, more peaceful ones — has been shown to help reduce nightmares, especially reoccurring ones, and make sleep easier and less stressful, Breus says.
Once you re-script your dream, visualize it, replaying it in your mind before bed. Over time (five to seven days, Breus says), the content of your bad dream may begin to change.
3. Limit Your Media Consumption
Watching the news and scrolling through social media can increase your anxiety and stress, leading to more negatively-charged dreaming. Breus recommends limiting your overall daily media intake, especially at night before bed. And if you’re tempted to scroll, leave your phone in another room.
4. Don’t Oversleep
“If you sleep in, you will ultimately get more REM sleep (which happens more in the back one-third of the night), which leads to more dreams and nightmares,” Breus explains.
Plus, oversleeping also throws off your circadian rhythms.
5. Drink Less Alcohol
“Whatever emotion you are having in a dream is often increased by the presence of alcohol,” Breus says.
What’s more, drinking booze affects our sleep quality, which can also boost bizarre dream content, he adds.
6. Cut Down Your Caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant, which can increase anxiety in some people, says Breus, adding, “Do any of us really need to add to our anxiety right now?.”
That said, Breus suggests limiting caffeinated drinks, especially three to four hours before bed, and ideally by 2 p.m.
7. Move More
Due to lockdown and stay-at-home restrictions — and with many gyms still closed — our activity levels have dropped dramatically. “Lack of exercise, including daily movement, is affecting sleep quality,” Breus says.
The more you move, the better you will sleep. Breus suggests sticking to a daily exercise routine and finding small ways to incorporate more movement throughout your day — take out the trash, walk to the mailbox, walk your dog, etc.
8. Reach Out for Help
“If you’re experiencing debilitating dreams or waking anxiety that’s affecting your ability to function normally, don’t try to tough it out or go it alone,” Breus says. Seek out a licensed mental health professional who can help you navigate and cope during this difficult time.