Have you been having strange dreams? While nightmares are more common in childhood, most adults have disturbing dreams at least occasionally. Naturally, any additional stress can make scary images more likely.
Dreams are rarely a cause for much concern unless they’re interfering with the quality of your life. However, you might like your nights to be more pleasant.
Keep in mind that some of your recent experiences may just mean that you’re remembering your dreams more. That’s what happens if you wake up frequently during the night or you sleep in late and have longer stages of REM sleep when most dreams occur.
Try these tips for enjoying more restful sleep.
Dealing with Disturbing Dreams:
- Stay on schedule. Sleep deprivation can lead to upsetting dreams. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of rest each night. Go to bed and wake up at the same time even on weekends. Keep your bedroom dark and quiet.
- Change the ending. Sleep therapists use a technique called Imagery Rehearsal that you can simplify and try at home. Rewrite your dreams with a happy story line. You could also focus on something you want to dream about before you shut your eyes.
- Soothe yourself. Create comforting rituals for bedtime or if you wake up during the night. Drink a cup of herbal tea or experiment with a weighted blanket.
- Work out. Physical exercise also relieves stress. Go for a run in the morning. Buy some equipment so you can train at home.
- Eat light. Indigestion can affect your brain as well as your body. Avoid heavy meals and spicy food when you’re about to lie down.
- Drink responsibly. Alcohol may make you drowsy, but it changes your sleep cycle so you’re more prone to nightmares. Skip the wine if you’re having a late dinner. Caffeine and nicotine can also affect brain functions and remain in your system for hours.
- Keep a journal. Tracking your sleep may help you understand your individual triggers. Record your daytime activities and dreams to see if you can spot any patterns.
- See your doctor. Let your doctor know if you feel distressed. You may have an underlying medical issue that needs treatment, or your symptoms could be caused by a medication you’re taking.
Additional Tips for Pandemic Dreams:
- Avoid infection. Surveys show that the most common pandemic dreams involve you or your loved ones being exposed to COVID-19. Reduce your risk by taking precautions including masks, social distancing, and frequent hand washing.
- Manage your finances. Job loss is another concern. You may feel more secure if you have a plan in place in case you are laid off. Minimize your spending and explore other sources of income.
- Connect with others. Are you feeling lonely or isolated? Find safe ways to spend time with family and friends. Enjoy video calls and virtual birthday parties. Gather together outdoors on your patio or at a local park.
- Monitor media consumption. The daily news can sometimes be more frightening than horror movies. Take a break if binging on the news is keeping you up at night. You can stay informed by checking in once or twice a day.
- Treat trauma. The pandemic may intensify mental health conditions that contribute to nightmares. That includes depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Call a community helpline or let a loved one know if you’re struggling.
You can have pleasant dreams even during stressful times. Maintain a consistent daily schedule, think positive, and see your doctor if you need additional help.