Everyone knows that a good seven to eight hours of sleep each night is essential for a happy and healthy life. When you’re well-rested, you function better overall, and you are able to achieve your goals with greater ease. But what happens when your mind starts inducing terror upon you during those very times when you should relax?
Definition and Causes
Nightmares are unpleasant dreams that usually jolt you awake and leave you filled with fear, dread, and anxiety. Although there is no doubt that they are a lot more prevalent among children, one in two adults still get them occasionally. Furthermore, as much as 8% of the general population is plagued by them at a chronic level. The literature on the topic is a complex one. A 2010 Germany study has gone as far as to identify the five most common themes, which are falling, being chased, being paralyzed, being late and the death of loved ones, in this particular order. If you’ve suffered from nightmares or bad dreams in the past, then these will sound entirely too familiar.
And yet, the underlying causes behind these experiences is still not clear. There are plenty of debates in the medical community on whether media images influence dreams or not, or if they rely almost only on personal experience and so on. Furthermore, mental illness can also lead to such manifestations during the night. Thanks to research on this topic, we now know more about the stages of schizophrenia and the ways in which they influence sleeping patterns. Conditions such as anxiety or depression have also been known to lower the quality of one’s rest through nightmares or insomnia. When all these aspects are taken into consideration, the bigger picture becomes clearer.
There is still a long way to go in order to understand what causes nightmares. Nevertheless, avoiding them is a viable option, as long as you follow a few essential steps and keep your best interest in mind. Here are three methods that will ideally help anyone dealing with this issue get a good night’s sleep.
1. Deal with What Is Stressing You
More often than not, the stress of daily life takes a toll on the quality of your sleep. When you’ve had a tough day, falling into a deep, restful slumber might seem impossible. This is why many of us end up tossing and turning in bed all night long, worrying about previous events and future prospects. And when you finally do get some shut-eye, it’s plagued by bad dreams.
While this practice in itself is inevitable, and you might still find yourself overwhelmed with your problems, nightmares can be avoided. When you’re feeling particularly on edge, take some time to relax before going to bed. Listen to some soothing music or take a nice, hot bath that will wash your troubles away.
2. Practice Adequate Sleep Hygiene
How you prepare for bedtime is an essential aspect of increasing your overall quality of life. According to Harvard’s Healthy Sleep project, sleep hygiene is essential if you want to rest
properly even through the most demanding periods. Schoolwork, night shifts, additional projects or even jet lag might cause many to go to bed as late as 3 a.m. sometimes.
When you couple that with a proneness to nightmares, the results are unpleasant, to say the least. This is why you need to create a welcome environment that promotes rest and relaxation. Don’t smoke or drink coffee and alcohol too close to your bedtime, and don’t eat large meals either.
In addition, try making your bedroom as sleep-inducing as possible. The room needs to be dark, comfortable and at an adequate temperature. Depending on your personal preferences, the approach to this might vary, but the outcome needs to be the same, namely creating a good place to rest in.
3. Seek Professional Help
Unfortunately, in some cases seeking professional help might be necessary. When you’ve been having too many bad dreams in a row, the problem might be deeper than just stress or alimentation. You might be suffering from nightmare disorder. The Mayo Clinic describes the condition as something that occurs routinely and endangers your health.
If that is your case, seeking medical treatment is the only thing you can do. People tend to dismiss nightmares as a natural part of one’s sleeping cycle. But when they happen every other night or even more often than that, then it’s more than clear that a problem is at hand. And if this happens to you, practicing self-care becomes essential.
Avoiding nightmares is possible once you start dealing with daily stressors and practicing good sleep hygiene and self-care. But if things get out of hand, there’s no shame in reaching out and seeking medical assistance. After all, well-being should be the most important thing in life, and it’s our responsibility to look after it.