Spooky shows on TV, creepy costumes, and a chill in the air – the last thing you need is Halloween following you to bed too. Many of us suffer from disturbances at night time, from occasional bad dreams to recurring nightmares.
As well as being unpleasant, these get in the way of a peaceful night’s sleep which can have a detrimental effect to your physical and mental wellbeing. At Kally Sleep, we are dedicated to helping you get the sleep you need; here are our top tips for minimising the bad dreams that over half of adults suffer from.
Beware of what you’re watching:
Bad news for late night bingers: while your habit for Netflix horrors and murder docs gets your heart racing, this may increase bad dreams. Stimulus from throughout the day, and particularly in those couple of hours before you go to bed, impact the content of our dreams. This includes the books we read, things we see and even the conversations we have.
If you can’t resist a thrilling cliff-hanger, try cancelling this out by thinking of calm environments. Flick through some snaps or videos from a nice day out or holiday you’ve been on before dozing off. This might ward off subconscious bad thoughts that manifest as nightmares. However, you should still be sure to limit screen-time where possible as this can make falling asleep in the first place a challenge.
One of the most commonly regarded causes of bad dreams is your daytime anxiety and stress. Workloads may be piling high, the kids might be playing up, and things may seem somewhat out of control. This tension builds into the stimulus for nasty nightmares. Being unprepared, being late and not being in control are all themes that appear on the list of the UK’s most common bad dreams. There is a connection to our day-to-day anxieties, so it is important to make more time for yourself.
If you are temporarily going through a particularly stressful time, the end could be in sight. Once your schedule returns to normal, so too should your more pleasant dreams. If you’re generally anxious throughout the week, there are things you can do to combat this.
- Keep a planner so you are on top of weekly tasks
- Reduce anxiety with meditation, proven to reduce stress and aid sleep
- Clear your space of clutter, particularly in your bedroom, allowing for a clearer mind
- Speak to a friend or family member about your stress and tackle it together
- Reduce your caffeine and/or alcohol intake as these amplify stress at night time
Consider changing your late-night diet:
One of the quirkier reasons your nightmares may seem to intensify, diet has been linked to an increase in the vividness of dreams. Cheese and dairy have been blamed for stranger visions, though this is a highly contentious claim with little proof. In general, we will sleep less soundly after a heavy meal because your digestive system will be working hard overnight.
Sugary foods are a more likely culprit for bad dreams as they can send the brain buzzing. A sugar rush just before sleeping will increase the sort of brain activity that produces nightmares during REM sleep, increasing heart rate and energy levels.
The main takeaway is that eating just before bed, no matter what you choose to snack on, will give your metabolism a sudden boost. In turn, the brain will be more active with a knock-on effect of nightmares becoming more likely.
Get more sleep:
A catch-22, we know! But there is significant evidence revealing that those who sleep less experience more nightmares. Though it may seem counter-intuitive to sleep away the bad dreams, sleep deprivation worsens the problem. If you are frequently up late, you put strain on the hours of shut-eye you are getting.
For many, this can become a vicious cycle. Recurrent nightmares can put you off getting into bed and once you do finally fall asleep you might wish you hadn’t. Worrying about bad dreams can also produce them, so it is important not to push bedtime back later and later to avoid the problem.
We advise going to bed earlier, even if you are not able to fall asleep right away. This will put you in a calm state and prepare you for a relaxing and undisturbed sleep. If you need your mind taken off worrying about nightmares, try listening to some soothing music or white noise.
Seek help from a friend or professional:
Though it may feel like it the morning after an unsettled night, you’re not alone. Some 85% of adults have experienced a nightmare in the past year and perhaps this commonality is why so many of us don’t seek help. Though a huge number of us experience bad dreams at some point, it is a highly personal experience and can be very upsetting.
Talking to a professional might support you in finding root of your nightmares, as studied have shown that our dreams relate to our day to day lives. Identifying the source of your bad dreams will help you to tackle them. If this is not a step you are ready to, or feel the need to take then remember your friends and family can be a great support too. Whether it be a specific event in your life, a general accumulation of stress, difficulty getting enough sleep or stimulus before bed, talking it through will start you on your journey to calmer nights.