Gone are the days that we all woke up in the middle of the night so terrified we had to crawl into our parents’ beds. But just because we’re no longer slipping into the comforting embrace of our loved ones to ease those fears doesn’t mean we don’t still experience nightmares. Even as an adult, nightmares can be incredibly disturbing.
You know they’re not fact, but your brain has a hard time wrapping itself around the idea that they are in fact fiction. You wake up with a racing heartbeat with sweat beading at your forehead as if you’d actually gone through whatever was happening in your dream.
And if you have them frequently enough, you may be left wondering: what the hell do they mean and how do I get rid of them? That’s why we’re breaking down the most common causes of nightmares and investigate the best things to do about them.
The most likely reason you’re having nightmares despite a super healthy bedtime routine and incredible sleep hygiene is that you have an issue you’re not dealing with. Though we’re not about to get all Sigmund Freud on you, it is actually true that unaddressed or difficult issues are likely culprits for bad dreams. These nightmares are often especially disturbing, as they are connected to an unpleasant situation in your life. If your nightmares are recurring, you’ll know a real life issue is probably causing it. Luckily, that means you are in a good position to stop the nightmares, so you need to look within and actually acknowledge what’s going on.
Another possible cause of those bad dreams could be that you experienced a trauma in the past. Any sort of traumatic experience can actually induce something called post-traumatic stress, which often leads to nightmares. These dreams tend to be a replay of the traumatic event rather than something more symbolic.
Though it might sound crazy at first, another possible cause of sleep-time terrors is actually your physical health. Certain conditions or medications are actually able to cause you to experience bad dreams, so if you are unwell or medicated, you might be able to chalk up your nightmares to that. After all, there really is a mind-body connection, so we totally understand how this can happen!
And, lastly and luckily most superficially, you may have read a scary book or watched a terrifying horror movie. Turns out, your mom was right all along. Horror movies or thriller books can cause you to have those spooky dreams that leave you shaking in the middle of the night.
So, now what on earth are you going to do about them? We’ve got you covered. First and foremost, you need to resolve any underlying issues you may have. Don’t allow difficult things to linger in your life; confront them head on and get them out of the way. That way your mind will be free and clear. If you think your meds or your medical condition could be causing your nightmares, the best thing you can do is have a chat with your doctor. This is also incredibly helpful if they’re trauma-related nightmares, as your doctor will be able to help you navigate the issue most effectively. Journaling – both day and dream – can also help you identify patterns and see what’s going on in your subconscious to try and battle bad dreams. You can use your journals to rewrite the nightmare, taking the turning point where your bad dream became scariest and taking it in another direction. This helps you take control and reprogram your subconscious, and luckily, our subconscious tends to listen.
Now, tell us. How do you handle bad dreams?