Dreams and nightmares are among the most interesting (and frightening) phenomenon known to man.
Their discussion has perplexed philosophers and scientists throughout the ages.
Certainly, many believe that dreams can be the portal to higher realms, giving prophetic insight into the future and perspective on the past.
I myself have witnessed first hand, close family members having prophetic dreams that came strikingly true... but not for now.
I'm also not going to get into the growing phenomenon of lucid dreaming, where dreamers learn to take control of their subconscious mind and carry out their adventure in the world of illusion (Google it if you don't know what I'm talking about).
What I would like to do is speak about dreams and nightmares that are unwanted and interrupt sleep, often waking us up in state of panic and anxiety.
As a sleep consultant, it is these experiences that most affect rest and people who suffer from intrusive dreams and nightmares on a regular basis can be really struggling to get the quality sleep they need.
If you, or someone you know suffers from nightmares, here are some simple steps to try to get to the bottom of things and prevent these disturbances from coming back.
1) As always, there is a strong link between our daytime activity and our sleep at night. Consider how much excessive tension you are feeding your brain, especially before bed.
The news might help you feel in control and on top of the world, but in reality, can send your mind racing (even more so nowadays) and that can often times come out in our subconscious as nightmares in the middle of the night.
So make sure you have your media and discussions filtered to what you really need to know, when you need it.
2) Besides from eating heavy foods at night, which should be avoided in general, many medications can have the side affect of producing very vivid dreams and nightmares.
Certainly psychiatric medication can be the major cause of this, but other general medications as well. Speak to your physician and see if adjusting that could help with nightmares.
If there is unresolved trauma, PTSD, or other tragic events, therapists can help relieve some of that tension so it doesn't haunt our thoughts at night.
3) The last point I'd like to discuss is what to do if you are actually in the middle of the nightmare. I know you're thinking, how can I control what happens in my nightmare?
But you would surprised to learn that we can be much more in control of our dreams than you think.
If there is a nightmare that comes back night after night, or a common theme among them, try journaling before bed and re-writing the end of your nightmare.
You can take control of your thoughts and as soon as you do they will stop chasing you. Although this takes some work, and does border on the "lucid dreaming" we mentioned in the beginning, try to take control of your nightmare and refuse to be victim.
The more your mind feeds into panic and dread, the scarier the nightmare becomes, it's the projection of your own mind after all.
Try, in your dream, drawing a circle around yourself and telling yourself that no harm can come in the circle. Imagine there is a door behind you to escape into an entirely different situation.
Some of this may sound easier said than done, and if nightmares are bothering you, feel free to reach out and schedule a time to speak so we can help get you the sleep you need to thrive!