About one-fourth of children between the ages of three and six have an average of one nightmare a week. The frequency of bad dreams tends to drop as children get older. Even so, the Sleep Foundation estimates that two to eight percent of adults struggle with frequent nightmares. Numerous factors can trigger nightmares as adults, such as:
- Eating too close to bedtime.
- Stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Changes in medication.
- Sleep apnea.
- Sleep deprivation.
As disruptive as nightmares are, there are fortunately a plethora of tips and tricks for fighting bad dreams as adults that can help us get the rest we need.
Change Your Bedtime Routine
Nightmares often occur as a result of poor-quality sleep. By setting ourselves up to fall asleep more soundly, we can often stop nightmares before they happen. A few steps to add to your bedtime routine include:
- Going to sleep at the same time every night.
- Ceasing work and use of electronics 30 minutes before bed.
- Take a shower or bath and wash your face.
- Doing relaxing activities, such as light reading and journaling.
- Setting the thermostat between 68- and 71-degrees Fahrenheit.
Remember: the goal is to put your mind and body into a restful state. Avoid anything overly stimulating, like fixating on the worries of the day or watching a scary movie to help with fighting bad dreams.
Watch Your Diet
Eating anything too close to bedtime can contribute to lower sleep quality. However, research has found that certain foods are more likely to contribute to nightmares, such as:
- Dairy, especially cheese.
- Spicy foods.
- Red meats.
- Overly sugary foods.
If a bedtime snack is part of your bedtime routine, it’s a good idea to opt for lighter treats, such as fruit or tea.
Switch Your Sleep Position
Interestingly, your sleep position may also impact your dreams, according to a 2012 study. The study found that:
- Those who sleep on their right side were the most likely to have good dreams, opposed to those who sleep on their left side.
- Those sleeping on their backs were most likely to have nightmares.
- Those sleeping on their stomach had vivid and often sexual dreams.
It’s difficult to get used to a new sleep position, even if you feel it’s causing your nightmares. Buying a new mattress can potentially help. However, picking a new pillow is as effective if this is out of the budget.
Manage Your Stress
Our bad dreams are often our mind’s way of processing the worries of the day. If you haven’t come to grips with matters that may worry you, doing so is the simplest way to fight bad dreams as adults. A few simple but effective strategies include:
- Start a journal.
- Discuss the events of your day with a loved one.
- Schedule regular appointments with a therapist.
- Practice mindfulness.
- Take part in regular prayer or meditation.
Nightmares, by nature, are distressing. But if you are an adult who struggles with nightmares, you aren’t alone. By practicing simple strategies, you can win back your sleep schedule.
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