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How to Get Over Nightmares and Bad Dreams

Updated on October 13, 2018
Aaaargh! I'm trying to sleep!
Aaaargh! I'm trying to sleep! | Source

Are Nightmares and Bad Dreams Spoiling Your Sleep?

Having a nightmare is a terrible experience. If you've not had one for a while, it's easy to forget the sensation of waking with spine-tingling terror, adrenalin pumping, so that you're scared to fall back to sleep in case it all kicks off again.

Some people have recurring bad dreams or nightmares. They want to break the cycle. What can be done?

The good news is, you can learn to manipulate your dreams. As with learning anything else, it may take time and practise, but it can work very well.

Suggested Remedies

To clear a nightmare from your mind, you need to mentally re-write the ending. Let's say you dream you're falling from a great height, and wake with a jolt. Firstly, reassure yourself that you're safe and sound. Then picture the fall slowing down as an updraft of air holds your weight, like thermals carry eagles. See yourself spread your arms wide - you can swoop and change direction. This new experience feels good. You land gently in a field of flowers. Breathe deeply, enjoying the fresh air, the feel of solid ground beneath your feet.

Let me out!
Let me out! | Source

Sidney had a recurring dream, not quite nightmare standard, but extremely unpleasant. It sounds comical that Sidney dreamed he was trapped inside a teapot. To him it felt horrendous, as he suffered from claustrophobia. He learned to overcome this scenario by imagining he could turn himself into vapour, and escape through the spout of the teapot. Logically, he knew this wasn't possible, but then, neither was being trapped in the first place. With practice, Sidney could recognise that he was dreaming, and change what happened. Instead of being trapped, he became free as a bird. The dream lost its power, and stopped occurring.

Read the instructions for medication
Read the instructions for medication | Source

What Causes Nightmares and Bad Dreams?

If you're on medication, it's worth checking with your doctor if your dreams could be linked to side effects. Some anti-depressants and blood pressure pills are amongst those that can alter your dream state, so you may want to consider asking about different treatment.

Being over-tired can affect quality of sleep, and lead to more vivid dreaming. Stressful situations can play on your mind and result in unpleasant dreams. If you know you're under stress, work on relaxation strategies. Have a bubble bath, or foot massage, if there's a willing volunteer. A number of relaxation CDs available can be very helpful, notably, Eliminate Stress by Paul McKenna.

There are various opinions on eating shortly before bed. Some say anything difficult to digest can lead to problems, while others think that eating raises the metabolism, causing disrupted sleep and bad dreams.

The relevance and meaning of dreams cause some dispute. Some people think they can foretell the future. Others believe you can analyze the dream and learn to understand how parts came from real life experiences. It may be helpful to write down details of the dreams to think about during daylight hours. Often, a dream which seems troublesome at night is quickly forgotten once awake, but can leave you feeling unsettled without knowing why.

Then there is the idea that the brain fires off random neurons during sleep, and the mind forms these into some kind of sense. So really, they mean no more than imagining a face in the clouds. The mind constantly looks for things it can recognize.

Nightmares and bad dreams that regularly interfere with sleep are worth discussing with a doctor.

As it's your imagination that conjures up the dreams, try using it to overcome them.

Make sure your bed is comfortable
Make sure your bed is comfortable | Source

More Suggested Solutions

Imagining you're caught on camera on a prank TV show can take the sting from a bad dream. If you dream that your car or house has been trashed, picture yourself glancing over to one side, seeing the TV presenter, the camera rolling. The presenter starts laughing, friends and family step into view to join in with the joke. Feel free to curse at their thoughtlessness. Then imagine you're presented with a new car, or offered a designer makeover for your home.

As many dreams have a cinematic quality, try using this to your advantage. If your dream finds you in a car chase, or haunted house, imagine you're an actor on set. Hear the director shout, "Cut!" People start clapping, the scene has gone well, you're the star. Take the applause, and wind down from the rush.

If one night you have a series of dreams that keep bugging you, preventing you from having a restful sleep, use the TV analogy again. This time, see yourself flicking through TV channels. Leave the irritating dreams channel behind and choose one you prefer. Maybe you'll pick a holiday programme, seeing waves lap gently on a beautiful beach, or watching a cat stretching lazily in the sun. Keep things laid back and low key to help relax.

Hopefully you can settle into a more peacful sleep, and wake refreshed. With some practice, you'll become a natural at calming your thoughts.

Sweet dreams.

Are Nightmares and Bad Dreams a Problem in Your Life?

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    • innerspin profile imageAUTHOR

      Kim Kennedy 

      8 years ago from uk

      Jeepers, sorry to hear that, theluckywriter. You may well be right thinking it's connected with your creativity. There's a downside to most things unfortunately. Thanks for your comment.

    • theluckywriter profile image


      8 years ago from Canada

      I've had nightmares my whole life. I like to pretend it's because I'm extra-creative. Ha! Thanks for the tips...I love lucid dreaming. Unfortunately, I can't always do it.

    • innerspin profile imageAUTHOR

      Kim Kennedy 

      8 years ago from uk

      Hi, foodietaylor, glad you liked the hub. Dreams can be surreal, and stick in the mind. That last nightmare must have made a big impression.

      Hello Angie, thanks for commenting. Recurring dreams can be very disturbing. It's good that you've recognised a trigger, feeling like things are out of our control is certainly stressful. Hope your husband finds an inventive scenario to disempower his dream.

    • Angie Jardine profile image

      Angie Jardine 

      8 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      Thanks for the suggestion of changing the ending of a dream, innerspin.

      This could be very useful for my husband as he has a recurring dream that comes when he is stressed.

      We have recognised it comes when he feels he has not control over a situation because it is out of his hands. Over the years he has learnt to live with it and it does occur less often but it would be nice to eradicate it entirely.

    • foodietaylor profile image

      Taylor Tamblin 

      8 years ago from WA State

      I liked this Hub! I had a nightmare about 2 weeks ago that I still think about today. It's amazing how real some dreams/nightmares can feel that we have to constantly reassure us that they didn't really happen :)

    • innerspin profile imageAUTHOR

      Kim Kennedy 

      8 years ago from uk

      teacherjoe52, thanks for your input. I agree about suppressed emotions causing problems, that's why I mentioned stress being a factor. Maybe I glossed over it too quickly. How interesting to hear you have dreams that come true.

      billybuc, glad to hear you don't have nightmares. I don't have many, but they can be horribly scary. Be careful what you wish for! Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 

      8 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Hi Billybuc, I'm glad to give some of my nightmares to you if you want. Many of the dreams involve paying debts. :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      8 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Interesting stuff! I can honestly say I haven't had a nightmare in decades; I hear about others and almost get jealous because my dreams are just so mundane. :)

    • teacherjoe52 profile image


      8 years ago

      Good morning innerspin

      Another important thing to remember is that many times dreams come from suppressed emotions and situations in life. Thay are not to be ignored and should be talked out with a therapist.

      Whenever I have a vivid dream I write it down when I wake up. With in three days the dream will come true. I happened just last week before I went on a trip. The dream came true in an unusual way. which they always do.

      God bless you.

    • innerspin profile imageAUTHOR

      Kim Kennedy 

      8 years ago from uk

      It must have made a big impression on you, jpmc. Interesting that you know exactly what sparked the dream. I wonder if that's why it doesn't freak you now. Thanks for your comment.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 

      8 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      I have a nightmare that started when I watched the classic Night of the Living Dead when I was younger. What's weird is that there were several times that I dreamt the exact nightmare over several years. I'm not freaked out but it's just weird to have the same dream after several years.


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