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Nightmares: How to Beat Them

Updated on June 20, 2010

A Common Condition

Almost everyone has experienced a nightmare at one time or another. They can have several causes, ranging from inadequate sleep, subconscious unrest, hypoglycemia, unresolved fear, or digestive upset. An occasional nightmare is nothing to worry about, but recurring nightmares may need to be remedied.

Ferocious Flashlights

Some toy stores sell flashlights that roar when you turn them on. Whether you select one of these or just use a regular flashlight (you can supply the roar), turning on a light in the darkness when you've awakened from a disturbing dream can help you remember where you are and can help you become less disoriented.

Mental Superiority

Another method of dealing with nightmares can be to rewrite them. That is, when you dream that something bad is happening, mentally go back and change it when you are awake. Face the point at which the dream most terrified you, think about what you would have done to solve the problem, then imagine yourself doing it. The more creative you are with this, the better you will feel. You can even end up laughing your dreams away! Here is an example: you dream that a large monstrous beast breaks into your house and wants to eat a family member (or you). When you wake up, imagine yourself shrinking it to the size of an insect and trapping it in a jar. Or you could train the thing and make it jump through hoops in a circus, or you could give it the address of someone else whom you'd like it to go and visit (just because you're so generous that you don't want even your most annoying neighbors or co-workers to miss the opportunity to see something so unusual).

Soft Atmosphere

Do things before you sleep that will help set the mood for better dreams.  Read a book (not a scary one!), play soft music, dim the lights, and try to relax as much as possible.  Spend at least one hour relaxing before you attempt to go to sleep for the night.

Controlled Dreaming

If there is something you particularly enjoy dreaming about, such as a sport or hobby, try thinking about it while you're falling asleep. Sometimes folks have reported dreaming about what they tried to dream about, although most say it takes some time and practice. If you can manage to dream about golfing or painting, it is less likely there will be room for a nightmare to form. As the old computer saying goes, "Input, output." What you fill your mind with will directly affect your mental and emotional health.

Time for a Serious Strategy

Intervention may be necessary if your nightmares remain persistent after every attempt has been made to control them. Sleep clinics may diagnose a more serious underlying condition, and you should seek help if you experience symptoms such as chest pains associated with your dreams. At times dreams have also served as warning signs--your subconscious may be trying to get your attention about something, such as an undiagnosed medical problem.

How Many Dreams

How many dreams can you remember having in any given week?

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    • Silver Poet profile image

      Silver Poet 2 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

      Chris: Sorry to hear you have been having terrible nightmares. I hope you feel better soon. The suggestions in this hub are not going to work for everybody, but they are some of the things that have worked at times for many of the people I know. Sometimes you have to find what works best for you as an individual, and sometimes it takes quite a lot of searching to figure it out. Best of luck to you!

    • profile image

      chris 2 years ago

      I have been plagued with the same nightmare over and over. Sometimes as many as 5 to 6 times a night. This is my second marriage. The first one ended after 21 years with my ex-wife cheating on me. I tried to get her to stay and work things out but she refused. My second marriage has had its problems with my wife carrying on a secrete affair with an ex-boy friend. We have gone to a professional and talked and are trying to work it out. My nightmare is as follows... my wife wants to paint my toe nails in which i am totally against. After much pleading I agree that i will let her, and she does. Once she is finished she tells me she in now not in love with me and wants out because I TOLD HER TO PAINT THEM. which i did not. I have told my wife about these nightmares that come over and over. i also told a theripest and both of their answers is to face it and let her paint my toes so i can see it is not an issue. There is my problem i can not bring myself to let her. I know it is the fear that my dream will come true but I can not get around it. the dreams have been going on for some time now and i feel like i am about to lose it. I am so tired and have not had a good night sleep in a long time which is making it worse. what do i do

    • Silver Poet profile image

      Silver Poet 2 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

      I hope you find better work soon, Alexander. In the meantime, I think you are doing very well at handling your dreams. Thanks for your comment!

    • Alexander Mark profile image

      Alexander Silvius 2 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      This is great, nightmares plague me because I am working at a place that makes me very unhappy, but I am looking for better work. But certainly changing my perception upon waking from a bad dream helps alot. I verbally affirm what I know and believe about myself and about my faith in God, and I pray with that same attitude - emphasizing the positive in my life, and it really helps alot.

    • Silver Poet profile image

      Silver Poet 6 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

      I agree, Josh. Horror films are definitely not good for preventing nightmares.

    • profile image

      Josh 6 years ago

      I should lay off the horror films