- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Nightmares: How to Beat Them
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.