A survey by The Natural Sleep Company revealed that bad dreams keep 19 per cent of Irish people awake at night time. Getting quality sleep is vital for all sorts of reasons, ranging from physical health to productivity. The following guide will help you avoid waking up during the night because of bad dreams by learning what nightmares are and how to prevent them.
Why are you having nightmares?
Nightmares are defined as dreams that invoke vivid feelings or sensations of fear and anxiety in the dreamer, which often causes them to wake up. Upon awakening, the dreamer often feels the same terror that was present during their dream for a few moments, before recognizing that it was just a bad dream.
It’s important to distinguish between night terrors and nightmares. Nightmares occur during the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) phase of sleep, and they are always associated with the appearance of disturbing and/or anxiety-provoking images and dreams. On the contrary, night terrors occur during the deeper stages of sleep, and they are more associated with deep feelings of fear with no dreams or vivid imagery.
The REM stage of sleep normally happens during the mid to later stages of the sleep cycle, typically in the early hours of the morning. During this phase, your brain is extremely active, and your muscles become temporarily paralysed as you navigate a dream world. The paralysis mechanism exists so you don’t act out the scenarios that you dream about.
While there is no scientific consensus as to what causes nightmares, it’s believed that daytime factors play an important role in the probability of such dreams occurring during REM. Dreams tend to reflect certain aspects of our daily lives, both literally and symbolically, and it’s thought that negative experiences that induce stress, fear, and worry or thus reflected in the form of nightmares while sleeping.
While it’s not possible to entirely predict the likelihood of a nightmare occurring, there are some important steps you can take to help prevent nightmares and get better quality sleep.
Get checked for a sleep disorder. An important triggering factor for nightmares is suffering from any of the common sleep disorders, one of which you may have without knowing it yet. Sleep apnea is a widespread sleeping disorder that causes a person to stop breathing while they sleep for several seconds. In obstructive sleep apnea, the airways become blocked when soft tissues in the throat relax and temporarily block your airways. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain doesn’t send the right signals to the muscles that control breathing.
Restless leg syndrome is a sleep disorder characterized by a strong desire to move your legs while you rest. This syndrome may cause sensations in the legs such as aching, itching, and throbbing. Narcolepsy happens when the brain cannot control the sleep/wakefulness cycle, resulting in excessive daytime sleepiness and episodes in which the sufferer falls asleep suddenly and unexpectedly. If it transpires that you suffer from any of the common sleep disorders, getting treatments for these ailments can help prevent your nightmares.
Meditation is a simple practice that involves sitting quietly and focusing on the present moment, watching your thoughts come and go. Meditation has been scientifically proven to consistently reduce stress. When there is less stress in your life, you drastically reduce your nightmare frequency. Consider meditating each night for 20 minutes before sleeping to invoke a deep feeling of calm and let go of your stress. Remember that stress and anxiety can lead to nightmares, so if everything gets too much, speak to your doctor about possible lifestyle changes and treatments.
Improve the quality and length of sleep
Sleep deprivation can cause nightmares and nightmares can cause sleep deprivation, so it can become a vicious cycle. The way to break the cycle is to improve the quality of your sleep and thus stop nightmares from happening. The following tips can improve the quality and length of sleep:
- Ensure your bed is comfortable. It’s important for nightmare sufferers to use mattresses that give them maximum comfort levels. Consider trying an organic natural mattress—these mattresses are composed of organic latex, organic cotton or organic wool, and they provide extra support for the body while sleeping in addition to regulating body temperature for a more comfortable sleep. Using a natural mattress is an effective way to improve the quality and length of sleep.
- Get enough physical exercise. By exercising thoroughly for 30 minutes each day, you tire your body out, which ensures better quality sleep when night time comes. Exercise also helps to reduce nightmares by cutting down on stress, which is another important contributing factor to bad dreams.
- Avoid electronic devices. The blue light emitted from devices, including smartphones, tablets, and laptops, can mess with your sleep cycle by suppressing sleep hormones because the brain still thinks it’s daytime. Avoid using electronic devices close to bedtime.
In summary, nightmares can be prevented by:
• Treating any underlying sleep disorders
• Reducing stress by meditating
• Improving the quality and length of sleep by optimizing the comfort of your bed and tiring yourself out enough so that you sleep soundly without disturbances from bad dreams.
If you are interested in learning more about organic natural mattresses, visit The Natural Sleep Company’s website.
The Natural Sleep company was established in 1984 with the aim of building beds that give people a good night’s sleep to improve the quality of their lives. The team has three decades of experience in creating high-quality mattresses and beds.