Waking up from a bad dream in the middle of the night is quite unnerving. Falling asleep after such an intense experience is often difficult. If you're experiencing nightmares and have trouble falling back asleep, you're not alone.
A clear mind and relaxed body will help you overcome the feelings of stress and anxiety following a nightmare. Doing calming activities and staying away from anything that overworks your brain will allow you to fall back to sleep in no time.
This article will explain how nightmares can affect your sleep schedule and what you can do to get back to sleep shortly after experiencing one.
Why Do I Keep Having Bad Dreams?
Feelings of fear, stress, and anxiety following a nightmare are unsettling and will disturb your sleep cycle. Why exactly nightmares occur differs from one person to another.
While most nightmares are perfectly natural subconscious reactions to upsetting and unpleasant experiences, they can sometimes be too frequent. Recurring nightmares can lead to other issues, such as insomnia or sleep disorder.
Anxiety and stress are the most common factors causing nightmares. Irregularities in your sleep schedule or sleep deprivation can also lead to troublesome dreams. In other words, the more tired and troubled your mind and body are, the more likely you are to have bad dreams.
These nightmares are often not alarming and can be dealt with. However, something has to be done when they disrupt your entire sleep schedule and negatively affect your daily life and well-being.
How Can Frequent Nightmares Affect Your Sleep?
Most nightmares, especially the vivid ones, happen during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. This is the deepest sleep episode, where the brain is the most active.
During a bad dream or nightmare, the brain goes through a repeated state of an overactive imagination, which will often wake you up. A person experiencing a nightmare typically wakes up in fright, breathing heavily, and with an accelerated heart rate.
This makes it hard to fall asleep again and disturbs the entire sleep schedule, and can lead to fatigue, sleepiness, and worsened mood during the day.
Read also: Foods that cause nightmares
How to Go Back to Sleep After A Nightmare
Waking up from a bad dream causes significant distress. However, even if falling asleep has already proved difficult before, there are many things you can do about it. Below are some important tips on how to go back to sleep after a nightmare.
Remind Yourself It's Just A Dream
Bad dreams can take their toll on your physical and emotional health. You'll be tired from waking up halfway through your sleep and also be troubled by what you dreamed.
A nightmare can be an outright scary dream or a depiction of an utterly unpleasant situation.
Either way, you'll want to stay calm and reassure yourself that you're perfectly safe. Instead of dwelling on the troubling details for too long, try to make sense of it for a little while, as this will help take them off your mind faster.
If you're feeling very tense, there's little point in staying in bed as it can take forever to fall back asleep.
Take a short walk or do some stretching exercises to take your mind from the dream and reset your body.
Do Some Breathing Exercises
Once awake from a nightmare, you'll probably find yourself breathing heavily and feeling very tense.
By taking a few deep breaths right away, you should immediately feel less overwhelmed. From there, you can perform some breathing techniques and a full body scan meditation. This will allow you to release the tension much faster and help your mind and body to relax.
Turn on Some Relaxing Music
Playing a soothing piece of music is a great way to calm your mind and get back to sleep faster. Music has amazing effects on the human mind and helps relieve stress.
Listening to music can slow down your breathing and heart rate and helps with your blood pressure and cortisol levels, all of which favor sleeping and even improve sleep quality.
Don't Stare At Screens
Resist the temptation to check out your phone, TV, or computer.
Exposure to the screen's bright lights will hinder your body's ability to sleep. Several studies have shown that blue light blocks the secretion of melatonin, the hormone responsible for making us feel drowsy.
Make Yourself A Nice Hot Beverage
A warm drink can help you relax and induce sleep. Herbal tea like chamomile, cherry juice, and warm milk are all good options.
To avoid taking the time to prepare it, consider placing a thermos of your preferred beverage on your bedside table before sleeping.
Read also: Best teas for sleep
How to Prevent Nightmares from Disturbing Your Sleep
Nobody wants to deal with having to fall asleep after a nightmare. Here are a couple more tips to help you avoid nightmares altogether.
Establish A Bedtime Routine
Your best bet is to set up a good routine before bed. This will help you feel relaxed and fall asleep easier.
You can take a warm shower or bath, play something fun, do some exercises, or have a nice chat with someone before you go to bed.
In addition, make sure you're in a comfortable environment with as few distractions as possible.
Practice Breathing Techniques
We mentioned how breathing exercises help you cool down and calm your mind and body. There are several kinds of breathing exercises, many of which are good for sleeping.
Practicing a few breathing techniques before bed can significantly improve your sleep quality and lower the chance of having nightmares.
Maintain A Consistent Sleep Schedule
Your body and brain not only have trouble adjusting to different sleep cycles but will often feel drained and tired when they do have to adjust.
To avoid the many potential side effects, including difficulty falling asleep, try to sleep and wake up every day around the same time.
Read also: Is 2 hours sleep better than none?
See A Sleep Specialist
When nightmares become too frequent and unbearable, it can lead to a nightmare disorder, which is a treatable condition. This can lead to several psychological issues, such as anxiety, depression, and sleep disorder.
In this case, the best thing to do is to consult a somnologist to determine the underlying causes of recurring nightmares.
Conclusion: How to Go Back to Sleep After A Nightmare
Getting back to sleep after having a nightmare might seem like a nightmare in itself.
To prevent stress from getting the better of you, you should focus on calming your mind and body and getting as comfortable as possible.
To achieve that, there are several good practices to help you fall back asleep. These extend your bedtime routine and can help you avoid having nightmares in the first place and enjoy a restful sleep.