How To Stop Stressful Dreams & Nightmares So You Can Wake Up Feeling Rested
If vivid dreams have been waking you up lately, you're not alone. Stress, overwhelm, and a lack of control can all contribute to more vibrant dreams and nightmares and throw off your sleep cycle. And needless to say, these are emotions we're all feeling after months in a global pandemic.
"The amount of change, stress, and even anxiety that people are experiencing right now is certainly enough to carry over into sleep," holistic psychologist Nicole Beurkens, Ph.D., CNS, says. And though we can't restore normalcy in everyday life, we can establish a nightly ritual that sets us up for more restorative rest.
What to do every night to set yourself up for deeper, uninterrupted sleep.
If you're having trouble with sleep, "One great way to ease yourself into sleep is via calming adaptogens and magnesium supplements," says integrative immunologist Heather Moday, M.D. "I particularly love sleep support+ by mindbodygreen that features magnesium glycinate, which may promote relaxation.*"
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To help calm your mind, mbg's sleep support+ also contains jujube, which is a fruit used in traditional Chinese medicine for stress management.* "For people who are experiencing distressing dreams nightly, it is typically a sign that stress and anxiety levels are too high," Beurkens says. "They would benefit from strategies to support anxiety reduction so they can get good-quality uninterrupted sleep."
Along with taking a magnesium supplement an hour or so before bed, physician and expert on stress and mind-body medicine Eva Selhub, M.D. recommends limiting your news consumption, practicing mindfulness, and meditating for at least 10 or 20 minutes every day. This can "help you shift away from fearful thoughts and elicit the relaxation response," she explains.
How can you get past persistent nightmares?
As you adjust to your new relaxing bedtime ritual, it may help to have some nightmare coping-strategies at your disposal, too.
If your nightmare wakes you up in the middle of the night, Schneeberg says it's important to change the scenery in order to leave the nightmare behind. Keeping things on your bedside table, like a book, a podcast, or a crossword puzzle, may help—just avoid doing work or grabbing for your phone.
"Use these relaxing activities until you have distracted and quieted your mind enough to feel relaxed and drowsy again," she says. "If you think this might take more than 30 minutes, it's best to move out of your bed and sit in a nearby chair or in another comfortable place in your home."
It's completely normal to be experiencing bad dreams (and bad sleep) right now. While there's no guaranteed way to nix your quarantine nightmares, taking a sleep-promoting supplement, practicing mindfulness, and having a backup plan can all help you sleep more peacefully and wake up ready to take on the day.