Your Anxiety Dreams Are Good For You!
How to Stop Anxiety Dreams
Anxiety dreams can interfere with sleep quality and cause you stress both in and out of your dreams. To help you deal with these dreams (and sometimes nightmares), perform calming and relaxing rituals before bedtime so that you enter sleep calmly. If you wake up from a nightmare, use some soothing techniques to go back to bed such as visualization or deep breathing. If your anxiety dreams are due to mental health problems, talk to a professional and get the help you need.
Relaxing Your Mind and Body Before Bedtime
Empty your mind before bed.Thinking about your to-do list and your worries can keep you up at night. Try to get all of those thoughts out of your head before you lie down to go to sleep.
- Keep a journal next to your bed and write out your to-do list and thoughts before you go to sleep.
- Have everything you need for the next day organized and planned out so you're not thinking about it as you're trying to fall asleep.
Practice good sleeping habits.Have a routine you perform each night before you go to bed. This can include doing a calm activity and going to bed at the same time each night. Creating consistency with good habits can help you relax and enter into sleep more easily.
- Remove screens (such as a television, tablet, or phone) from your bedroom. You may want to designate a cutoff time for use, such as 1-2 hours before bed.
Do a calming activity before falling asleep.Find an activity to helps you feel calm, relaxed, and a bit sleepy. This activity should help you deal with stress and anxiety as well as make you feel good. This might include reading, coloring, journaling, meditating, doing yoga, stretching, or petting your dog.
- The activity need not be traditionally relaxing but should feel relaxing to you. For example, you might feel relaxed by doing some woodwork or stamp collecting.
Drink an herbal tea.Herbal tea can help relax you and put your body into a calm state. Get in the habit of drinking tea each night before bed and making it part of your calming ritual. An ingredient called L--theanine is found abundantly in tea leaves and can help the body feel calm and relaxed without sedation or risk of dependence.
- Prepare yourself a cup of uncaffeinated herbal tea each night to encourage your body to relax and go to sleep peacefully. Try chamomile, licorice, or another calming tea you enjoy.
- If you don't like tea, try warm milk or water before bed instead.
Take a bath.If you struggle to calm your mind and body before bed, try taking a soothing bath. Infuse the bath water with a smell you enjoy and that brings you peace.Letting your body relax into the warm water can help your mind begin to relax, too.
- Don’t let any anxious thoughts come into your space while bathing. If they do come in, let them pass without latching on to them or entertaining them.
Perform progressive muscle relaxation to relax your body.Progressive muscle relaxation can help with reducing nightmares.You can do it while you lay down in your bed. Start by tensing and relaxing different muscles in your body, starting from your toes and moving up toward your face.
- Relaxing your body can help you feel calm and release any anxiety and stress out of your body before you fall asleep.
Use a guided-meditation app.Download a guided-meditation app on your smartphone or tablet and listen to it while you're trying to fall asleep. Look for an app that has a sleep-meditation option. You can listen to the guided meditation using headphones, or you can set your phone or tablet on your nightstand.
Do deep-breathing exercises before you go to bed.Take slow, deep breaths, and count to 5 on each inhale and exhale. Try holding your breath for a few seconds between your inhales and exhales. Deep-breathing exercises can help you relax and fall asleep easier.
Keep your worries away from your sleep.Make your bed a worry-free zone. When you get inside your bedroom or into your bed, don’t entertain anxious thoughts. When you notice an anxious thought, let it float in and out of your awareness without entertaining it.
- If you struggle not to entertain your anxious thoughts, keep a worry journal. Allow yourself to write down all of your worries before bed, then close the journal to put your worrying to sleep, too.
Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and other drugs.Alcohol and drugs, including sleep aids, can disrupt your sleep and contribute to nightmares.If you drink alcohol, drink a lot of caffeine, or take drugs, notice how they affect your sleep and if they trigger nightmares. You may benefit from cutting back or eliminating your consumption altogether.
- If you drink caffeine in the afternoon, try cutting back and not drinking caffeine late in the day.
Getting Back to Sleep After a Nightmare
Focus on your breath to calm your mind and body.Doing some deep breathing can help you feel calm and relaxed, especially when you feel anxious after a dream. Breathe through your diaphragm by inhaling and exhaling slowly. Keep your attention on your breath and away from distractions.
- Using deep breathing is a simple tool to help with anxiety that you can do at any time. Try doing a few deep breaths as you fall back asleep to allow yourself to drift off peacefully.
Practice visualization to increase a sense of calm.Dealing with nightmares can make you feel alert and awake, so help your body calm down by using visualization techniques. Use your imagination as a way to increase feelings of calm and relaxation. Creating a calming image can help you relieve stress and anxiety.
- For example, close your eyes and imagine that you are on a beautiful beach, surrounded by the calming waves, soft wind in the trees, and the smell of coconuts around you.
Think about what you’re grateful for instead of what you fear.Instead of worrying about your bad dream, fall back asleep thinking about what you’re grateful for. A gratitude practice can help with overall well-being and happiness. Think of 3 specific things that you’re grateful for after your day to help distract your mind from worrying thoughts.
- Keep your mind occupied by the things that make you feel gratitude, not the things that make you anxious.
Try Image Rehearsal Therapy (IRT) after an anxiety dream.IRT is mostly used for nightmares that are caused by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but can be helpful for other types of bad dreams, too. If you have a recurring anxiety dream (like getting lost while driving and not having a map), visualize a new ending to the nightmare and repeat it over and over so that the dream ends well and isn’t scary or traumatic.
- By giving the dream a new ending, you can make the dreams less debilitating.
- You can also write out the positive ending to your anxiety dream in a journal.
- If you're having a recurring anxiety dream, try visualizing a happy ending to the dream as you're falling asleep at night.
Working with a Professional
Talk to your prescriber if the nightmares are due to medication.Some medications and combinations of medications can contribute to nightmares. If you think this might be the case, talk to your prescriber about your options for medications. They may prescribe you a different medication or adjust your dosage.
- Nightmares have been reported using antibiotics (such as Erythromycin), blood pressure medications, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medications.
- Note when the anxiety nightmares began and if they coincide with medication use.
Talk to a therapist about your anxiety.If you struggle with anxiety and need some help gaining control of your anxious thoughts, a therapist can help. Your therapist can help you understand your anxiety and encourage you to self-soothe when you feel stressed and anxious. Dealing with your anxiety can help you address what may cause your anxiety while you sleep.
- You can find a therapist by calling your insurance provider or a local mental health clinic. You can also get a recommendation from a friend or contact your physician for a referral.
Treat enduring symptoms if you’ve experienced a traumatic event.If you’ve experienced a traumatic event (such as assault, natural disasters, or violence), or any event that caused you intense fear, you may experience some residual trauma that affects your sleep. This is especially true if you’ve been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Recognize that a traumatic event may be the cause of these anxiety dreams and it’s best to treat the trauma as the root cause of the nightmares.
Ask about medications used to treat anxiety nightmares.Some medications can be used when the nightmares are debilitating and affecting your life. Talk to your prescriber about medications to treat your severe anxiety dreams. Some medications that may be used include trazodone, atypical antipsychotic medications, and certain types of antidepressants.
- Talk to your prescriber about your symptoms and let them know you are interested in medication.
- Keep in mind that some medications can actually make anxiety nightmares worse.
- Notice how the dreams make you feel. It can help to understand the feelings that the dreams elicit. For example, you might experience job-related anxiety or anxiety due to pregnancy. Your dreams may indicate that you feel vulnerable to financial instability or something happening to your child.
Video: Sleep Meditation for Anxiety, Nightmares and Night Terrors | Spirit Guide, Guardian Angel Protection
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