What causes nightmares and how do you stop them? Sleep experts have weighed in on common triggers and tips for decreasing your nightmares.
This one may not be a surprise - alcohol, drugs, medication, and supplements can disrupt sleep. They can trigger prolonged REM sleep which can cause increased nightmares and vivid dreams. Experts recommend not partaking 4 hours before bed. If you take medications or supplements before bed, talk to your doctor about your options.
If your night time routine includes a bedtime snack, you may want to reconsider. Your body has to work hard to break down food and breaking down food while sleeping means your body will be sending signals to your brain to be more active, which can trigger nightmares. Food can also interrupt sleep patterns due to sweat and acid reflux. Sugary and spicy foods can trigger increased brain waves. If you don't want to quit your nighttime snacking, try to eat it at least two hours before going to bed.
Anxiety and stress can both trigger nightmares. They elevate your limbic activity which during REM sleep can cause nightmares. Try to avoid scary movies or shows before bed. Meditate or journal to help relax and calm your mind prior to sleep. You may also want to consider seeking a therapist to assist in decreasing stress and anxiety.
Are you a back sleeper? Time to make the switch. Studies have shown that sleeping on your back can increase nightmares. Sleeping on your back cab cause breathing difficulties which to your sleeping mind can trigger nightmares surrounding lack of air including being chased, suffocating, or drowning. Sleeping on your right side is your best bet.