Skip to NavigationSkip to Main ContentSkip to Footer

Sweet Dreams Are Made of This: How to Avoid Having Nightmares

Everybody is looking for something to drive away bad dreams. Everyone has, at some point, woken up in a panic thanks to a bad dream. Unfortunately, some are plagued by constant nightmares – sometimes every night.

And as frustrating as this situation is for an adult, it can be heartbreaking if it’s happening to your child. Here are some helpful tips.

1.    Establish a Sleep Routine

The hours leading up to bedtime are essential for a good night’s sleep. Set a bedtime for yourself and your kids and commit to calming activities beforehand. Try to avoid screens; this is a time for more serene activities like reading books or taking warm baths. Screens, especially phones and tablets, emit blue light that tells our brains it’s daytime and time to be awake. Even with settings that eliminate the blue light, these screens usually make our minds too active.

2.    Exercise

Exercise eliminates many problems, but it can also help get rid of nightmares. But don’t exercise right before bed – that will energize you and keep you from going to sleep. Try a morning run and stay active throughout the day.

3.    Watch What You Eat and Drink

If you have a habit of drinking coffee late in the day, this can cause more problems than just insomnia. Caffeine in your system may be keeping your mind in an elevated state thanks to the increased production of cortisol, which is a hormone that causes stress. You might think depressants would be the better route, but alcohol is equally able to give you nightmares.

4.    Break the Cycle of Sleep Loss

The unfortunate irony is that getting less sleep can contribute to nightmares. If you’re getting less sleep because of nightmares, this can feel like a cycle with no exit point. Usually, however, there are other contributing factors.

New parents can expect to get interrupted sleep and less of it overall. Parents may have to work out plans on who takes care of the baby during certain portions of the night.

5.    Check Your Medications

Certain types of medications can lead to nightmares. These are usually prescription medications for specific conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, high blood pressure, and depression. Your doctor may be able to switch you to a different medication that’s just as effective for your condition but doesn’t cause bad dreams.

6.    Lower Your Stress

Finally, do what you can to lower stress. Spend more time taking slow walks and doing breathing exercises. Tell yourself that email or voicemail can wait. Order out for dinner instead of bending your schedule to cook a fancy meal.

If your kids have bad dreams, look at their schedule and see if you should remove some activity. Dance lessons and soccer can wait until they start sleeping better, or maybe never start them up again. No matter your child’s interests, they aren’t more important than their health.