Why Do I Have Bad Dreams and How To Stop Them?

Last Updated: JAN 19, 2024

Everyone has had a bad dream or two in their life. But sometimes these nightmares can become a regular occurrence and affect our sleep. If this is happening to you, then lets take some take action! Here’s how you can stop having bad dreams and get a good night's sleep.

how do i stop having nightmares

What Are the Causes of Nightmares?

Dreams can be both positive and negative. While some dreams may give us a sense of joy, others may make us fear the unknown or leave us with an unsettling feeling. Bad dreams can be caused by stress, anxiety, depression, or trauma.

These are common causes of nightmares:

  1. Stress and Anxiety - Stress, worry, and tension can lead to nightmares ranging from mild disturbances to full-blown terror.
  2. Medications - Certain medications such as antidepressants and stimulants can cause bad dreams or nightmares.
  3. Trauma or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - Experiencing a traumatic event may trigger recurrent nightmares related to the event.
  4. Mental Illness - Mental illnesses such as depression or bipolar disorder may also cause disturbing dreams or nightmares.
  5. Drug and Alcohol Use - Excessive drug and alcohol use can alter sleeping patterns and increase the frequency of bad dreams and nightmares.
  6. Age - Nightmares are more common in children and teenagers than adults due to their developing brains and shifting hormones.
  7. Environmental Factors - Any external noise or light can cause nightmares, as well as experiencing discomfort from an uncomfortable bed or sleeping environment.
  8. Dietary Choices - Eating certain foods before bed, like spicy dishes or those high in sugar, can cause bad dreams.
  9. Sleep Disorders - Conditions such as sleep apnea or narcolepsy can lead to frequent nightmares.
  10. Poor Sleep Habits - Not getting enough restful sleep or going to bed too late may result in nightmares.

Webmd.com state that between 2% and 8% of the adult population is plagued by nightmares.

How Do I Stop Having Bad Dreams?

Try to understand why they are happening

The first step in stopping your bad dreams is understanding why they occur. It could be that you have unresolved issues from your past, or maybe something more recent is causing stress. By understanding what is causing your bad dreams, you can start taking steps to address them in a healthy way. The key here is not to ignore the cause of your nightmares but rather find ways to process it and eventually let go of it. 

Some medications can cause nightmares so by process of elimination you might be able to narrow down your cause of nightmares yourself.

Develop Healthy Sleep Habits

In addition to addressing the cause of your bad dreams, developing healthy sleep habits can help reduce their frequency as well as improve the quality of your sleep overall. Start by going to bed at the same time each night and avoiding screens an hour before bedtime so that your mind and body have enough time to relax. You should also try sticking to a consistent routine throughout the day so that when it comes time for bed, your body knows it's time for restful sleep. Finally, make sure you're getting enough exercise during the day as this helps reduce stress and improves relaxation when it’s time for bed.

Engage in Relaxation Techniques Before Bedtime

Finally, engaging in relaxation techniques before bedtime can also help reduce bad dreams and improve the quality of your sleep overall. Try meditating or doing yoga right before you go to bed; both activities will help clear your mind while reducing stress levels at the same time. Additionally, writing down any worries or concerns you may have will help clear them out of your head while giving you some peace of mind before going off to sleep knowing that these issues are taken care of - at least for now.

Bad dreams often occur when we're feeling stressed. To reduce stress, it's important that you create this calming environment before bedtime by doing things like turning off all screens at least one hour before sleeping, taking a warm bath or shower, drinking chamomile tea, and reading something calming. Taking time to relax before bed will help ensure that your body is in the right state of mind for getting a good night's sleep.

Talk About It 

If you find yourself struggling with bad dreams frequently, it may be helpful to talk about it with someone you trust such as a friend, family member, or professional therapist. Talking through your feelings and experiences can help process any underlying emotions that may be contributing to the issue. And if needed, your therapist may suggest cognitive behavioral therapy which helps people identify and change negative thought patterns that contribute to anxiety and depression which in turn can lead to nightmares or other forms of sleep disturbance. 

Bad dreams are no fun at all, but with some effort and dedication, they don't have to be a regular occurrence anymore. Start by understanding what might be causing them and then work on developing healthy sleep habits such as exercising during the day and setting up an evening relaxation routine before hitting the hay each night. With these strategies in place, you will soon find yourself sleeping soundly through each night without any more nightmares.