Go away, nightmares!
September 16, 2008 7:59 AM   Subscribe

Help me get rid of nightmares!

I've been having nightmares probably 4-5 nights a week for the last year or so and I'd really like them to go away. The subjects change depending on what's going on in my life, but they're generally marked by someone close to me dying or something violent happening to me or someone I care about. I have them regardless of the setting in which I sleep (I just moved, and I also went on a long trip recently and the nightmares continued). Short of being less anxious, is there anything I can change in my lifestyle to help? Thanks!
posted by lunit to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have a similar problem, although mine includes some severe insomnia bouts. Although it has not proved foolproof, making sure you dont drink alcohol or eat (especially a big meal) before you go to bed (give yourself a couple hours or so) has worked fairly well for me. Also take time to relax before you rest - read, veg out with music, NOT television, etc. You'll sleep better in any case and that may help the bad dreams.

You may, of course, want to see a Doc about this. There are some medical causes for sleep problems, including constant nightmares. Good luck.
posted by elendil71 at 8:15 AM on September 16, 2008

See previously. There is some very good information in there.
posted by crapmatic at 8:18 AM on September 16, 2008

Try meditation. For at least 10 minutes before bed. Take it seriously. Learn proper posture, breathing, etc.
posted by blueplasticfish at 8:18 AM on September 16, 2008

Not much here, but diet, esp eating just before sleeping, and drugs, prescription ones in particular, often cause what might be more accurately termed night terrors. The good news is that it's treatable.
posted by dawson at 8:21 AM on September 16, 2008

Keep a dream journal. Every morning when you wake up write down your dreams. Record feelings as well as observations.

As you keep doing this, re-read your journal frequently and make a list of things that happen repetitively in dreams/nightmares.

In conscious life remind yourself that you aren't dreaming because you are not feeling those things. If you were dreaming you would be feeling them.

Eventually you will recognize this while in a dream and your dreams will turn from nightmares to bliss. You will gain control of your mental faculties (lucid dream).

This is a very concentrated form of dreamsign methodology, but it works for many many people.

MeFi mail me if you have any questions or would like more detail!
posted by bradly at 8:33 AM on September 16, 2008

Try sleeping with the TV on. ESPN works for me.
posted by stubby phillips at 8:47 AM on September 16, 2008

Make absolutely sure you have no nighttime breathing issues, such as asthma, apnea, or perhaps even chronic congestion:

Prevalence of nightmares among patients with asthma and chronic obstructive airways disease.

...OAD patients with asthma reported approximately three times as many nightmares as controls or OAD patients without asthma ... . OAD patients, whether with or without asthma, were nearly 3 times more likely than controls to report that their nightmares were a "problem". ...

posted by jamjam at 9:28 AM on September 16, 2008

If you're keeping a dream journal you may also want to keep a "before bed" journal and see if there are any similarities on the days that you have nightmares. My sister, for example, had nightmares for a long time [she had night terrors too a lot as a kid] and found that chocolate before bed was a trigger she hadn't really thought about but once she noticed it, it really helped clear things up. My nightmares are almost always predicated by a combination of stress in my waking life and eating late before bed. See if you can spot any similarities in your own patterns. Good luck, I know it's no fun at all.
posted by jessamyn at 9:30 AM on September 16, 2008

You should take everyone else's advice.

Weed: Dream Suppressant.
posted by Monstrous Moonshine at 9:47 AM on September 16, 2008

Are you taking melatonin? I found that I had horrible vivid nightmares when I used even a tiny amount of melatonin.
posted by agatha_magatha at 10:29 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding leaving the TV on while you sleep. We've been doing this for several years now since Mr. Adams had been complaining of awful nightmares. I'd noticed that sometimes the TV penetrates my subconscious (we have it set to change variously to Nick at Nite, TVLand and Lifetime) and I'll dream that I'm making out with Niles Crane or Paul Buchman. (OK, perhaps those dreams could be construed as nightmares.) Anyway, Mr. Adams has been sleeping much more restfully since we started the TV regime.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:56 AM on September 16, 2008

Jung believed that dreams are basically the soul (true self) trying to communicate with the conscious mind. Dreams are that deeper essence's language.

Pay attention to what's happening, write it down and thing about what it could mean. A lot of times it's an intuitive process. Think literally about the symbols... what am I trying to tell myself? A lot of times other people symbolize parts of yourself... if you see that person suffering or dying that part of your deeper self may be crying out for expression or understanding.

Perusing any good book or site on archetypes in Jungian dream interpretation will probably surprise you. You may instantly connect with the symbolism.
posted by muscat at 11:18 AM on September 16, 2008

I realized recently that whenever I wake up from a bad dream, I find that I had moved to sleeping on my back (I'm usually a stomach sleeper). Have you noticed any such elements in common when you experience nightmares? There may be ways to prevent certain situations from occurring (e.g., with back sleeping, sewing a pocket containing a tennis ball onto the back of a shirt). Good luck!
posted by penchant at 11:23 AM on September 16, 2008

Are you taking any medications? Anecdatally, certain antihistamines give me very vivid dreams (not actually nightmares, but a little too vivid to be pleasant).
posted by Quietgal at 11:43 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the help, y'all. Not currently taking any medications, no, but I am taking vitamins.

Lots of good advice here. I'll try it out.
posted by lunit at 11:55 AM on September 16, 2008

Certain sleeping aids do cause nightmares and night terrors (esp. melatonin). I suggest seeking a mental health professional. No, you aren't "crazy", but they are way more experienced in this.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:07 PM on September 16, 2008

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