Dream a Little Dream of Death! Pain! Murder! Sadness! Good morning.
August 17, 2016 5:36 AM   Subscribe

My dreams keep turning sour just before I wake up. Why? How to fix my brain?

The last few nights of sleep, I've dreamed happily along until just before I wake up. At that point, the happy dream suddenly turns horrible: Tim Curry pops out of the sewer as I walk along a sunny street, or my husband and I start fighting in the new dream house we've moved into, or a long-lost family member shows up at the space party I've been enjoying and attacks me, etc. It's like my brain's equivalent of the twist movie ending. I'm picking oranges and then it's all HOORS DON'T GIT A SECOND CHANCE. And then I wake up disgruntled and kind of lost. So why is this happening? I realize a few nights is probably not enough for a pattern -- if this happened for months then I'd be more worried.

Some notes: I occasionally have interrupted sleep. Our kid sometimes wakes up early in the morning, and one of us soothes him back to sleep. Whether or not I'm the one doing the waking up and soothing hasn't had any effect on this dream thing -- it happens with or without the interruption. Have I somehow trained my dream brain's story function into behaving like M. Night Shyamalan? And if so, how do I retrain it?
posted by pepper bird to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I most often get nightmares when I'm too hot. I think people's body temperature usually starts to rise towards dawn, when they are starting to wake up. So maybe try fewer bed clothes so that you stay cooler?
posted by lollusc at 6:38 AM on August 17, 2016 [6 favorites]

I also get nightmares when I'm too hot. Setting the thermostat to drop the temperature early in the morning seems to help a little.
posted by belladonna at 6:48 AM on August 17, 2016

Any chance of sleep apnea?
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:48 AM on August 17, 2016

Best answer: Here's how I went from terrible dreams to mostly-good or at least neutral ones:

- Made sure my room was cool, and traded in my down comforter for a light coverlet. Like other posters above, I get bad dreams when I'm overheated.

- Got a sleep study, and, when apnea was confirmed, a CPAP machine. I think this made the biggest difference. Do your sleeping partner(s) tell you that you snore, gasp for breath, stop breathing, or thrash/kick in your sleep? Do you wake up with a dry mouth and/or a headache? If any of these apply, you should get a sleep test.

- Kept my blood sugar steady; if I got any blood sugar crashes at night in my sleep, I'd have horrible dreams and wake with a jolt. I have insulin resistance and have to eat low-carb during the day, and this made the night-time sugar crashes go away, but you might try a light protein-intensive snack before bed, like a small serving of Greek yogurt, a stick of string cheese, or a piece of chicken - nothing too big, as you don't want to sleep on a full stomach, but just something to keep blood sugar crashes away.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:04 AM on August 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Heh, I'm the total opposite of the folks above. When I have a rip-roaring nightmare, it's a guarantee that I will wake up, realize the covers are all gone, and I'm a popsicle. Retrieving covers and warming up a little before I go back to sleep usually keeps it from starting back up the moment I shut my eyes again.

But one way or the other, assess your body temperature when you wake up from one.
posted by telepanda at 7:58 AM on August 17, 2016

Best answer: I find I get nightmares if

a) I'm too hot;

b) I'm too cold;

c) I'm not wearing my CPAP mask for sleep apnoea;

d) I'm increasing or decreasing my dose of an Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor or Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor;

e) I'm increasing or decreasing my dose of Pregabalin/Lyrica;

f) I'm in physical pain;

g) I'm stressed or anxious.
posted by Sockpuppets 'R' Us at 8:25 AM on August 17, 2016

For me, the most common cause of nightmares is a drop in blood sugar. It causes the heart to race and then my brain needs to invent an explanation. It usually results in me running from something -- a wolf pack, a werewolf, a vampire, etc. Limiting sugar and having a healthy bedtime snack helps avoid that.

You will also be prone to nightmares during withdrawal. So, if you are quitting cigarettes or cutting back on coffee or anything like that, things tend to get wonky for a while.
posted by Michele in California at 10:19 AM on August 17, 2016

Response by poster: Ah, these answers shed so much light! We're living in an apartment while we close on a house, and the place is tiny and stifling, especially our bedroom. Also because of reasons (house closing/kid/family stuff/kid/health/kid) I've been pretty stressed lately, so...I've been eating a lot of cake. Like, a lot. Will try the high-protein snack, and perhaps the sleep study once our situation steadies.

I've marked a couple answers as best, but these are all excellent (and very kind, considering the specific circumstances and goofiness of my original Q). Thanks, you guys!
posted by pepper bird at 6:03 AM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

« Older It seems unhealthy to me, but what do I know   |   Short, Cheap Activities for 5th Graders Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.