Have you ever woken up from a peaceful sleep and woke up screaming at the top of your lungs? (See picture above!) Well the girl in the picture is frightened, but is not screaming her head off. (But you get the picture!) I’ve experienced nightmares with the exact same look of fright on my face many times! When I was a kid, I would scream and call for my parents when I saw this:
Nine times out of ten, this would be just the wind and just the light reflecting off the trees creating this illusion that scares the crap out of kids. I hated this and always had a nightlight. Mom and Dad had to check all the places in my bedroom (like under the bed!) and give me the all clear signal before closing my eyes and drifting off to sleep.
As an adult, I’ve noticed that my nightmares are more prevalent during STRESSFUL times. Not surprising at all. When you’re trying to close your eyes and drift off to the stage of deep REM sleep, it can be pretty difficult to do that if you’re stressed. Whether you have work or family on your mind, or things that need to be done in the coming days, your brain is constantly active when you’re in distress. Funny! When I need my brain to be active during the workday, it’s not but when I’m in distress is on in full force. This drives me NUTS!
Like I stated before, depression and anxiety can cause nightmares. I talked about nightmares in a previous post. You can check the popular post under “Nightmares.” I’ve talked about snakes, planes, working in retail, hospitals and other experiences that give me reoccurring night terrors. I love my sleep! I really do! But after being diagnosed with depression and anxiety, my love for it began to become a terror in itself. Depression for me, gave me insomnia, weird sleep patterns such as little sleep to too much sleep, and you guessed it: nightmares! Medications are also a culprit when it comes to crazy dreams and also happens when you have medication reactions/withdrawals, too.
One of the things that plays a role in your sleeping habits is: your lifestyle and your bedtime routine. How you de-stress yourself and relax your body before calling it a “night” is different for everyone. Since I work at Starbucks, I usually will not be home until 10:30pm and as late as 11:30pm. I really hate being out this late, but I don’t make the hours of business (I wish!). Typically, after I get home, I prepare for the next day. I lay out my clothes for tomorrow, I set my towel in the bathroom so it’s there I went take my daily morning shower, change into my pajamas, and above all, RELAX. I try to absorb up my day and just “write it out” . (Keeping a journal of your day isn’t a bad idea! Many doctors say this is a smart idea!) I found this incredibly helpful because if you go to sleep with so many things on your mind, you’re not going to sleep well at all. Your active brain will constantly pester the living crap out of you.
A regular healthy lifestyle is important, too. I wouldn’t recommend eating anything at all. The only thing I consume is water if I’m thirsty. I’ve noticed that any kind of caffeine such as coffee, soda (even diet!), and certain teas (especially black teas like Early Grey!) can keep you buzzing for hours on end. If you train yourself to de-stress after a long day with relaxation, water, and no food, then you will have better rest and sleep. However, one night, I went to bed very angry and very stressed out and around 3:00am, I woke up screaming and was covered in perspiration. Lesson learned! Do NOT do this! Just like when couples argue, counselors say “Never go to bed angry.” So true!
When I do get nightmares, they usually involve stresses of everyday life (like a bad day at work), or they can be reoccurring ones from my past. I get the usual snake nightmare every now and then. I got one of those recently, when a relative posted a picture on Facebook of 10 copper head snakes in her neighbor’s yard. I immediately screamed when I saw this picture and guess what: I had a dream that it happened to me. Yikes! I woke up in a sweat, nauseated so bad that I thought I was going to be sick, and my heart was pounding way too fast. This is what I would call a “nightmare” and also a “panic attack”, too.
So if you have nightmares or weird dreams, you may ask yourself what should I do? You can first start by relaxing yourself. From head to toe, relax all of your muscles. Do something that relaxing for you like take deep breaths (inhale, and exhale), take a hot bath, listening to soothing music, or yoga. Whatever floats your boats! Secondly, limit your food and drink intake and stop eating or snacking around 7pm. If you eat heavily before bed, you’re not going to sleep well at all. Period. Establish a routine bedtime. I mean go to bed around the same time every night and get up at the same time every day. It’s hard, but not impossible. Next, don’t watch anything scary! I avoid watching the news before sleeping. If there’s a serious situation going on in the world such as a mass shooting or something, I will not watch any coverage on it. That it is way too stressful and depressing for me. And don’t watch any scary movies as well before going to bed. (Oops, been there!) Nightmares will still happen! Even well rested people still get those, too!
In short, adhere to what Aaron Rodgers so famously says:
Just RELAX and get your ZZZ’s. (I understand if some aren’t Aaron Rodgers fans! I root for the Texans, too! However, Green Bay is still my team! You can’t take Wisconsin out of me!)