How to Prevent Nightmares: 5 Effective Methods

Sleeping is the only peaceful thing we can do in the day where all of our worries fade away. But if nightmares are causing disruptions for you, read on to know how to prevent nightmares!

If you wake up from a terrible and disturbing nightmare, it may strike you that you are the only one to experience the nightmare disorder. But aren’t adults believed to outgrow nightmares?

Although children indeed experience nightmares more often than adults, even adults have frequent nightmares. So, it is essential to know how to prevent nightmares1.

If you are also suffering from chronic nightmares and if it is interrupting your sleep on a regular sleep schedule, then you must find out the reason. If you can know the reason for your sleep disorders, you can make some changes to reduce the occurrence of bad dreams.

What are Nightmares?

Nightmares can be described as disturbing dreams which might seem very realistic. Nightmares deprive a person of deep sleep and people experience rigorous heart pounding which is caused by the fear of such night terrors. 

Nightmares depend on one person to another. Some might have nightmares where they are not able to run fast enough from any dangers, some might have nightmares where they see they are falling from a height. 

Also, if you have recently undergone a bad accident or an attack, it is common to experience frequent nightmares. 

One must note that night terrors and nightmares are not the same. Night terrors occur right before one has just slept, they experience terror feelings and not dreams. So they remain terrified upon waking them up. 

How to Prevent Nightmares?

For some people, nightmares are not an issue. But when it comes to controlling, nightmares are complicated. It depends on how you spend your everyday life.

If you have continuous stress and trouble falling asleep and wake up suddenly due to post-traumatic stress disorder2, you should find a way to keep your mental health better and stop nightmares. Now we will check the pointers to know how to prevent nightmares:

1. Good Sleep to Prevent Nightmares

If you practice good sleep hygiene, you can get more restful sleep. However, it is not always possible to stop a bad dream and have a good sleep.

Though you can set up your major lifestyle to erase those scary nightmares and have better sleep, you need to ensure that you have good habits and maintain a healthy routine. Also, the environment you are resting in must be ideal for your rest.

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By Tartila/Shutterstock

Make sure that your bedroom is calm, quiet, and dark. You can use your earbuds with some pleasant sleeping music to neglect the weird noises. You can even remove the light sources or turn them off when you are about to sleep.

2. Habits

If you watch scary movies late at night, you have a greater chance of facing nightmares during your sleep. So, it would help if you considered watching scary movies, especially at night.

To avoid nightmares, you can set your regular bedtime and waketime in the early hours. Also, try to add regular exercise, sunlight exposure, and some evening relaxation routine.

If you drink too much coffee and tea, you should lessen it. Consuming caffeine can affect your sleep, and it also triggers heart disease.

Also, do not have snacks at bedtime, and avoid having spicy foods. Try to remove spicy foods from your daily food intake, and it can even help you ensure better health.

3. Write Down Your Problems

You can share your bad dreams on social media to get some social support which is a big help in avoiding adult nightmares. It can even reduce your anxiety3 related to nightmares.

If you do not feel comfortable sharing your dreams on social media, you can always visit a therapist and seek help. Your therapist may even ask you to include some rehearsal therapy in your daily routine for better health and brain activity.

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By Magostar/Shutterstock

When you suddenly wake up from a nightmare and cannot sleep again, it is better to write down your dream in a notebook and then take a warm bath.

You can even try imagery rehearsal therapy which includes recalling your nightmares and then writing a better version. Then it would help if you rehearsed the new scenario daily to erase the original nightmare theme.

Doctors often recommend this type of treatment to sleep, disorder patients.

4. Deal with Your Stress to Prevent Nightmares

You can focus on your daily routine if nothing works for you. Reducing daily life stressors can significantly help to prevent nightmares.

Stressors can be your relationship, business, or health matters like blood pressure. All the stressors affect your brain waves and create negative thoughts which trigger you to see bad dreams.

Stress is an underlying disorder that is related to poor sleep. If you are having a troublesome day, then you should take some time to de-stress, do deep breathing, and take a bath. You can even speak to your family members who can help you to relax and de-stress your body.

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By Ariya J/ Shutterstock

Progressive muscle relaxation is also another method that is highly recommended to reduce stress and tension. It includes relaxing your muscle groups all over your body and is generally done in a clinical setting. You can even do it in your home with a guided audio track.

You must not make a habit of overnight sleep study and avoid watching scary movies before bed. Such compromises can get you sweet dreams. You can try reading a neutral book that gives a message on how to build up your hobby or some book related to fun activities.

Avoid doing stuff that creates problems for you since, in most cases, people have common themes of nightmares, and doing something problematic can induce nightmares in your sleep.

5. Medical Treatments to Prevent Nightmares

You can take sleep medicine to have a good sleep. But again, before taking any pills, make sure to discuss them with your doctor. Do not act on your own.

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By SkazovD/ Shutterstock

Improving your night’s sleep with the help of some essential oils is a perfect choice. You can calm your body from any stress with the help of an essential oil diffuser.

Various types of research prove that fragrance directly or indirectly affects your psychological behaviour.4 Purchase a good air diffuser and set it in your room. It will calm you down and help you get a peaceful and relaxing rest.

Hopefully, these 5 methods will help you to control your nightmares and your question of how to prevent nightmares ends here.

Factors Influencing Nightmares

If you ask people about their last bad dreams, you will find some answers in most cases.

In a study in 2014, the University of Montreal, after analyzing 243 nightmares and 431 bad dreams, concluded that physical aggression plays a central role in nightmares, including death, health, and threats. It results in despair, anxiety, contempt, and chaos.

However, one can experience nightmares due to many reasons5. Generally, men’s nightmare includes wars and natural disasters. Where women undergo nightmares of interpersonal conflicts, let us take a look at the leading causes of experiencing nightmares.

1. Anxiety And Stress

You can have stress for many reasons. It can originate from everyday tasks, moving from one place to another, failing to complete a task, significant events like divorce, the death of a family member, and anxiety disorders.

Performance anxiety is a common theme for athletes. A study of adults reports that athletes face distressing dreams before any significant event. Even such anxiety dreams are common among students before their finals or years after they have finished school.

If you are stressed and have anxiety, it will result in poor sleep, ultimately triggering nightmares.

Hence, it is proven that anxiety and trauma are responsible for bad dreams.

2. Depression

Depression always increases nightmare frequency. It is associated with negative emotions and self-attitude. Moreover, depression has become the main reason for nightmares in adults.

3. Bad Incident

Regular nightmares are linked with bad life experiences and events. It can be your relationship violence or survival from any natural disaster, which is often characterized as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

People who experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD) have more recurrent nightmares than other people without post-traumatic stress disorder.

Even the National Center for PTSD-related nightmares says that one can face nightmares that include trauma or replay of events that have earlier happened in the person’s life.

4. Personality

Adults with personality traits of distrustfulness, emotional estrangement, and alienation are more likely to experience chronic nightmares.

However, people with thinner personality boundaries have more extraordinary creativity skills and experience negligible nightmare frequency.

5. Environment

Sleep quality is affected by the temperature and comfort you are in. The environment also plays an essential role in the dream content.

Living in a too-cold or too-hot place can lead to less restful sleep, which will cause more awakenings. It means you will have more bad dreams.

6. Medications to Prevent Nightmares

Some medications can influence neurotransmitters, and they increase the nightmare frequency.

Drugs of antidepressants and barbiturates significantly affect sleep health. If you feel that your nightmare frequency has increased right after changing your medications, you must report this to your physician.

7. Media

Shows, including scary movies, thrilling, or even suspenseful shows, can induce persistent nightmares. Scary movies often cause stress and disturb mental health since when sleeping, some visual imagery pops up from the scary movie. The broadcast, which gives fear-inducing news, can result in bad dreams.

More than 90% of people can recall a terrifying presentation on media affecting their mental health and sleep. For some children, it also affects their eating habits in childhood since they can recall blood, disturbing sounds, and distorted images from scenes they have seen earlier.

8. Eating Just Before Bedtime to Prevent Nightmares

If you have your meal just a while before bedtime, it can cause you indigestion. Furthermore, this can influence your dreams and metabolism. Late-night eating disturbs your sleep cycle and causes nightmares.

Junk foods and spicy meals can produce adult nightmares and disturb your peaceful sleep.

9. Other Factors Which Impact Nightmares

You can face frequent nightmares if you have insomnia and fatigue.

  • Sleep Disorder

People who have sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome can experience nightmares. People with other sleep disorders are also prone to nightmares.

  • Pain

A study showed that about 39% of people suffering from burn injuries experience pain in dreams, and it is often caused by nightmares, increasing daytime pain.

  • Migraine

Headaches due to migraine are linked with recurrent nightmares and dreams. Try to eliminate bad dreams by Setting a regular sleep schedule. It should include enough sleep at night so you don’t feel the urge to take afternoon or evening naps.

What do you mean by REM Sleep? 

REM is the acronym for Rapid Eye Movement. In this phase of sleep, one associates the dream with memory consolidation. 

In the 1950s, this REM Sleep was first discovered. Scientists tested this sleep on infants, where at a particular interval the eyes of the infants moved rapidly from side to side while they were sleeping.

With the rapid movement of the eyeballs, the heart rate also increases, and breathing during this time also becomes irregular. In REM sleep, the brain remains highly active and its waves become very variable. 

What are the Health Effects of Nightmares?

When the nightmares start affecting your health, they are more than just bad dreams. Nightmares can have a bad effect on health and mental peace. People suffering from nightmares remain anxious and depressed. Hence, it is crucial to take steps to prevent nightmares.

At the most extreme, they also have psychological effects. When they do not understand the connection because of the nightmares, they attempt suicide. For such serious occurrences, one must seek medical help immediately.

Let us now see what are the possible health effects of nightmares:

  1. Feeling anxious and depressed thus having the thought of suicide.
  2. Sleep deprivation due to nightmares can bring serious health conditions like heart disease, depression and obesity. 
  3. If nightmares go untreated then they will lead to sleep apnea or post-traumatic stress.
  4. Nightmares can cause significant and negative effects on physical and mental health. 

Treatments to Prevent Nightmares

Nightmares lead to sleep deprivation which will cause anxiety and other related health issues, so why not check out the treatments available for nightmares? 

  1. At times, nightmares happen because of the high dosage of medicines. If that is the problem, then you must visit your doctor immediately and can take suggestions and limit your dosage. 
  2. Sleep apnea is another cause of nightmares, so treating the disorder will help you to control the symptoms and thus can give you good sleep. 
  3. If your nightmares are not for any illness or medication, then check your behaviour pattern. 90% of people suffer from nightmares because of anxiety and depression can lead to bad nightmares. For this one can channel out these unwanted emotions through meditation, exercise, positive thoughts, spiritual connection, etc. 
  4. PTSD can also lead to nightmares. For this one can undergo Imagery Rehearsal Treatment if you are facing continuous nightmares. This technique will help you to rehearse the nightmares and change them to how would you like the dream to happen. 
  5. Therapies can also be of great help. 
  6. There are other ways as well to reduce your nightmare like timely sleep and waking up, exercise, yoga and meditation are also very helpful. 
  7. Maintain good sleep hygiene. Leave your bedroom space for a peaceful sleep and not do stressful activities. 
  8. Do not intake alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine, this also causes disturbed sleep patterns. 

In the End

Nightmares are common causes, and a significant population is adults report affected by this disorder.

So it would help if you were not ashamed of your case or your dreams. nightmares can also cause sleep deprivation, they are linked to heart disease and obesity as well. Nightmares are a negative image of your fear and anxiety.

After reading through all these methods, you must have realized that there is no way to stop your nightmares for good. But by following the tips on how to prevent nightmares mentioned above, you can manage your fears and get a good night’s sleep without any interruptions.


  1. What do nightmares tell us?

Ans. Nightmares are linked to psychological needs or any frustration and ongoing restlessness in life. The nightmares are said to be related to metaphors rather than describing literal life scenarios. 

      2. What are some simple ways to never have a nightmare?

Ans. Some simple ways to stop nightmares are as follows:

  • Get relaxed before you sleep. You can listen to soothing music, or practice self-therapy while you sleep. 
  • Watch some soothing videos or positive videos before bed. 
  • Offer assurances to self-mind and calm it down. 
  • If you have a bad dream, then talk about it to your family or friend. 
  • If you have a nightmare, make your endings by rewriting that. 
  • Provide comfort to self. 
  • Use a lampshade to sleep. 
  • Wear comfortably and sleep snuggly. 
  1. For how long do nightmares last?

Ans. On average, nightmares last for about 10-20 minutes. 

  1. Are nightmares any warning to us?

Ans. Frequently nightmares are indeed warning to us. They are warning about our mental and physical health. Take note of your own psychological need and channel out your negative emotions in this case. 

  1. What is the most common nightmare?

Ans. Being chased by someone is the most common nightmare suffered by an average number of human beings. 

  1. Nielsen, Tore, and Ross Levin. “Nightmares: a new neurocognitive model.” Sleep medicine reviews 11.4 (2007): 295-310. ↩︎
  2. Yehuda, Rachel. “Post-traumatic stress disorder.” New England journal of medicine 346.2 (2002): 108-114. ↩︎
  3. Brown, Richard, and Patricia L. Gerbarg. The healing power of the breath: Simple techniques to reduce stress and anxiety, enhance concentration, and balance your emotions. Shambhala Publications, 2012. ↩︎
  4. Neave, Nick. Hormones and behaviour: a psychological approach. Cambridge University Press, 2007. ↩︎
  5. Schredl, Michael, and Anja S. Göritz. “Nightmare themes: An online study of most recent nightmares and childhood nightmares.” Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine 14.3 (2018): 465-471. ↩︎

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Susanta Biswas

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