How to Prevent Nightmares and Get A More Restful Sleep

Most of us just want to relax after a long, hard day. The relief we feel when we think that when we sleep tonight we will be fully recharged and ready to tackle another day. Except some of us don't get that full night's rest. This could be because they are plagued by nightmares that keep us up at night, preventing us from getting a good night's rest.

When we hear the word "nightmare" we, as adults assume that we've outgrown them; that they only happen to children. However that is not the case, nightmares affect everyone regardless of age or gender. That's why if you're not getting enough sleep because of them, it's a good idea to read up on the subject to stop them from happening.

What are nightmares?

When we shut our eyes to get to sleep, there is an entire process involved. That process, which happens in cycles or waves, usually lasts a little over an hour and a half.

The sleep cycle is further subdivided into 5 stages, Stages 1 - 4, all with varying depths in consciousness, and finally REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Sleep. In the last stage do nightmares occur; many scientists are still left without a concrete answer as to why they happen, however they have theorized that the brain in this stage creates a seamless story from the events that have happened before you fell asleep.

Many have proposed factors that may contribute to the occurrence of nightmares, and according to NHS,they are:

1. Underlying Health Conditions

There are many health problems that can cause nightmares, such as restless leg syndrome and apnoea, that can prevent you from getting a good night's sleep. They mess with your brain's normal functioning which might in turn create nightmares.

2. Trauma and Stress

One of the most common causes of nightmares, this certainly ties up with the theory that our brain forces us to relive past events in our lives in the form of nightmares. 
People who have experienced trauma have reported to experiencing the same traumatic emotions through nightmares of their past traumas; people with stress also have problems sleeping due to the fact that their stress manifests even in their sleep through nightmares.

3. Undergoing medication regimen

The chemical reactions that some medications bring can mess with our sleeping pattern; people who take anticonvulsants have reported experiencing incredibly vivid dreams.

Now that we've covered what are the common causes of nightmares, how do we stop them from affecting us? According to Psychology Today, there are a few ways you can try:

1. Find the cause and tackle it

In any problem, finding the root cause is always a good step; in this case, if you are under stress or underwent a traumatic event, it might be a good idea to seek professional help to prevent your past from harming your present.

2. Lead a low stress, healthy lifestyle

We can't avoid nightmares, they will come every now and then. But what we can do is to make steps to ensure that we avoid what triggers them. Things like sticking to a healthy diet, regularly exercising and most of all, proper management of stress levels from whatever life might throw at us.

As the saying goes, you might not control what life gives you, but you can control how you can react to it. If you are more mindful of what you might feel or do in reaction to life's stresses, it will prevent you from having too much stress and anxiety.

3. Stick to a good sleep routine

There are many ways you can try to make sure your mind is unburdened and free of stress before you sleep. Things like a regular sleeping hour, staying away from electronic devices, and even a warm bath before bed can do wonders to a stressed mind. This in turn will make sure your mind is relaxed so that you will have a good night's rest.

If you can master yourself, the benefits will surely be more that a good night's sleep.

4. Try changing your current medication regimen

You'll know that your present medication is the problem if you just started taking them and then you experienced nightmares. Consult with your doctor if this happens, he might try and change the timing of the medication (usually to the morning so that it won't affect your sleep), he might decrease the dose, prescribe another medication to help you sleep soundly, or if possible, he might change the drug altogether.

5. Underlying unknown health conditions may be the culprit

In the same line of thought as solving the root of the problem, if you have any underlying health problems that might be the cause of your nightmares, you should consult with your doctor on how to get rid of them. Problems like restless leg syndrome, which can cause nightmares, can be negated by proper medication and exercise.

In this rat race world we live in, there is probably nothing as valuable as a good night's sleep, especially since it has just been recently found out that there is a direct link between poor sleep patterns and many deadly diseases like diabetes and heart failure. You should get enough sleep to make sure you don't have any of those problems in the future as well.