You wake up in a panic, sweating, breathing heavily and you just had a terrible dream. When you wake up in a jolt like this it can be difficult to get back to sleep right away. Which is why we are going to help you calm down and get back to sleep. The following are our top tips on How To Go Back To Sleep After a Nightmare.
Get more tips on how to stop having bad dreams in our post: Putting Nightmares To Rest
Write Down Your Nightmare
Another great way to calm yourself down after having a bad dream is to write it all down. Take a pad of paper and write down everything you can remember about your bad dream. By getting it all out of your head and down on paper, you can begin to relax.
It helps to clarify the distinction between real life and dream life. You may even begin to see some things about the dream that seemed so terrifying at the time, yet when you write it all down it just seems silly. This can help you to begin to laugh at your dreams instead of having them control your emotions. Once you have written it all down, take a breather and try to get back to sleep.
Learn more about how to write a sleep journal in our post: Keeping A Sleep Journal
Pay No Mind to The Time
One of the first things we tend to do when we wake up from a nightmare is check the time. We encourage you to resist this temptation. We say this because checking the time often leads to stress. You begin to think about how much time is left until you need to leave for work, or how little sleep you have gotten.
When you continue to check the time after an unexpected wakeup call, you can begin to stress out that you have been awake for so long and you are not getting the stress you need.
The best thing you can do is rely on your alarm clock and head back to sleep without checking the time. This can help you to stay calm and worry less.
You may also enjoy reading: Tips For Falling Back Asleep
Give Yourself a Reality Check
Find ways you can safely give yourself a reality check. Remind yourself that you are safe at home and that Pennywise is not hiding in your closet after all. Often times walking through your bad dream once you are awake takes a lot of the fear out of it.
Your logic turns back on when you are awake and you are able to pick apart the parts of your dream that are unrealistic. Which can be helpful with calming yourself down as you come back to the reality of where you are now and that you are awake and safe. Once you feel safe it becomes much easier to fall back asleep.
Click the link to learn more about The Difference Between Night Terrors & Nightmares
Practice Breathing Techniques
Typically, when you first wake up from a nightmare you are full of fear. Your heart is racing, you are breathing heavily, and you are pumped full of adrenaline. In order to calm yourself down and prepare for sleep, you will need to slow and regain control over your breathing.
We recommend having a few breathing techniques on hand so you can practice them whenever you need to slow your breathing down and relax. Slow deep breaths in and out are best.
A simple version of breathing exercises is called 4-7-8 breathing technique. You breathe in for a count of 4, hold the breath for a count of 7, and then slowly release the breath for a count of 8. Then repeat this over and over, as the pattern becomes easier you can begin to return to a more natural slow breathing pattern.
Keep the Lights Low
During your nightmare “reality check” you may want to turn on the lights in order to remind yourself that you are at home, you are safe and it was just a dream. However, in order to get back to sleep you are going to want to turn those lights back down or off.
Bright lights can trick circadian rhythm into believing it is morning and time to wake up. When you are trying to head back to sleep, using as little light as possible is the best bet.
Learn more about why lights wake us up in our post: Can Blue Light Blocking Glasses Help You Sleep?
Drink Some Water
If you find yourself laying in bed and unable to fall asleep, then we suggest taking a good water break.
If you do not have water readily at your bedside table, take a little walk to get a glass of water. It may help you to shake off your nightmare and come back to reality.
We often become dehydrated as we sleep, which makes getting a good drink of water can help you reset before heading back to sleep.
Staying hydrated is so important if you want a great night’s sleep. Learn more in our post: Sleep & Hydration
Make Some Tea (Decaf Please)
Some bad dreams require a little extra time to shake off. If you had one of those nightmares that take a bit longer to let go of, then we suggest making yourself a cup of tea. If you don’t like tea, then you can make yourself any other kind of warm drink that helps to soothe your nerves and calm you down. Of course, just make sure that it does not have caffeine in it.
Your herbal tea can be a welcomed relaxing break from your nightmare. It also takes just enough time to help you calm down. Once you are done drinking your tea, you can head back to the bedroom and try going back to sleep.
Check out some of our favorite foods and drinks to have before bed and a list of what to avoid on our post Best and Worst Foods Before Bed.
Walk Around Your Home
Normally we would advice staying in bed and allowing yourself to drift back to sleep. However, sometimes right after a particularly bad nightmare, you just need a bit of time to let off some steam and return to normal.
A small walk around the house can be a great way to shake off your dream, and get out the built-up adrenaline in your system. This way you can calm down and slowly feel back to normal so that you can head back to sleep.
Turn On Some Music
Another great way to help yourself relax is by playing some soothing music. Put on a playlist that helps to calm your nerves. Music has an incredible way of setting a mood, which makes it a great tool for changing your mindset from fear to relaxation. The right music will help you to get back to a good headspace for sleeping.
If you really need to continue a good distraction you can even fall asleep to the music in order to keep those relaxing vibes going throughout the night. Sound machines can also be a great way to block out any little noises that might otherwise wake you up.
Discover more sleep benefits of music and sound machines in our post: Best Music For Sleep
Stay a Comfortable Temperature
One way to try and avoid nightmares and bad dreams is to stay as comfortable as possible. Physical discomfort can instigate bad dreams. Remaining at a comfortable temperature is a very important part of being able to remain sleeping.
Be sure to sleep on a well-ventilated mattress with breathable bedding. Layering warmer blankets in the winter can also be helpful. The key to staying comfortable throughout the night is all in the mattress you use.
Your mattress could be what is making you so sleep at night. Click the link to view our Best Mattresses for Hot Sleepers.
Try to Meditate
Meditation is a great way to regain a sense of calm. Making it a great exercise to use when you have had a nightmare and you are trying to relax so you can go back to sleep.
Meditation is a wonderful tool for sleep and we highly recommend doing it before bed and first thing in the morning if it is something you enjoy doing.
Learn more about the many benefits meditation can have on your sleep in our post: Meditation for Sleep, Anxiety & Healing
Get Back to Bed
If after your nightmare you needed some time to walk around, drink some water, meditate and so on. Then once you have calmed yourself back down, get back into bed.
Even the most comfortable couch in the world will not be as comfortable as your bed. If you are really wanting to get back to sleep after your nightmare, then eventually you are going to want to climb back into bed. This way when you drift back to sleep, you will be comfortable enough to stay asleep until morning comes.
Struggle with insomnia on a regular basis? Check out our post: Guide To Insomnia
How to Avoid Nightmares
We all have nightmares or bad dreams every now and then. However, if you are having them quite often then you may want to consider making a few changes in order to get as much sleep as possible. The following are a few of our top tips on how you can attempt to avoid having nightmares in the future.
- Keep Your Sleep Schedule Consistent
- Drink Less Caffeine & Alcohol
- Avoid Eating Late
- Limit Sugar and Salt
- Don’t Watch Scary Movies
- Don’t Read Scary Books
Do you love watching Scary Movies, but you find you can’t get to sleep later? We have some tips for you! Check out our page about How To Sleep After Watching Scary Movies to learn how.
How To Go Back To Sleep After a Nightmare – Final Thoughts:
Getting back to sleep after having a bad dream isn’t always easy. Sometimes if you go back to sleep too quickly you find yourself slipping back into the nightmare you were having before you woke up. Which is why we wanted to share these tips with you so that you could get back to sleep and hopefully avoid having further nightmares in the future. We hope this post helps you to do just that.
Curious about how you could potentially control your own dreams? Learn more in our post: A Guide To Lucid Dreaming