5 tips to beat nightmares this Halloween

31 October 2019

Achieve the perfect night’s sleep at this horrifying time of year.

Dog Sleeping on Halloween

Nightmares shouldn’t be anything to lose sleep over, but unfortunately many adults in the UK are suffering. Our top tips should be your first port of call when conquering Halloween hallucinations.

1. Scrub up your sleep hygiene

What came first? The nightmares or the poor night’s sleep? It may seem ironic, but a lack of sleep often leads to bad dreams. The best way to beat the vicious cycle is to improve your ‘sleep hygiene’. This includes sleeping at the same time every day, establishing a routine that tells your brain it’s time to rest and other sleep-positive measures. Comfortable bedding and temperature-appropriate duvets will also ensure you achieve a better night’s sleep.

2. Log everything and make sense of it later

We often forget our nightmares, especially those that fail to wake us up. Either way, writing or drawing details down as soon as you wake up can help you decode your bad dreams. There’s no need to attempt an analysis on paper but stay curious throughout the day and treat the images as signs to interpret rather than something more literal. Psychotherapist and sleep expert Annie Armstrong explains “consistently examining your nightmares can help decrease their frequency… spending time being open and curious can lessen the intensity.”

3. Surround yourself with pleasant smells

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Studies have shown that our emotional response to a scent affects our dreams. Leaving a bunch of roses on your bedside table won’t guarantee a flower-filled vision but could lead to positive images conjured in our sleep (that is, if you enjoy the smell of roses). A study in Germany tested the smell of rotten eggs and flowers on subjects and discovered the link. Placing diffusers with vanilla and lavender scents next to your bed should encourage calming sleep apparitions.

4. Be mindful of what you watch

It may sound like a warning for young children, but horror films and images of the supernatural are likely to give you nightmares. Researcher Ernest Hartmann suggests that dreams contextualise our emotions, they are our biological attempt at learning from our heightened experiences. Our brain takes note of emotional extremes like those we feel when frightened and process them later, in our sleep. We don’t have to avoid scary material at all costs but it’s worth talking through your thoughts on what you watch before heading to bed.

5. Avoid late night eating

Snacking before sleeping can increase your chances of having nightmares. Sleep expert Chris Brantner says: “This is because the extra food boosts metabolism and body temperature as the body begins digesting it. It’s thought that this increases brain activity as well, which leads to more crazy dreams.” Leave snacks out of your bedtime routine and nightmares may just leave too.

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