How to Stop Having Nightmares: 10 Proven Tips

How to Stop Having Nightmares

Having frequent nightmares can wreak havoc on your ability to get restful sleep. If you suffer from repeated bad dreams and want to wake up feeling refreshed, there are several effective techniques you can try.

In this blog article, you’ll learn what causes nightmares, 10 tips to stop them, when to seek treatment and more.

Read on to banish the bad dreams and improve your sleep.

What Causes Nightmares?

Before learning how to prevent nightmares, it’s helpful to understand what causes them. Some common nightmare triggers include:

  • Stress and anxiety – Worrying thoughts from daily life often manifest into bad dreams. High stress levels disrupt sleep.
  • Trauma and PTSD – Post-traumatic stress from past events or abuse can lead to chronic nightmares.
  • Medications – Some prescription drugs, like blood pressure medications, have nightmares as a side effect.
  • Sleep disorders – Conditions like sleep apnea can increase nightmares. Lack of quality sleep fuels bad dreams.
  • Eating before bed – Eating a heavy meal close to bedtime can increase metabolism and trigger disturbing dreams.

So, if you’re experiencing frequent bad dreams, look at your stress levels, prescription medicines, sleep habits, and pre-bedtime diet as potential causes. Talk to your doctor if needed.

awaken woman because of nightmare

Tips to Stop Having Nightmares

Luckily, there are many techniques you can try at home to prevent nightmares. Here are some of the most effective strategies.

1. Practice Relaxation Techniques

High stress and anxiety are linked to nightmares. Relaxation practices like meditation, deep breathing, and yoga calm your nervous system so you sleep more soundly.

Try 10-15 minutes of meditation before bed. Focus on your breath, letting thoughts come and go without judgment. This reduces pre-sleep worry linked to bad dreams. Light yoga stretches help release muscle tension that disturbs sleep.

2. Improve Your Sleep Habits

Poor sleep hygiene like erratic bedtimes, blue light exposure, and low melatonin often cause or worsen nightmares. Optimizing your sleep routine bolsters sleep quality so you dreamless.

Go to bed and wake at the same time daily to regulate your circadian rhythm. Avoid screen time for 1-2 hours before bed, and use blue light filters. Keep your room completely dark. Consider melatonin supplements to boost sleep drive if needed, under your doctor’s supervision.

3. Watch What You Eat and Drink

Spicy foods, processed meat, sugary desserts, and alcohol close to bedtime make nightmares more likely. Caffeine and nicotine also disrupt sleep and increase bad dreams.

Limit fat, sugar, and carbs after 6 pm. Avoid caffeine after 2 pm, and quit smoking. Drink chamomile or passionflower tea to relax before bed. Tart cherry juice is also linked to fewer nightmares.

4. Write Down Your Dreams

Recording dreams in a journal just after waking can help reduce their frequency and intensity. This “dream incubation” technique allows you to process their content consciously.

Over time, this weakens the nightmare’s emotional power so your brain stops generating it. You can pinpoint recurring themes and triggers to address like relationship issues or work stress.

woman writing dreams

5. Practice Imagery Rehearsal Therapy

Imagery rehearsal therapy (IRT) is a cognitive technique shown to reduce nightmares. It works by altering your nightmare scenario to be less frightening.

Recall your nightmare and rewrite it to have a positive outcome instead. For example, imagine confronting a threatening figure and telling them to leave. Mentally rehearse the new version as you fall asleep.

Studies show IRT decreases nightmare frequency and distress in both adults and children. Doing it for 10-20 minutes daily is adequate.

6. Try Supplements and Herbal Remedies

Certain vitamins, minerals and herbs help induce relaxation and sleep more soundly. Always check with your doctor before trying supplements.

Magnesium relieves muscle tension and nerves. Vitamin B complex helps manage stress. Valerian root, lemon balm and passionflower have mild sedative effects. Chamomile, lavender, and glycine also curb nightmares.

7. Practice Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra is a form of guided meditation that brings deep relaxation. Research finds it reduces nightmares in people with PTSD.

Lie down in savasana pose as a teacher leads you through mindfulness of your body and breath. Rotate through sensations in each body part before entering a calm, meditative state between waking and sleeping.

8. Try Self-Hypnosis Techniques

Hypnosis helps treat chronic nightmares, especially for PTSD. If you don’t have access to a hypnotherapist, you can practice self-hypnosis.

Listen to hypnosis recordings at bedtime to enter a trance state. Visualize a peaceful, safe space like a beach. Imagine negative images shrinking away. Affirm being relaxed and happy.

9. Change Your Sleep Position

Interestingly, sleeping on your back can make nightmares more likely in some people prone to sleep paralysis. Shifting position may help.

Try sleeping on your side or stomach instead with a pillow between your knees for alignment. If you wake up on your back, switch positions before falling back asleep.

10. Talk to Your Doctor About Medications

If lifestyle and natural approaches aren’t reducing your nightmares, talk to your physician. Certain medications are used as a last resort for chronic, disturbing dreams.

Prazosin is an alpha-blocker that lessens trauma nightmares. Some tricyclic antidepressants help as well. Melatonin, in precise dosages, also decreases nightmares in some people.

When to Seek Professional Nightmare Treatment

You should consider consulting a doctor or mental health professional if:

  • Your nightmares significantly disrupt sleep several times a week
  • Nightmares stop you from functioning normally
  • You have intense, disturbing dreams from PTSD or trauma
  • Self-help measures don’t decrease your nightmares
  • You feel depressed, anxious or suicidal due to lack of sleep

A doctor can check for underlying issues causing nightmares, like sleep apnea or medication side effects. Referral to a therapist may be warranted for trauma-based nightmares or mental distress.

Cognitive behavioral therapy often successfully treats nightmare disorder. Hypnosis, imagery rehearsal therapy, and exposure therapy are other options. Medications may be prescribed in severe cases.


Occasional bad dreams are normal, but frequent nightmares can really disturb your rest. Simple lifestyle tweaks like managing stress and optimizing sleep often banish nightmares.

Recording your dreams, positive imagery practices, supplements, yoga, and self-hypnosis also curb nightmares effectively for many people. But seek medical advice if disturbing dreams persist despite your best efforts.

With some trial and error, you can find the best ways to stop nightmares and wake up feeling refreshed. Sweet dreams! Learn here more about the bad dreams guide and tips.

How to Stop Having Nightmares infographic