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  • Writer's pictureHeather Keenan, LCSW

How to Stop Having Nightmares

Have you ever heard the saying, “I’m just going to sleep on it” when someone has a big decision to make? This is because when we fall into REM sleep, our brain actually processes through our day, our thoughts, and our emotions. We wake up with more clarity on our decision because our brain actually processed through it!

The same can be said for those experiencing bad dreams or nightmares related to trauma. When trauma is not processed correctly, our brain can try to reprocess through these experiences while we are sleeping. Unfortunately, as a result, we wake up feeling triggered and with heightened body sensations.

If you experience nightmares and bad dreams, keep reading as I’m going to offer some solutions to improve your sleep and nightmares.

Limit Exposures Before Bed

How many of us find ourselves scrolling mindlessly through our social media accounts before we fall asleep? You also may find yourself watching the news or watching a television show prior to bed.

It is helpful to take a look at what information you are inputting into your brain right before bed. Television shows or a post on social media may trigger past experiences, certain emotional responses, or certain thought patterns that can be related to past experiences. If we try to fall asleep immediately after, our brain may try to process those triggers and emotions, resulting in nightmares.

Try putting your phone away and turning your television off for at least an hour before you plan on going to sleep.

Create a Bedtime Routine

Since now you will have that extra hour before you go to sleep, it’s helpful to develop a nighttime routine that helps calm your nervous system and your mind. This can vary from having a warm cup of tea, meditating, listening to calming music, or reading a book.

Whatever your routine is, build consistency with it. For our brain, consistency equals safety. When we are feeling unsafe, our trauma response from nightmares can easily be triggered.

Try “Brain Dumping”

If you find your mind wanders while trying to fall asleep, try brain dumping. Take pen to paper and write down every single thought that is occupying your brain. Tell yourself that once it is on paper, it is being removed from your mind. If it is still important tomorrow, you can deal with it then. This will be helpful to lessen and remove your racing thoughts.

Create Safety

Nightmares can be triggered when we go to bed feeling unsafe. This could be because you live alone or trauma is associated with nighttime. Practice self-compassion and put measures in place that make you feel safe! This can be an alarm system in your house, installing cameras, or putting an extra lock on your door.

Find a Therapist

Find a therapist who specializes in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or specifically nightmares. They can help you identify specific patterns in your nightmares and can guide you in reprocessing past memories that are attached to these patterns.

If you are experiencing nightmares or any other PTSD symptoms, therapy with a trauma expert and/or EMDR therapist can help! I encourage you to contact me for a complimentary consultation at 954-391-5305. You can take the first step in helping resolve these challenging nightmares!

I provide counseling and EMDR therapy at our beautiful, serene office in Fort Lauderdale and via online therapy through a secure telehealth platform. For more information about my approach, click here to read my bio.


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