7 Old-Fashioned Ways To Prevent Nightmares

by Margaux MacColl
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There is no worse feeling than a bad dream jolting you awake in middle of the night. A nightmare can disrupt your peaceful sleep and leave you feeling tired all day. It's frustrating when you can't control where your subconscious wanders at night, but there are some old-fashioned tips that are relatively effective at preventing nightmares before bed.

Although nightmares may seem surreal, they are often rooted in reality— which means by changing things throughout your day, you can change how often you have nightmares.

“The most common reason we get nightmares is because the nightmare is connected to some kind of upsetting or uncomfortable situation in our real life,” professional dream analyst Lauri Loewenberg, tells Bustle tells Bustle.

Before you try any bits of old-fashioned wisdom, Loewenberg says the best way to sleep peacefully is to live peacefully.

“The way to prevent nightmares [...] is to actively handle any negative, uncomfortable upsetting issue in your real life,” Loewenberg says. “Do not avoid issues, do not avoid confrontation, do not let things linger.” Instead, try to address it in the daytime so it doesn't bother you at night.

But if your nightmares are persistent, there is plenty of classic wisdom that can help you have a great night’s rest. To help you ward off bad dreams, experts recommend the following seven tips.


Try Journalling

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Instead of watching TV pre-bedtime, try going back to basics by turning off the electronics and picking up a pen. Loewenberg says that journaling — particularly about bad days— can help you process your day, so that your subconscious doesn't need to process it while you sleep.

“Go ahead and journal about your difficult issues or issue,” Loewenberg says. “And also within that journaling write down how you would like to see this end and start jotting down ideas on how you can move towards that.”

By working though your day before bed, you can have a better night's sleep.


Stay Away From Sugar Before Bed

Having sugar before bed can make it harder for you to get a good night's rest, leaving you more susceptible to turbulent dreams.

"[Sugar before bed] makes it more difficult to fall asleep and get deeper, more restful sleep," Ariane Marie-Mitchell, MD, PhD, MPH a preventive medicine physician at Loma Linda University Health, tells Bustle.

If you want a more peaceful rest, it might be best to avoid a late night sugar rush.


Try Not To Eat Right Before Bed

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While sugar in particular should be avoided, it’s sometimes a good idea to eat dinner earlier in general.

"It is best to stop eating at least a half-hour before lying down to sleep in order to allow sufficient time for the stomach to digest the meal," Dr. Marie-Mitchell says. "This will also help reduce the likelihood of reflux disrupting sleep."

Pre-bedtime snacking should probably be avoided if you're trying to get a better night's sleep.


Drink A Warm Glass Of Milk

Loewenberg says that this age-old myth of a drinking a warm glass of milk can actually help you have a more peaceful rest. Milk contains a small amount of tryptophan — a chemical that the body converts to melatonin.

"More importantly, milk is a protein source with some fat and in combination that can make sure that your appetite is satisfied before bed, which will allow you to sleep better through the night," Dr. Marie-Mitchell says.


Drink A Cup Of Green Tea

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Drinking a cup of tea is another common pre-bedtime habit, but, like milk, there is a scientific basis. Loewenberg says green tea specifically helps with digestion, which can stop your stomach from getting upset during your sleep and contributing to nightmares — just make sure you get a brand that’s decaffeinated.


Don’t Watch Anything Scary Before Bed

It may be tempting to watch that last episode of The Handmaid’s Tale right before you go to sleep, but scary movies or shows can rattle your subconscious.

“A lot of times, our dreams will borrow things that we watched or talked about or read that day, and will incorporate it into the dream,” Loewenberg says.


Take A Warm Bath

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This is another classic pre-bed habit — and for good reason. Loewenberg says it’s good to “get into calm relaxation mode at least an hour before you go to bed.” By indulging in a nice, long bath, she says it helps “put you in a peaceful state of mind” that can extend to your dreams.

Getting a great night’s sleep is crucial to being productive during the day. To stave off unpleasant dreams and sleep happily through the night, classic advice has definitely stood the test of time.