How to avoid nightmares

Ever fancied a cheeky snack before bed but you’re terrified of the bad dreams you might get by eating bananas? Is it true that going gaga for gorgonzola before bedtime causes nightmares? It could be true – after all, Scrooge blamed a mere morsel of cheese for his nightmares about ghosts in A Christmas Carol.

We share which foods, if any, increase signals to the brain and bring on the likeliness of a bad dream, as well as the other conditions that could be linked to those pesky nightmares.

What are nightmares?

Nightmares are extremely disturbing dreams that make you suddenly wake up when you’ve been in the deepest slumber. They usually cause panic, fear or anxiety in the sufferer and may leave them wondering if the event has really happened or not.

The good news is they don’t cause you any harm emotionally or medically, and everyone has them occasionally.

What are causes of nightmares in adults?

There are many reasons why we might have bad dreams every night and we reveal some of them here:

Late night snacks

You may wonder whether the old ‘cheese before bed gives you nightmares’ is just a myth. But it’s a well-known fact that cheese and other foods including chocolate and curry can increase your metabolism and are known to send signals to the brain to make it more active. But, there are no scientifically-proven facts to suggest they actually do cause anything more than indigestion.

Eating a big meal before bed can cause tummy troubles, which in turn can disrupt your sleep and bring on nightmares. But the quality of the food you eat could also be to blame for sleep quality.

Certain medications

Antidepressant drugs can cause a person to have nightmares more regularly. This is because they contain drugs which can react with chemicals in the brain.

Beta blockers for blood pressure also increase the chance of insomnia, amounting to disrupted sleep and can be one of the causes of nightmares.

Nightmares can also be triggered by anti-smoking medication as one side effect of nicotine is insomnia. Medicine for ADHD can also cause this problem as it boosts alertness, thus making it harder for the patient to fall asleep in the first place.

Sleep deprivation & disorders

If you suffer with sleep deprivation, this can contribute to a number of medical conditions like obesity and depression, as well as nightmares. And this condition can become a vicious circle as sufferers don’t sleep much due to having nightmares and having nightmares a lot means they lack sleep as they are disturbed when they wake up.

Nightmares can be a symptom of something more serious – such as a condition like sleep apnea or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). These types of disorders can have negative effects on both mental and physical health.

Alcohol or drug abuse

Some drugs can disrupt normal sleep patterns by causing severe drowsiness or hyper alertness – or both but interchangeably. Taking a concoction of drugs can compromise a person’s ability to move between the sleep stages, which in turn reduces the quality of sleep.

How to avoid nightmares

If you keep having bad dreams, you can make some simple changes to your lifestyle which may allow you to get a better night’s rest.

Exercising at least three times a week is a good start, as well as yoga and meditation. You should also limit alcohol and caffeine before bed as they stimulate the brain.

You should create a tranquil atmosphere for your bedroom – it needs to be a place you associate with sleep. Buying a comfortable mattress will help you to relax.

So now you know a bit more about what causes nightmares, hopefully this will help you rest assured that you aren’t alone with the problem. If you are worried that you have bad dreams every night, you should speak to your GP for further advice.

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