14 Tips for Getting Rid of Nightmares

Sometimes the only dreams we remember are the ones we wish we could forget. Nightmares can be instructive, and most psychologists believe that they are a healthy part of life. But if you are plagued by repetitive nightmares and are losing sleep, sometimes changing your daily habits can reduce nightmare frequency. In general, nightmares can be caused by insufficient sleep, poor exercise and diet, and stress.  The tips below all are aimed at cultivating a healthier sleep and dream life.

1. Don’t go to sleep angry or stressed out. Give yourself time to cool down.

2. Regular sleep patterns = better dreams. Including weekends.

3. Don’t eat right before bed. In particular, foods that take longer to digest, like meats and cheeses, can increase nightmares.

4. Reduce alcohol and caffeine consumption.

5. Cultivate gratitude. If this doesn’t come easy, do a “thankfulness” exercise every day in which you list the aspects of your life that you are thankful for.

6. Reduce exposure to violent images in the media, especially in the evenings. Horror movies can cause lingering nightmares for years.

7. Spend time in nature as often as possible, even if this means sitting in a city park for fifteen minutes every day. Many therapists believe that we all suffer from “nature deficiency disorder.”

8. Don’t sleep on your back. This encourages a special kind of nightmare known as sleep paralysis, in which you feel like you are awake and alert while at the same time you  cannot move. Sufferers also feel breathless and/or sense an “unknown presence” in the room.

9. Start a gentle body practice like yoga, walking, or tai chi. In general, moderate exercise increases the quality of sleep.

10. If you have repetitive nightmares, role-play how you will face your nightmare attackers next time.

11. Keep a dream journal. Often writing it out can dispel a lot of the powerful emotionality.

12. Join a dream-sharing group. Many larger cities have them. If not, start your own.

13. Give yourself some self-love and acceptance. Easy to suggest, but hard to do. I use journaling to remind myself that I am loved. Affirmations — while they can seem cheesy at first — are effective as well. My backlog of journals is essentially a history of pep-talks I’ve given myself over the years… and it still works.

14. Keep fresh flowers or aromatic oils in the bedroom. Research shows that good smells positively effects your dreams.

Note: If you have numerous, repetitive nightmares that are related to childhood scenes or some personal trauma you encountered, I recommend seeing a counselor or therapist: a good rule of thumb for seeing a pro is two weeks of disturbance DreamBoss-book-1every night, or at least one nightmare a week for a month.  Ministers and priests are also good resources for dealing with nightmares if you attend a church; many are trained in working with the spiritual and traumatic side of dreams.

This article is an excerpt of my ebook Dream Like a Boss (Book One): Sleep Better, Dream More, and Wake Up to What Matters MostYou can find the whole ebook here.

Title image: Sweet Dreams by Sekaino Ai.


  1. KG says

    I have recently gotten into the subject of lucid dreaming, but every time I try to prepare for a lucid dream my brain just gives me a nightmarish picture. It is mildly disturbing, but it is very annoying because I do not want to put myself in a lucid nightmare so it keeps me from performing a lucid dream. Help please?

  2. Emre says

    ? believe the most important factor for us to see nightmares is the electronics in our life.we play horror games and watch scary movies on every time we have.please stop playing games and throw away the tv and try to forget your past and be thankful for your life!!! Be happy all the time!

  3. Devin Dipple says

    Well it was really hard to sleep this dream i had just scared me cause it reoccurs and it will not go away its a dream from and event from my child hood and other things that include me and my family. I have been in the state of sleep paralysis and it was hard to get up and move or say anything i was awake but i couldn’t move it felt like i was paralyzed by something i don’t know what. But what im concerned about is what to do if this reoccurs even if i do talk to a therapist or counselor. Their is times where i go to bed and i have had a good week and not have a single bad dream except for now but the question is how to get back to sleep with out being so paranoid and can young adults get an early stage of Post Tramatic stress disorder even if they haven’t been in the war?

  4. Adena says

    I keep have these…nightmares. I’ve never seen them before. It’s nothing about my past. The weird thing is, what ever happens to me in my dream…..I can feel outside. I have multiple nightmares in one night. I recently woke up from one. I….I’m scared to sleep.

  5. sgroclkc says

    Nightmares are caused by palpitations. Persons who palpitation is easy to occur are easy to have nightmare, females are easier to have nightmare than males, because palpitation is easier occur to females than to males. When palpitations occurs, people will have two main feelings: one is tachycardia cause a feeling of seeming to be pursuing ;the other is bradycardia or premature beat cause the feeling of heart suspension or heart sinking. Therefore, people in sleep accordingly will have the two nightmares of being pursued (occasionally hunting other people) and flying in the air, and falling down.

  6. Imai says

    I am having multiple nightmares that I cannot remember. I end up either kicking, hitting or head butting the wall during each one, causing me to wake up. I am unable to remember them though. Started after moving and looking for a new job. Been told they are stress related. Is there something I can do to help? Getting tired half way through the day from not getting good sleep is getting extremely frustrating, not to mention I have noticed that I am becoming increasingly irretable (I know I spelled that wrong).

  7. Rebecca says

    I’m a teenager and I keep having this same dream over and over. It starts off with me waking up in the middle of the night while a storm is going on, I get up to check on my niece, nephew, and my mom. When I check on my mom she’s standing up and stbring out the window of her room. I’ll usually whisper-yell to get her attention and once I do she’ll cock her head to the side and then charge at me. At this point I’ll slam her door closed, get the kids into her car and drive to the police station while passing most of the people in my town on the street as they all stareally ahead until the car passes and then they give chase. I realize what’s wrong with them, they’re all zombies. (I’m not making this up I’m absolutely terrified of zombies) I’ll get to the police station and no one is there so I go to the next town over to their police station and no one is there. usually I’ll wake up here or my dream will skip to a time later on where the world has gone to hell, my niece and nephew are dead, and I’m either being eaten, being chased,or I’m in an underground Bunker like in resident evil half crazy. This dream has been plaguing me for months now. I don’t watch horror movies, I’m terrified of zombies, and I have sleep medication that I take and yet I still wake up early in the Morning like tonight.