Research suggests that dreams can be impacted by conscious thought before bed. Remembering fun events or funny stories can sometimes help derail a nightmare before it begins.
- No specific medical treatment is indicated for nightmares.
- If a nightmare occurs, reassurance and comfort are appropriate.
- If nightmares occur frequently, an evaluation of daytime routines is needed. This includes assessing exposure to daytime stressors, television, or video games and bedtime practices.
- Lucid dreaming, or being aware during a dream, can help redirect a nightmare into a pleasant dream.
Practicing good sleep hygiene is important for everyone who has experienced nightmares. This includes:
- establishing a bedtime routine that starts at the same time every evening and
- making bedtime a safe and comfortable time.
- using a nightlight can decrease fear or anxiety;
- discussing “monsters” -- either under the bed or in the closet -- and showing the child that nothing harmful is present can be reassuring; and
- imagining alternate endings to nightmares can provide a child with a sense of empowerment prior to going to sleep.
For adults, improvement in sleep/wake cycles can be seen with:
- eliminating television or computer exposure an hour or more before bedtime;
- maintaining consistent sleep and wake times;
- eliminating working in bed;
- cutting back on caffeine after 1PM (for those who work daytime hours); and
- practicing lucid dreaming.
If nightmares occur frequently (more than two nights per week over many months), then psychological evaluation is suggested. Different types of psychotherapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and hypnosis, can be of benefit in decreasing the frequency of nightmares.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/8/2015
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