A surprising number of people don't...and aren't they lucky! For the rest of us, an occasional nightmare is something that at best leaves us awake in the small hours of the morning, and feeling shaky...or at worst it can change the tenor of the next day...or days.
There are those who would suggest that it's important to understand and interpret every vivid dream. They may be right - it may be important - but what I'd like to suggest here are some strategies for dealing with the problem, both in terms of prevention, and in terms of minimizing the downstream effect.
For prevention -
- One of the best ways to prevent unpleasant dreams is to watch what you eat and drink. A heavy meal just before bed puts your digestive system into action just when the rest of your body is trying to stand down. Give yourself some time after a big meal.
- One the other hand, a light snack isn't a bad idea. Many people have a mild problem with low blood sugar, and this can cause insomnia...or nightmares
- Be careful about what you read or watch. No need to limit yourself the The Waltons, or Louisa May Alcott...but perhaps 'Event Horizon' might be better saved for earlier in the evening.
- Pray before sleeping. Addressing the Almighty is always a good idea, but there's a special importance in making a habit of touching base with the Big Fella before committing to sleep.
After having a nightmare, I find the following helpful -
- Get up, turn on some lights, move around the house. Change your scenery, both mental and physical. to change the reality in your head
- Get something light to eat and/or drink
- If your spouse is amenable, wake him or her up. That kind of mutual support is one of the things marriage is all about, and just talking, or sharing quiet time, can be a wonderful, warm cure for an uneasy mind.
- Yep...pray. Read the Bible, if that helps, or read a religious author you like. A few lines will often be enough, since your recently-woken mind will be more receptive.
For me, personally, avoiding nightmares is hard, but the dreams (most based on memories) that used to poison a day...or a week...get drained of most of their power by following the steps I've outlined above.
I hope that they'll help you, too.