Nightmares are… well, a nightmare, right? They can be scary, overwhelming and downright confronting depending on the nature of the dream. And, according to literal science, they often occur more regularly as you age. Not ideal.
Researchers in Korea asked 2,940 participants with an average age of 63 to answer a series of questions about nightmares, sleep quality, stress and depression. For those aged over 50 years old, 2.7% reported experiencing nightmares, while the group of people over 70 saw a significant increase with 6.3% experiencing regular nightmares, as reported by mindbodygreen.
According to researchers, those who experienced nightmares also reported “significantly more sleep problems, higher suicidal ideation, depression, and stress compared to the non-nightmare group”. Additional research also highlights that insomnia also increases as you age, making sleep hygiene an important consideration.
How to stop nightmares
While it’s not an exact science, there are a few things you can do to help ease the regularity of nightmares. Before trying anything, have a look at your sleep routine and see if you can change anything to improve your chances of getting a good night’s sleep.
Avoid eating too close to bedtime
Research shows that eating too close to bedtime can actually influence your sleep quality and produce weird dreams and nightmares. A 2015 study found 47.2% of respondents experienced nightmares or disturbing dreams as a result of eating late, while 22.2% participants said it made their dreams more bizarre, odd, strange or crazy.
Decrease your alcohol intake
While you might think having a tipple at night can help zonk you out, it actually has the opposite effect. According to Psychology Today, alcohol disrupts sleep and keeps you in the lighter stages of slumber, which in turn, prevents you from entering the healing and restorative deep sleep stages.
This means that your brain and body is deprived of the REM stage of sleep and this can lead to REM rebound the next night, which creates the opportunity for more intense nightmares. If you drink booze frequently, you might also experience nightmares when you begin to cut down on the amount of alcohol you consume.
Check your temperature
It might seem strange but studies have actually shown temperature to play a role with the frequency of nightmares as well as sleep quality. Hot weather makes it more likely you’ll remember your dreams after you wake up, as it often increases the chances of you having a more fitful sleep.
“As the body’s temperature drops during sleep, we enter more deep, restorative sleep. Cooler temperatures, therefore, may also help us stay asleep and have dreams but forget them, as we are supposed to,” Alex Dimitriu, MD, double board-certified in psychiatry and sleep medicine and founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine, told Healthline. “Indeed, warmer temperatures can result in more awakenings from sleep, during which dreams may be remembered. However, fragmented sleep is the opposite of ideal.”
According to Healthline, the optimal temperature for sleeping is 15 to 19 degrees Celsius and 40 to 60% humidity.