Getting rid of bad dreams: hack your biochemistry for better sleep

Your feet just won’t move fast enough. You’re being chased and can’t get away!

A tooth is loose. You wiggle it a bit and it just comes out!

You’ve completely lost track of time, and now you’re so late you’ll never get there!

Do any of these bad dreams sound familiar?

These are just a few of the most common bad dreams people experience. There are a number of theories about why we dream, and whether bad dreams have any useful purpose, but they can be really unpleasant, even frightening or simply discouraging (“why would I have dreamt that horrible thing about her of all people?”). Bad dreams can also affect our overall stress levels during the day, leading to even worse sleep the next night. See the vicious circle here?

Is there any way to prevent bad dreams? Maybe not entirely, but there are some things that can help keep our biochemistry in check.

Turns out, one significant factor in how we dream comes down to what we eat before bedtime.

Several studies have shown that eating spicy food before bed can make our digestive system work extra hard, and that can interfere with sleep, leading to bad dreams. Foods high in carbohydrates and saturated fats can also wreck your peaceful sleep.

So, what can you eat to have better dreams?

bananasTry bananas. Bananas are rich in potassium and magnesium, which can help relax your muscles and regulate your heartbeat, both key steps in the process of falling asleep.

cherries

Cherries are high in melatonin, a naturally-occurring sleep hormone. A study done in 2012 found that tart cherry juice (extract with no sugar added) was “beneficial in improving sleep duration and quality in healthy men and women and might be of benefit in managing disturbed sleep”.

Some other tips to improve sleep quality:

  • No screens an hour before bedtime
  • Sleep in a dark room – the darker the better
  • Stick to a regular bedtime and waking time if possible
  • Switch to dim incandescent lighting in the evening
  • Get plenty of natural sunlight during the day
  • Try taking a hot bath 90 to 120 minutes before bed
  • Keep room temperature 16° to 20° C at night

The muscle relaxation techniques I teach are also an excellent way to help you fall asleep naturally.

So although you can’t entirely avoid bad dreams, you can improve the quality of your sleep. And better sleep is linked to better dreams.

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Author: Colin Stone

Professional Relaxation Therapist (MASC, BSYA) and founder of the Relaxation Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Using guided imagery, therapeutic music and aromatherapy to relieve stress in the most relaxing room on earth!