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How Can I Stop My Nightmares?

I have really bad nightmares. Is there anything I can do to get them to stop?
Hunter*

Almost everyone has nightmares from time to time. But some things can contribute to persistent bad dreams.

For some people, medicines, alcohol, drugs, lack of sleep, fever, or anxiety sometimes cause nightmares. Often, though, nightmares seem to be triggered by emotional issues at home or school, major life changes (such as a move), trauma, and stress — even if what happens in the nightmares seems unrelated to your life.

What Can Help?

Try to eliminate bad dreams by:

  • Setting a regular sleep schedule. It should include enough sleep at night so you don't feel the urge to take afternoon or evening naps.
  • Cutting out caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes (especially late in the day).
  • Exercising during the day — but don't work out right before going to bed.
  • Relaxing before falling asleep. But avoid violent or scary movies, TV shows, books, and video games.

In rare cases, a medical problem may cause sleep disturbances — and for that, a visit with your doctor is the way to go.

If something is really bothering you, if you're anxious or fearful, or if you continue to have bad nightmares, look into seeing a counselor or a psychologist. Getting to the root of an emotional problem could solve the nightmare problem.

*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date Reviewed: 02-05-2018