Stress in our waking lives often carries into our sleep, so there’s not always an easy fix for stressful dreams and nightmares. However, there are a few things you can do before bed to set yourself up for a restful, more joyfully dreamy snooze.
1. Manage Stress
According to therapist and dream expert Leslie Ellis, Ph.D., one thing that can help make your dreams more pleasant is reducing the stress in your everyday life. Whether that means taking up a mindfulness practice, journaling about what’s bothering you, or seeing a licensed professional, whatever you can do to help mitigate stress will likely translate to better sleep all-around.
2. Have a Relaxing Bedtime Routine
Of course, we can’t leave out the ever-important bedtime routine when talking about achieving quality sleep. Using your time before bed to wind-down by doing relaxing activities that “reduce embodied stress,” Ellis stated, can encourage more pleasant dreams. “Ideally, go to sleep in a calm state of mind. It definitely helps to get some exercise during the day, and practice good sleep hygiene before bedtime,” she explains. So, that means no screen time for at least an hour before bed, taking a hot bath or shower, and also a pre-sleep relaxation meditation, she recommends. It’s also a good idea to avoid any food or alcohol close to bedtime, as research shows both can negatively impact sleep.
3. Try a Magnesium Supplement
To help you relax and settle in, you may want to consider taking a sleep supplement as part of your bedtime routine.
4. Set Your Thermostat
If bad dreams and frequent wake-ups are an issue for you, one reason may be your bedroom temperature. As sleep researcher and co-author of Sleep for Success!, Rebecca Robbins, Ph.D., previously said, “We see experimentally that individuals sleeping in warmer rooms (70°F or higher) are more prone to worrisome dreams and fitful sleep.” Your best bet is to keep it around 65°F, or at least under 70°F.
5. Set an Intention for Dreaming
And lastly, Ellis recommends setting an intention for your dreaming. “For example,” she says, “as you are drifting into sleep, you can bring to mind a really good dream or memory and imagine yourself right back there, and set an intention to continue this dream.” You can also specifically ask your dreaming mind to solve a problem, “or reflect on an aspect of your life that you would like some input on,” she explains. Writing your query down, she adds, seems to increase the likelihood of dreaming about the topic. Even if you’re far from controlling your dreams, we can all do little things throughout the day and before bed to relax our minds and set ourselves up for a good night’s sleep.