If you often find yourself waking and wondering how to forget bad dreams, then you may be experiencing what is commonly known as anxiety dreams.
At one time or another, everyone experiences an anxiety dream.
Unfortunately, the problem occurs when you can’t shake them once you wake up. You spend your day in a trance-like state, with the negative feelings of your dream weighing heavily on you as the day progresses.
If this sounds familiar, take a look at our breakdown of anxiety dreams, and how to get over a bad dream below.
What are Anxiety Dreams?
Have you ever found yourself waking to the sound of your alarm with a sense of dread or uneasiness?
You can’t explain it, and you’re not sure what caused it. All you know is that it’s there.
That sudden sense of apprehension is a key characteristic of an anxiety dream. You may not have been aware of it, but a swirl of negative emotions have been inhabiting your sleep space all night long, and your conscious mind is now paying the price.
What’s the Difference Between an Anxiety Dream and a Nightmare?
Many would be quick to categorise these dreams as nightmares, however, anxiety dreams are an almost completely different experience entirely.
While it is true that both induce a series of negative emotions, how they affect our physical and mental state can vary greatly.
Nightmares have a tendency to induce a much more physical reaction. Vivid visions and sounds will take over the subconscious mind and often cause us to wake abruptly, sometimes in a sweat.
Nightmares are also significantly clearer, and your mind has been engaged enough to allow memories of the nightmare to form, and be recalled upon waking.
Anxiety dreams, on the other hand, rely heavily on issues that are already present. Memories and images are mixed together, and the dreams often feel disjointed and confusing.
Sufferers will often remain in a state of sleeping as the dreams aren’t vivid or violent enough to induce a physical reaction, which is why you can rarely remember the dream once your conscious mind is engaged.
This is why you’ll often wake feeling confused, disorientated and, often, uncomfortable.
When Do Anxiety Dreams Occur?
Anxiety dreams commonly occur when the mind is in a state of REM (Rapid Eye Movement).
During this period, the body is almost entirely paralysed as the brain sends signals to the spinal cord indicating that it’s time to relax.
However, the subconscious mind is still awake and sending out messages and images that are now more vivid due to the lack of conscious distractions.
Naturally, the brain believes what it sees.
This results in the disjointed thoughts and emotions appearing more vivid and having a larger, long lasting effect on the mind.
Why Do Anxiety Dreams Occur?
Dreams affect mood, and in turn, mood affects dreams.
Famed psychologist Sigmund Freud often hypothesised that our dreams are directly linked to the thoughts and feelings that dominate our daily lives.
While it’s almost impossible to conclusively decipher why anxiety dreams occur, many believe that conflicts and traumas play a huge role in how our subconscious works when the conscious mind is asleep.
Common themes include loss, embarrassment, falling and being chased, with each theme representing a feeling of urgency and mental anguish that may have been repressed during the waking hours.
How to Get Over a Bad Dream
The biggest issue with anxiety dreams may not be the dream itself, but rather the repercussions on your day.
Many of us will wake, and be at a loss as to how to shake the negative connotations related to the dream, and feel ‘off’ for the remainder of our conscious hours.
If you find yourself consistently attempting to cope or find yourself having anxiety dreams every night, here are a few things you can do:
1. Distance yourself from your dream
Positive affirmations have a greater effect than many understand. I’m not telling you to become some sort of monk by any means, but rather take a minute to look at yourself in the mirror, and tell yourself that everything is okay.
Distance yourself from the images and feelings that controlled your subconscious, and remind yourself that you’re now conscious and in control.
2. Take some time for meditation
Meditation is a great way to engage your conscious mind and bring it back to reality.
Apps such as Headspace have made meditation accessible, and above all, time-efficient. Ten minutes is all it can take to relax your mind and shake off that apprehensiveness.
3. Keep a journal
If this is a constant problem, then you may want to consider keeping a log of all the things that crop up.
You may be able to draw a pattern of consistency and in turn, deal with the issues that you may be repressing in your conscious life.
And If You’re Struggling with Sleep in General
Sleep is precious, and a lack of high quality sleep can impact almost every aspect of your daily life.
If you’ve been struggling for a while or find yourself having anxiety dreams every night, you may want to look deeper than your current attempts. Is your mattress over eight years old? Is it causing you to have pressure points that are in turn stopping you from reaching relaxation?
These questions are always worth asking if you’re constantly lying awake at night, wondering when you’ll finally rest.
If you do believe it may be time to get a new mattress, you can take a look at our options here.