Use This Trick to Stop Nightmares While You're Asleep
Use this lucid dreaming technique to stop nightmares in their tracks.
Posted Dec 22, 2019
You're probably reading this article because you have vivid dreams (or nightmares) as I do. Read on for how to help yourself get better sleep and stop your vivid dreams and nightmares from taking over.
First, why do we have nightmares or vivid dreams? There can be various reasons and some factors which we aren't aware of yet. We know that stress can increase the chances of nightmares, as can some medications. Some people may even be genetically predisposed to having nightmares (Ollila, et al. 2019).
If you have nightmares, they should be taken seriously by mental health professionals, as frequent nightmares increase the risk of suicide (Sandman et al. 2017).
Nightmares and vivid dreams can be terrifying. This is especially true when your dreams are so vivid that they feel like a real event. I also have vivid dreams and sometimes nightmares.
I was taught a simple trick to let yourself know if you are dreaming or not. It involves something called lucid dreaming. This is when you are aware that you are dreaming. In lucid dreaming, you can actually change the outcome of your dream, resulting in it being less frightening.
You may be wondering if you can actually do something like that. The good news is that If you already have extremely vivid dreams or nightmares, you are also more likely to have the ability to engage in lucid dreaming.
Here's what I was taught to do when I have a vivid dream or nightmare. I tell myself to look for a clock. You're going to be looking for an analog clock, one with hands, not a digital one. Although if you find any type of clock in your dream, good for you! A clock in a dream is almost always messed up. What I mean by that is that the numbers will be in incorrect places or all over the clock. The arms of the clock won't make sense either. There may be only one arm on the clock or three or the arms are crooked. When you see a clock that is "off" in your dream, it means that what you are experiencing is not real life. Your brain will usually never produce a correct clock face while you are sleeping.
You can then tell yourself that you are just experiencing a dream (or nightmare) and you will quickly no longer have a feeling of fear. You have reassured yourself that this is only something your brain is doing and that it is temporary.
The other night, I had a nightmare where I was in a car that was driving out of control. I quickly looked around for a clock. If you are in a situation in a dream where there is no clock, I discovered that your mind will create one for you.
All of a sudden, a clock appeared out of thin air. The numbers were jumbled all over the face of the clock. At that instant, I knew that this was just a nightmare and I would wake up soon. And upon discovering that, the car I was in slowed down.
You may be wondering, how do I pull this clock thing off if I am sleeping? If you are alert enough to remember your dreams, you can do this. Just by reading this article, you have already planted the idea in your unconscious to look at a clock if you aren't sure if you are having a dream or not.
Then, repeat it to yourself before you go to bed. "To find out if a dream is just a dream, I'll find a clock." That's all you have to do. If this doesn't happen for you in the beginning, that is completely normal. But eventually, it will work for you — and it makes dreaming a much less scary experience.
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Ollila, H. M., Sinnott-Armstrong, N., Kantojärvi, K., Palviainen, T., Pandit, A., Rong, R., ... & Kaprio, J. (2019). Nightmares share strong genetic risk with sleep and psychiatric disorders. BioRxiv, 836452.
Sandman, N., Valli, K., Kronholm, E., Vartiainen, E., Laatikainen, T., & Paunio, T. (2017). Nightmares as predictors of suicide: an extension study including war veterans. Scientific reports, 7, 44756.