• 03/01/2021

What Are Stress Dreams? Here’s Why They Happen and How to Stop Them

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Dreams often evade scientific explanations, but not when it relates to stress. Your daily experiences affect how you sleep. If you haven’t had a pleasant dream in a while, it’s likely because you’re stressed. This guide will help you learn why stress dreams happen and how to stop them so you can get the rest you need.

Stress Dreams Are More Intense

An average dream might make you wake up with a smile on your face. You could spend the morning thinking about a strange event you dreamt about before shaking it off as unexplainable. Stress dreams usually result in waking up with symptoms like:

  • A cold sweat
  • A racing heartbeat
  • A fearful or angry mood

They aren’t enjoyable and sometimes make life harder if they happen every night. You won’t feel rested or refreshed. No one should have to live like that long-term, so it’s critical to understand why stress dreams happen and how to stop them.

They Have Different Forms

Stress dreams are also known as anxiety dreams. They always relate to your memories, thoughts and fears, but they often share one of these eight forms.

Becoming or Staying Paralyzed

While you dream, do you lose the ability to move or speak? Paralyzation often relates to the fear of not being in control of your life. If you wake up and still can’t move, it could indicate a sleep paralysis problem that’s a different issue than stress dreams.

Falling From Great Heights

Even if you enjoy going on outdoor adventures with your partner or friends, your dreams repeat scenes of falling from great heights. It could relate to a fear of sudden change or loss of control. People also have falling dreams if they experience a hypnagogic jerk, which is an involuntary, stress-related muscle spasm during your sleep. 

Being Chased by Anyone

Dreaming about being chased is another common form of a stress dream. If you work for a terrifying boss, live with a toxic person or worry about your safety, it could translate into these dreams.

Arguing With Someone

People use their dreams to process what’s happening in their lives. Interpersonal conflict with your loved ones or coworkers may result in screaming matches while you’re asleep. One study found that argument dreams defuse emotional problems from relationships, even if those people aren’t in your life anymore.

Searching for Something That’s Lost

Anxiety sometimes tries to train you for the worst. For you, that might mean frantically searching for lost objects or people while you sleep. Your brain tries to teach you to cope with that stress, but it may just add to what you already deal with during the day.

Losing Your Teeth

Have you ever dreamed about spitting out your teeth for no reason? It’s another way to process your recent lack of control or the fear of it. Your mind could process stress by imagining significant bodily harm.

Experiencing a Natural Disaster

When the world experiences natural disasters, they could show up in your stress dreams. Hurricanes, earthquakes and even the pandemic remind people how little control they have over their lives. You might dream about being overwhelmed by them as your brain struggles to comprehend how to understand and live with ongoing events.

Dealing With Bugs

Abstract daily fears sometimes translate into bug nightmares. You could stress about your body or home before dreaming about bugs invading those same things. You might also have bug stress dreams if your skin senses bed bugs biting you during the night. You can always look for typical signs of bed bugs to ensure they’re only in your dreams.

Stress Dream Mitigation Techniques

After identifying your stress dreams, learn how to prevent them. Use these mitigation techniques to reduce your daily anxiety and get more peaceful sleep every night.

Avoid Late-Night Caffeine

Enjoy your morning cup of coffee, but skip caffeinated beverages after dinner. Evening or late-night caffeine stimulates your cortisol production and prevents your brain from falling into natural sleep rhythms. Cortisol is a stress hormone, so the last thing you need is more cortisol before forcing your brain through sleep cycles.

Practice Breathing Exercises Before Bed

Breathing exercises relieve stress by slowing your heartbeat, easing your mind into a relaxed state. Experts often recommend these techniques to those suffering from anxiety disorders or intense stress. Set aside five minutes to breathe slowly before bed and it may reduce or stop recurring stress dreams.

Try Mindfulness Techniques

Mindfulness is another way to defeat stress. Instead of spiraling into worries about your future or ongoing problems, you’ll center yourself in the moment. Focus on feeling your lungs take in air or how food tastes while eating dinner. These sensations ground you and reduce stress.

Eat a Healthier Diet

Stress affects your body, but you can fight it by eating healthier foods that reduce inflammation and improve your immune system. Whole-grain, all-natural and unprocessed foods soothe your body by preventing blood sugar spikes. Ditch sugar and alcohol to see how quickly your stress dreams disappear.

Prioritize Self Care

Stress often accumulates when people forget to take care of themselves. Relaxing in a warm bath, reading a book or going for a walk are just a few ways to indulge in self care. The best self-care ideas will be healthy habits that relax you without adding stress to your daily routine.

Manage Anxiety to Defeat Stress Dreams

Anyone can defeat stress dreams by managing their anxiety. Think about what’s happening in your personal life or in the world to determine what causes your stress. You can use specific mitigation techniques to feel better before going to bed and get back to having pleasant dreams.

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