Thursday 8 February 2018

How to shake off a disturbing dream

Dreams. They can vary as vibrantly as the colour spectrum and can often be like a cinematic experience; you might want to buy the dream as a rental replay in your head, you might never want to see it ever again, perhaps it went on too long or finished as abruptly as it started. The dreams we long to have on repeat never seem to be showing in the forefront of our minds. The dreams we fear can frequently be blasted through our eye sockets, scorching our night's sleep into a noxious nightmare.  I suffer from night terrors (maybe more about that in a future post) and often have a lot of anxious thoughts giving me grief before bed. Understandably as a snowball effect I've often had vivid, upsetting dreams that have haunted me the day after despite many attempts to shake off that horrible "I know it's not real but I still feel on edge and upset" sensation that seems to always, always last for 24 hours. 

Without giving them too much stick, dreams can be a jackpot of good and back luck. One dream gave me the final ending scene in my novel. Other dreams have inspired me, helped me, guided me, switched my mood from so-so to happy and upbeat. Unfortunately we don't have a remote control to zap off what happens after we zzzz, and they often say if we've been thinking about something, talking about something or subconsciously serious about a situation, we'll be dreaming about it. Pretty unfair then, surely, that the characters in my novel that play on my mind 24/7 rarely feature in my dreams....

I still believe my first onset of anxiety really rooted from a dream I had about my Granny back when I was about 4 or 5. Funnily enough I've always felt deep down that the dream was supposed to be a happy, comforting one; I'd found her in heaven amongst clouds and people playing board games with sweets but I woke up crying, running through to my parents room. I still remember mum motioning my teacher aside in the classroom the next day and telling her if I started getting upset it was because of a bad dream I'd had. And I can still recall a little boy in my class peeking through the holes in his slice of ham at lunchtime, trying to make me laugh and cheer me up.

Point is, just how can we shake off a disturbing dream when it's settled in our mind and set to stay? 


May sound simple, even a bit stupid, but I've often found with disturbing dreams that as soon as I tell someone about it they'll either laugh, roll their eyes, smile or sympathise and then we'll move on to another subject. Trouble is, if your dream has affected you so badly that it feels real, it's hard to laugh about it or even look at it in a realistic way. Regularly throughout my life I've had dreams where people have died and they've been so disturbing I've had to make sure they're OK the next day. Talking about it to the people who have been worse for wear in my dreams usually brings on a sobering effect. Once you realise they're okay and in good humour about their fate in your dream, it's hard to take any dream - no matter how upsetting - with the same level of seriousness. 


To compensate for a shitty night's sleep plagued with destructive dreams, I think the silver lining is to focus on the thought that it was a bad dream, it's over with and any more reflection over it is wasted mind space. Often bad dreams can leave us thankful, relieved and in a hot sweat to face the bleeping alarm clock and realisation that the nightmare is nothing but that. With that in mind, let's look to the positive - the dream was bad but it isn't a reality. To have a fresh start to the day let's wash out the wrongdoing of the dream and be determined to turn the tables and have as good a day as possible.


Turning off technology has been a lifeline for me in the evenings as of late. I've taken to running a hot bath, reading a book and plastering a face mask on before bed. Yankee candles, hot chocolate and that whole vibe always works too. I've noticed (touch wood) that I don't seem to have so many (if any) upsetting anxious thoughts before bed when I've been partaking in a more relaxed routine away from bright screens and the whirr of the laptop. This also helped me immensely when I was suffering from a really bad spell of anxiety last year too, and is one of the things that helped me move forward and overcome it. 


Annoyingly the dreams we seem to long for never seem to dramatise for us. Our thought patterns predictably can throw up a person or moment or situation we're bitterly trying to forget and make it tonight's dream projection. I often dream about coming face to face with people from my past; you know the ones right? The ones we're all desperate to forget and to never see again? The ones that bring nothing but bad memories and a whole heap of bad feeling. Yep, those ones. Once I dreamt about an ex-friend and it left me feeling teary and on edge all day. A kind twitter follower reached out to me and told me to "write those feelings down, then forgive her and forgive yourself", which really struck a chord. Fortunately such bad dreams aren't a nightly occurrence, and it's important to reach into our memory bank and look to the good, positive dreams that help inspire, uplift and charge us with the feel good emotions that make life worth living. 


Chances are if you've had a good night, reamed a relaxing routine and go to bed thinking about the positive pieces of memories that made up your day then you'll avoid getting into a bad state of mind before bed. The week before last my sleep was in a pretty shocking state because of some robberies and attempted break-ins happening on our street. It really set off my anxiety and I could barely sleep and of course when I could, nightmares about what was happening surfaced. A few positive days with my thoughts switched off from the events really worked wonders, even though I was still nervous about what was happening, I wasn't giving it my full attention and my sleep improved. 


Last summer when some horrific things were happening on the news I found it hard (as I'm sure most of us felt) not to be frightened by it all. Even though we weren't really anywhere near where things were going on, I still felt like where I lived made it too close to home. I went to stay with Graham for a few days and just being out of the area made me feel so much better and more relaxed. Even though not always easy or convenient considering work patterns or general life I think a change of scene can really help when you're anxious, not sleeping well or are just downright burnt out. A spontaneous hotel stay, sleeping over at a friend's house or even going as far to redecorate your room can often be key changes in a better night's sleep. 

I hope this post is helpful + beneficial to anyone out there who may need it. 

Here's to dreaming those gorgeous dreams! 


Similar posts you might enjoy:


  1. This is such a great post! I have had a lot of recurring dreams and they used to really annoy/upset me, and when I was having anxiety problems, I would always wake up feeling sick and poorly. Thankfully, my sleep has been a lot better lately but I will definitely keep these tips in mind for the future! xxx

    1. Thank you so much sweet! I'm so sorry to hear you've had some horrible recurring dreams, they can be so unsettling and upsetting 💖💖 I'm so happy to hear your sleep has been a lot better lately, that really is such good news ✨💛🌈 Aww I so hope the post helps you if you ever need it in the future! xxxxx

  2. So true. I also had many bad dreams in the past, the moment that I stopped being scared of going to sleep they stopped too. Love your top here. Have sweet dreams xoxo Cris

    1. Thank you so much lovely! So sorry to hear you've had bad dreams in the past but I'm glad to hear they stopped for you 💜💜 Aww thank you, I saw it on Demi Lovato and I caved in and bought it for myself! 💓😍 xxxx

  3. Your advice is so helpful. Dreams can stay with me for some time, but then my mind just shuffles them away to some place in the back of my mind. Like you said someone told you, writing them down can be so helpful, it's like getting them out of your head. It's much better than storing them, but you can also learn to let them go I think. Dreams are made of your inner most thoughts, so your advice on working on good thoughts before bed is great! I agree they can be terrifying, I used to have many recurring dreams as a teen and I felt I wouldn't be able to escape them. I still have a few about rough ocean waves and me being trapped on the beach, but I know that's because of what is going on in my life, like feeling stuck, or wanting a change. Sorry for this long comment, but this topic was just perfect for me! Thanks for shedding light on the subject Sophie, it was refreshing.

    Much Love,