Why Do You Get Anxiety Dreams? (What You Can Do About It)
A good night’s rest is all we need to feel refreshed – mind and body. Working hard all day can assure a good snooze, but what we often forget to take into consideration is the stress we accumulate during the day, the kind we don’t process before bed.
So, instead of waking up feeling refreshed, you wake up grumpy and with the memory of dreams you rather not think about. Daily stress and anxiety mixed in with other life challenges can disturb your sleep quality and cause anxiety dreams when you don’t process the stress before drifting off to dreamland.
Anxiety dreams are unpleasant and can make you feel uneasy. Not only can they ruin your sleep, but they can also add to your stress when you wake up in the morning. So, instead of feeling refreshed, you feel grumpy and more stressed.
Let’s understand why you get anxiety dreams, what effects they can have on your overall health, and what you can do to sleep better without anxiety dreams plaguing your mind.
Why Do You Get Anxiety Dreams?
Anxiety dreams can lie behind the stress you accumulate during the day and neglect to release before bed. Because of your anxiety dreams, you may feel panicky and nervous, and these feelings can stay with you even after you wake up in a cold sweat from these dreams.
Some common anxiety dream causes can include:
- Fear of stress
- Major lifestyle changes that you’re unable to adjust to
- Recent traumatic events
- Sleep disorders such as insomnia
- Substance use or consumption of alcohol
Even during our sleep, our brain stays awake. During this time, the brain carries out all the functions that can help you wake up refreshed. However, this is also the time when the brain processes the memories, sensations, and stress that you experienced during your wakefulness.
Not everyone with anxiety can experience anxiety dreams, however, the symptoms of anxiety disorder can play a huge role in their manifestation.
In a 2014 study, it was found that adults with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) had more nightmares or bad dreams than adults without any anxiety diagnosis. It was also observed that nightmares and uneasy dreams led to more feelings of anxiety, depression, and poor quality of life during the day.
Examples Of Anxiety Dreams
Anxiety dreams often don’t have a meaning. They are often based on your daily experiences or can simply manifest triggers that may cause you anxiety. Some common examples of anxiety dreams can include;
- Being in a play on stage and forgetting your dialogue
- Standing nude in public
- Not being able to escape a dangerous situation
Are Anxiety And Nightmares Connected?
Anxiety or stress can cause nightmares or anxiety dreams. If you’re too stressed or going through a major transition in your life, then you can become more susceptible to anxiety dreams or stress dreams.
Frequent nightmares can be a sign of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other related mental health disorders.
Not all bad dreams can be anxiety dreams though. They can just be that. Bad dreams. Similarly, not all anxiety dreams or nightmares are caused by anxiety. What you eat can also affect your dreams, suggests a 2015 study.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that just because you have anxiety, it does not mean that you are going to experience anxiety dreams. Sometimes, you can get a peaceful sleep.
Anxiety dreams, stress dreams, or nightmares can be an indication of how your brain processes and responds to uncomfortable situations.
The Effects Of Anxiety Dreams
Anxiety dreams can make you feel distressed and uneasy even after you wake up. In some cases, experiencing anxiety dreams frequently can begin to affect your mental health, especially if you begin to attach meanings to the dreams.
If you focus on the meaning of the dream, you’ll begin to worry about it and then fear that the dreams will come true. This kind of thinking will take root and begin to affect your mood, thinking, and stress when you’re up.
Often, dreams do not make sense, but they can still have elements from your waking life that can make you feel anxious in real life. Just because you dream about something bad does not guarantee that it will happen in real life too. The same’s the case with anxiety dreams.
If you keep dreaming about failing a test, then you’ll worry almost reverently that this dream is going to come true, giving birth to more anxiety. If you spend all your time and thoughts worrying about something that might or might not happen, then these worries will manifest as anxiety dreams or stress dreams, disrupting your peaceful sleep.
And we all know what lack of sleep can do to our mental and physical health.
It’s a never-ending cycle.
How To Stop Anxiety Dreams?
You can’t control your dreams, just like you can’t control certain situations. However, here are some tips to help you prevent or stop anxiety dreams;
Find The Stressor
The first thing to do to stop anxiety dreams is to find the stressor and eliminate it. When you find the source, and you can’t eliminate it, then you can learn emotional regulation to control your emotional response to the stressor. This technique will help you reduce your stress before you go to bed and reduce the intensity of anxiety dreams.
Not only journaling can help you put your stress behind you, but it can also help you change the ending to your anxiety dreams, making you feel less stressed about them. If you wake up from an anxiety dream, then write an alternative ending to the dream. This kind of exercise can help you reduce the effect of the anxiety dream.
Try Relaxation Techniques
If you wake up in a cold sweat from an anxiety dream, then you can try some relaxation techniques to go back to sleep. You can also try these activities before bed to reduce stress in your dreams. Try these exercises:
Seek Professional Help
If your anxiety dreams begin to affect your waking life almost every day, then it is recommended you seek professional help. A sleep specialist or a therapist can help you find the source and ways to eliminate the stress that’s manifesting in your dreams. Talking to a professional can also help improve your sleep quality and ensure restful sleep.
The Bottom Line
Having bad dreams is common but not all bad dreams are supposed to make us feel distressed as we wake up. The kind of dreams that make you feel uneasy and distressed upon waking can be referred to as anxiety dreams or stress dreams.
Anxiety dreams manifest when you have unprocessed stress and anxiety or are going through some emotional challenges in life. Getting professional help or engaging in relaxation techniques before bed can help stop anxiety dreams.
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