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Mental Health
Swarnakshi Sharma August 29th, 2022 · 4min read

Woke Up From A Nightmare? Try These Exercises To Calm Your Nerves When You Wake Up From A Nightmare

What’s worse than a restless sleep? Waking up from a nightmare. Well, for me, it is. No matter what I dream about, waking up sweating and trembling from a bad dream can have your heart pounding and pulse race.

I can’t say about you but I find it quite difficult to fall back to sleep after being jolted awake by a nightmare. Even if I try to close my eyes, I can’t seem to shake the scary images away from my mind. Whenever this has happened to me, I’ve lost hours of sleep and woke up grumpy.

If this has ever happened to you then you’ve probably experienced anxiety, fear, or stress. This anxiety and fear brought on by nightmares can be hard to shake off, especially if you’re already struggling with anxiety and/or depression.

In this article, I’ve combined some calming exercises that you can practice if you wake up from a nightmare and can’t go back to sleep. But first, let’s see what happens to our bodies when we wake up from a nightmare.

After Nightmares, Came…

Nightmares induce cortisol (the stress hormone) so when we wake up from a nightmare, our body undergoes a process – Cortisol Awakening Response. Since cortisol is related to our responses such as alertness, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, etc, nightmares increase our cortisol levels between 30-75% mere half an hour later upon waking up.

Why this is important to know? Nightmares are something we can consider traumatic. The higher the trauma, the higher our cortisol levels. Higher cortisol means heightened senses to stress, poor sleep quality, and a downward spiral of negative emotions, all day long.

To combat this response, below are some calming and relaxation techniques you can use when you wake up from a nightmare and are unable to go back to sleep.

De-Stressing Exercises For You To Try

Nightmares can be exhausting as well as unsettling. It can be (and is) difficult to go back to sleep after being awoken by a nightmare.

To de-stress and lull yourself to sleep, you can try these exercises:

1. The 4-7-8 Breathing Method

This is one of my favorite breathing exercises that I use when I can’t fall asleep. The 4-7-8 breathing technique is one of the most common breathing exercises that can help better sleep. To practice this method, you need to:

  • Exhale completely through your mouth while making a “whooshing” sound.
  • Close your lips and inhale through your nose while counting silently to four.
  • Hold your breath for seven seconds.
  • Through your mouth, exhale while making another “whooshing” sound while counting silently to eight.

2. Try Some Yoga

Another exercise that can help destress you in no time and help you go back to sleep is yoga. Yoga is an exercise that can be calming for both body and mind. Perfect to practice before starting your day and as good to practice before going to bed.

Here are some yoga poses that can help better sleep:

  • Three-Part Breath
  • The Butterfly Pose
  • Sleeping Swan (Pigeon Pose)
  • Child’s Pose (Balasana)
  • Savasana

3. Meditation Can Help

If you don’t want to leave your bed, you can simply lie in the comfort (and safety) of your blanket and meditate. Sleep meditations can be soothing and can help your mind settle down and your body lose its tension caused by excessive stress and anxiety.

Meditation can also help you slow down your heart rate and sleep down your breathing which can help you sleep.

My Thoughts…

If you’re still unable to sleep, you can try creating a bedtime routine that includes exercise, eating right, and avoiding sugary and caffeinated substances. A daily routine can help you keep your day-to-day stress and worries in check.

If you’re constantly stressed and having trouble sleeping, you can consult a professional counselor to come up with coping strategies. Your lack of sleep or frequent nightmares can also be due to some underlying sleep disorders.

I hope this article helped you understand what to do when you wake up from a nightmare and can’t go back to sleep. For more, you can write to us at or follow us on social media.

Liked this article? Did you try these exercises? Did they help? Let us know in the comments below! We’re always happy to hear from you!

Sweet Dreams. Take Care!

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