How To Fall Back Asleep After A Nightmare

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After a nightmare or an unsettling dream, you may find it difficult to fall asleep again. 

Nightmares are scary, there’s no two ways about it. When you experience a nightmare, they are usually more vivid than a regular dream, causing fear, anxiety or terror and end up with you waking up experiencing these intense emotions. So how do you fall asleep again after a nightmare?

Falling asleep after a nightmare

The biggest issue you face after getting nightmares is being unable to go back to sleep. Your heart rate goes up, your body temperature rises leading to sweats and there is an increase of adrenaline in your body. So what are the little things you can do to fall back asleep comfortably? Here’s some tips on how to calm your body and mind and fall asleep after a nightmare.

Focusing only on falling asleep after a nightmare is the best way to go back to sleep.

Focus on sleep. It sounds obvious, but you should try and go back to sleep immediately. Once you wake up, your instinct might be to sit up and get moving. Resist the urge, take a few breaths to clear your mind and close your eyes. If you can do it quickly, your body is more likely to adapt and fall asleep faster.

Breathe your fear away. Practice simple breathing exercises to fall back asleep. Try the 4-7-8 technique where you inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds and exhale for 8 seconds. Continue this for at least 5 breath cycles or one minute. This breathing technique helps slow down your heart rate, calm your nervous system and the mind, enabling you to mentally switch off and fall asleep. It’s simple yet effective to reduce your anxiety or fear and fall asleep after a nightmare. 

Do a body scan. This is really simple and effective. Close your eyes, take some deep breaths and feel your body fill up with air with every inhale and ease out as you exhale. Just stay in the moment and start to do a body scan. Focus your attention on every part of your body starting with your toes, then legs, stomach and so on. Reflect what you feel at every point and slowly feel your muscles relax as you reach your head. This is a great way of winding down and reducing your anxiety and stress. You may not be able to fall asleep instantly, but it will help. 

Here’s what not to do after a nightmare:

Using your phone will distract you. Don't use it when trying to fall asleep after a nightmare.

Don’t check your phone. You must be feeling stressed, anxious or scared and will be tempted to use your phone to feel better. Don’t do that, because it will lead to a string of distractions and your mind will not be able to switch off for a while after that. Instead, settle yourself and close your eyes and allow your mind to clear, stress to reduce and fall asleep.

Ignore the clock. When you wake up after a nightmare, you would instinctively check the time. Doing so may increase your stress levels. You’d start thinking about how many hours are left until you wake up. Ignore the time, it isn’t important right now. Focus on falling asleep as that’s your #1 priority.

Switching on lights after waking up a nightmare will not help you fall asleep.

Keep lights switched off. You may feel the need to turn on the lights to drink water, or wash your face after a nightmare. Instead, use a flashlight to navigate. This is because your body may take the light as a signal that your day has begun and start to switch on. Instead, try and calm yourself and reduce your anxiety, giving your adrenaline a chance to extinguish and for you to sleep better.

You’re more resilient than you think! Even though you have made a nightmare, remember it’s going to be okay and that the nightmare was not real. Follow these simple steps in order to fall asleep after a nightmare. There are some other things you can do in order to sleep better, regardless of a nightmare. Do what is comfortable for you at that moment. If you’re still unable to fall back asleep, you can use the Evolve app and one of our sleep audios to help you.

You can even improve your sleep with guided meditation and meditation for sleep, which helps you switch off and unwind at the end of the day and allows you to sleep better.

Evolve has a range of guided audios to help you fall asleep faster and have more restful sleep. The Evolve app is now live globally on Android & Apple, click here to try for free!