If you’re suffering from nightmares or vivid dreams, one solution is to use yoga and meditation for nightmare relief.
Millions of people around the world have been suffering from nightmares since the start of self-isolation, And dreams have been becoming ever more vivid.
Many people state that their nightmares are so vivid and realistic that they often wake up exhausted because their sleep has not provided adequate rest.
Heightened emotions cause more vivid dreams. If you’ve been experiencing heightened emotions during the current stressful time, it is only natural for dreams to be more vivid.
Speaking to The Independent, Dr Natasha Bijlani, [consultant psychiatrist, Priory Hospital Roehampton] said, “Many people are likely to have noticed changes to their sleep patterns recently. Not just as a direct result of the stress generated by the current situation but also by the adjustments to their lives that have ensued.”
Maybe it’s a scary dream about your teeth falling out, a nightmare about being bitten by a snake, or a dream about someone dying.
Nightmares can feel so real it’s as though you are living in them. And then you wake up in a panic attack.
Nighttime ruminations can be even worse if you have a mental health condition. For instance, PTSD nightmares are especially disturbing. Thankfully, research from Brigitte Holzinger at the institute for Consciousness and Dream Research shows that lucid dreaming could stop PTSD nightmares.
Another solution is to use meditation for nightmare relief. In my online meditation lessons, I have helped many people to stop their nightmares and to enjoy pleasant dreams. I will explain how in just a moment.
The Link Between Meditation And Bad Dreams
Some people believe meditation causes bad dreams. However, this is not entirely accurate. Meditation makes dreams more vivid and often even lucid, according to research from Benjamin Baird at the Wisconsin Institute for Sleep and Consciousness. However, it is also possible to use meditation to sleep and to have good dreams.
So, what is the link between meditation and bad dreams?
First, let’s look at what causes bad dreams.
Theories about dreams have evolved over the years. It used to be believed that dreams were a divine inspiration. But now thanks to scientific research on dreams and the brain, we know that dreams help the mind make sense of the world. Plus, dreams pass subconscious messages.
“When we dream, the mind processes information and emotions from the past day,” says Timothy J Legg [Ph.D., CRNP].
We still don’t totally know how dreams work in the brain, but we do know that what we do while awake affects our dreams. And we know that if we are more mindful while we are awake, our dreams will be more peaceful.
Going to sleep in a relaxed state of mind can certainly help.
The Sleep Council  states that the leading causes of vivid dreams include sleep deprivation, alcohol consumption, hormonal fluctuations, and stress. And in my personal experience, hypervigilance stops me sleeping (hypervigilance is increased alertness).
Effect of meditation on dreams
A thread on Reddit reveals that many people experience vivid dreams after meditating. However, the general consensus from the experts is that meditation doesn’t actually make dreams more vivid. instead, it increases our ability to remember dreams so that they seem as though they were more vivid when we wake.
Nightmares are caused primarily by stress, depression, and anxiety.
In an article for VeryWell Mind medically reviewed by Shilpa Amin, [M.D., CAQ, FAAFP], Eleesha Lockett says, “stress and trauma from childhood can cause recurring nightmares later in life”.
The other day I personally dreamt that I had a heart attack, and it was the most vivid dream I have ever experienced (which is saying a lot because my dreams are always insanely vivid). I experienced every symptom of my imaginary heart attack as though it were really, and woke up totally shook. Perhaps your experiences have been similar.
Thankfully, we can use a combination of yoga and meditation for nightmare-relief and to stop “quarandreams”.
How To Use Yoga & Meditation For Nightmares And “Quarandreams”
We can use yoga and meditation for nightmare-relief so we are less affected by disturbing nightmares.
Although there has been no significant scientific research into the effects of meditation on nightmares, you can see a direct link between meditation and nightmares when you look at cause and effect.
The Mayo Clinic tells THE DAILY MEDITATION that one of the leading causes of nightmares is stress and anxiety. These two problems can cause hypervigilance, which makes it a struggle to sleep at night.
Stress and anxiety are currently at a peak for many people since self-isolation, and this is leading to an increase in nightmares and vivid dreaming. Reducing stress and anxiety will help remedy the problem.
Significant scientific research has shown that yoga and meditation can help to reduce both stress and anxiety. Therefore, they logically should reduce nightmares.
Writing for Psychology Today, Seth J. Gillihan PhD [licensed psychologist, University of Pennsylvania] says, “Excessive muscular tension can feed back to our minds and perpetuate the feeling of unease. When we experience the relaxation benefits of yoga, we can lower our physical tension, which helps release the grip that anxiety can have on us.”
Yoga Poses & Types of Meditation For Bad Dreams
DoYouYoga states that the best yoga poses for relaxation are:
- Reclined Bound Angle Pose
- Legs Up the Wall
- Child’s Pose
- Forward Bend
- Corpse Pose
Focusing on pranayama (yogic breathing) also helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system for relaxation and stress-relief. Plus, it reduces hypervigilance to help you get restful sleep.
We can also use meditation for nightmare-relief, although you should leave at least one hour between meditation and sleep because meditating too close to sleep can affect your sleep cycle [READ: How to lie down to meditate].
The best meditations for nightmare-relief are ones that help promote relaxation, counter stress and anxiety, and enhance emotional processing.
I do not recommend using advanced methods or any meditative technique that brings up strong emotions. These meditations can cause bad dreams. And we want to enjoy a peaceful night’s rest.
The best meditations for nightmare-relief are:
Mindfulness of breath helps to promote inner calm to help you relax before bed. I personally find that practising Anapanasati about an hour before bed helps me get to sleep and stops bad dreams. I like to use this method when I wake up from a nightmare too.
If you are afraid of sleeping alone this will help you to relax before you get in bed. Given that anxiety before bed is one thing that triggers nightmares, it is good to make sure you’re relaxed before you go to bed. So, make Anapanasati part of your self-care bedtime routine.
Vipassana enhances emotional processing, which is pivotal for getting a good night’s sleep. In my experience as a meditation teacher, Vipassana helps with emotional processing so you’re less likely to be stressed or emotional when you go to bed, meaning less bad dreams.
Loving-kindness promotes feelings of compassion and interconnectedness, which can counteract the feelings of loneliness that many people suffer from. I find that when I do this before bed, I usually have pleasant dreams and a good night’s sleep.
Try listening to relaxing music before going to bed. This will help promote inner peace and relaxation, as well as reducing the impact that stress and anxiety have on your sleep.
It is only natural that we experience vivid dreams and nightmares during this time. But we can use yoga and meditation for nightmare relief.