I have always had very vivid dreams, sometimes good but often bad. I think it must run in my family, one of my first memories of sharing a room with my brother is him being terrified of having the curtains open once it was dark outside, in case the dark came in and entered his dreams.
Over the years I’ve managed my dreams in different ways. As a child I had a night light, as a teenager I slept with the radio on. If I slept anywhere new I had to take my radio with me. At university I realised that this was probably a habit I needed to kick so I started writing down my dreams instead. I’d record when they occurred, what I’d been doing, eating, reading, watching. I realised hormones played a part, my dreams were more vivid just before my period and at ovulation. They were more stressful when I was over tired and cheese mares are a real phenomenon! I also learnt that it’s better for me to avoid scary films and books as they live on too much in my sleep.
I decided too to take control of my nightmares. I remember reading somewhere that it was my dream, my mind and I was in control. This made a huge difference to me. In the midst of a bad dream I can now actively think my way out of it. It sounds strange but I can and do control the outcome and now I am rarely caught in a nightmare I can’t escape.
I don’t know if having an overactive nightime imagination is hereditary or just a normal part of growing up but now my lovely 5 year old and his 3 year old sister also have regular nightmares. The big boy’s are usually about being separated from me in some way, he remembers them all in a lot of detail so we talk about them and I reassure him that he will always be loved and looked after and I have no intention of letting anyone take him from me or his family.
My daughter’s nightmares are different. I think they are more of a night terror as she is a screaming furious being when she’s in the midst of them. The only way to calm her down is to completely wake her up, to put lights on and talk to her calmly about mundane things. It’s a little bit freaky so I have to work hard not to convey to her that it’s unnerving!
I don’t want my children to have to wait until they are near adults to manage their dreams. When I was growing up it was a popular pastime decoding dreams (I seem to remember a dictionary of dreams by my mum’s bed) but I don’t feel like that helped me much just put too much emphasis on the fact that my dreams weren’t always good.
So how best to manage nightmares, in both children and adults? Should I be doing something different for my children. What can I do to help us all to have sweet dreams? Please feel free to give me your top tips. I feel lucky in that I’ve learnt how to manage my dreams and I really want to be able to teach my children to do the same.