“To die, to sleep—to sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there's the rub, for in this sleep of death what dreams may come…” Shakespeare said it best, man. It’s a constant struggle. Every night, there’s the fear of what’ll visit you in your sleep. Will you have pleasant dreams, or will monsters or catastrophes haunt your night? And sadly, it’s a major part of anxiety, or my anxiety, anyway.
I’ve had nightmares for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, they were even worse. And thus started my collection of dreamcatchers. I know, I know. Placebo effect. But who cares? What works, works. These days, my nightmares are completely different, but just as terrifying. If not more so. Because these nightmares are dreams that might actually come true. I got married three months ago, and even though I know he loves me, that niggling voice at the back of my head is prone to attack when my defenses are down. I.e: when I’m asleep, and my nightmares are haunted with visions of him leaving, of him moving on without me, of him finding someone better than me, of him forgetting all about me. And it’s terrifying. Luckily, the images dim when I open my eyes and see him laying next to me. But the feelings carry through my day. That bone deep fear/exhaustion/depression brought on by things not spoken of in the daylight.
See, that’s the thing about nightmares. They don’t completely fade when you wake up. No, they’re still there. The terrors remain. Or at least, they do for me. Anxiety successfully invades every aspect of your life, including your sleep.
Many people believe that nightmares can be omens of things to come. Some psychologists believe that your waking life can influence your dreams by bringing problems that you unconsciously bury to the surface when your brain isn’t actively blocking them. Many people draw inspiration from their dreams, using them to influence their art. Rumor is, Stephanie Meyer based her best-selling series off of a dream that she had. But dreams can inspire other things as well. Fear. Of the waking world. Ask any child you know. Anything that scares them in their dreams is a big no-no in the real world. Personally, I’ve always had extremely vivid dreams. And there are times when that makes conversations or interactions confusing as to whether they are from the dream world or the waking one.
Some people think that certain types of food cause nightmares. Or certain TV programs. Or video games. Or music. So, what do we do? We change up our habits, and sometimes that works. But sometimes it doesn’t. Some people feel better talking about their dreams. Some don’t. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do but suffer through them. Which sounds like pretty shit advice, and I’m sorry. But there isn’t much more of an option here.
I mean, no matter the cause of or result of nightmares, I think we can all agree that they suck. Hard. I’m an insomniac, so when I do actually get to sleep, I’d like to have a peaceful rest. And I’m not alone. Statistically speaking, it’s reported that approximately five percent of adults suffer from frequent nightmares. That’s what, like at least a billion people worldwide? That’s crazy. But also comforting. Because it means that you and I are not alone.
I guess the point is; just do what feels right and helps you out (pretty sound advice for all aspects of life, really). Try out different techniques. Meditate. Listen to music. Do whatever helps. But most importantly, remember that no matter what you see, when you open your eyes, it’ll be a new day, and things won’t seem as bad as they do in the moonlight.