1. establish a neutral or positive bedtime routine. this means that i cut out things that caused me any amount of stress before bed (yes including social media and talking to people) and i replaced them with neutral or positive experiences like reading a book, getting out my clothes for the next day, and taking a bath. some kind of routine that happens every night about 1-2 hours before bed to wind down is really helpful for nightmares. stress adds to the chance of having one, so reduce that where ever possible. it might be hard to not login or not answer messages, but its worth it in the long run.
2. watch what you drink! i know that if i drink a ton of water before bed i will have a nightmare and wake up to pee. drink water earlier in the day to prevent this.
3. hunger is a big one, too! i will have a nightmare if im really hungry and i will wake up and need to eat. if you are hungry before bed, eat a light snack. it can really help.
4. temperature of the room. if my room is too hot or too cold, i will have a nightmare. adjust the temperature so you arent sweating but arent too cold. this is different for everyone so it might take some trial and error.
5. using mediation or asmr. this is something that has been foolproof for me, and i know other people who have used it with success. so on youtube there are tons of guided meditations and asmr videos that go through neutral or positive things like “journey to jupiter” or “long train ride with conductor” and they last for a while and you can fall asleep listening to them and focusing on them instead of ruminating on nightmares or trauma.
6. make a list of coping thoughts that you can read for when you have a nightmare. keep this by your bed each night so you can read it if you need to. examples: “i have had this nightmare many times, and each time i have survived. it was only that same old nightmare again, i know i can deal with it. i know that X is not really happening, it is just that nightmare again. i know that my trauma is in the past and this nightmare is just a symptom.” you can also read this before going to bed to remind yourself that it is a symptom and will not harm you in the present.
what to do after you have the nightmare:
1. immediately orient to the present. this could be looking at a clock and saying to yourself “it is X day of X month of X year. i am safe and present to this moment. this clock tells me that the trauma is not happening again and that i am safe in my bed.” you can adjust what you say to fit your own needs but the important part is that you orient to now.
2. grounding with a soft object. go out and get a new soft object with no memories or feelings attached to it. you can touch and hold it and remind yourself that it is new and a safe object. “this is my soft bunny that i bought especially to soothe me after nightmares. this bunny proves to me that the nightmare wasnt real and that i am safe here with it.”
3. grounding by going outside or opening a window. sometimes the rush of cold air can pull you out of the nightmare and back into the present. heck, even a nice cup of tea out on the porch can be the perfect remedy for the nightmare. be mindful by saying things like “i notice how cool this air feels on my skin. i can hear lots of crickets chirping outside. i can see that the moon and stars are bright tonight. i can almost taste how sweet the night air is. i can smell the pretty flowers outside.” and continue to name as many things as possible to prevent nightmare rumination.
4. read your list of coping thoughts many times over and focus completely on them.
5. sometimes it can help to write them down or to track them. try to go about this with a curious mind and see what you can learn from the nightmares. perhaps it is stress from school, or a fear about an upcoming appointment. these common life stressors can combine with ptsd nightmares, so it can be worth it to see if theres anything else going on. tracking the nightmares can give a sense of control and can help with the overwhelm feeling.