Dreams in general are a pretty weird phenomenon themselves, but nightmares really take it to another level. Most people have experienced nightmares, and they are almost never a pleasant experience. Even if you find that you can laugh at them while you are awake, the terror can be very real while you are sleeping. If you struggle with frequent nightmares, you almost certainly want to figure out a way to make them end. While there are practices you can try to reduce the chances of getting a nightmare in the first place, it can be equally helpful to learn how to wake yourself up once you are in one.
The suggestions outlined below can work for just about everyone. For most people, there is a point in a nightmare where the thought crosses your mind that you must be dreaming. At this point, you can almost certainly try one of these options. Even if you aren’t someone who experiences the ‘awareness’ that you are dreaming, you can practice these techniques while you are awake, and then you will likely incorporate them into your dreams as well.
Practice While Awake
To practice the below techniques while you are awake, start looking for any situation during the day where you feel scared or stressed. Any stressful situation can be used because fear causes stress and they are closely linked in the mind. Each time a stressful situation arises in your waking life, practice one of the below techniques. As your mind begins to associate these techniques with stress, you should begin to use them in your dream, which will typically help you wake yourself up.
Squeeze Your Eyes Shut Then Open them Wide
If you want to wake yourself up from a dream (especially a nightmare) start by tightly squeezing your eyes shut in your dream. After several seconds of keeping them squeezed tightly shut, attempt to quickly open them as wide as possible. For many people, this action while dreaming will trigger your mind to replicate the action in your actual body. If your eyes open wide from sleeping, you will almost certainly wake up and out of your nightmare.
Fall Asleep in the Dream
Many people have difficulty with this one, but it can be helpful to some. When having a scary dream, try to fall asleep in the dream. For example, if a dream monster is chasing you, find somewhere to hide and try to fall asleep. For those who this technique works for, it often takes just moments for them to fall asleep in the nightmare. It is thought that this causes your mind to exit the dream state, which should naturally wake you up. Even if you do not actually wake up, it can help to end the nightmare so you may move into a more pleasant dream.
Shout for Help
If you can make yourself shout for help in a dream, you will have a great chance of waking yourself up. Yelling loudly is a jarring experience while you are awake, and it can have a similar effect while you are in a nightmare. Another benefit to this is if you happen to also shout out loud, your partner or a pet may hear it and wake you up. Even if they do not hear it, your mind may hear the noise, which could wake you up.
Read in the Dream
This is an unusual one, but it really seems to work for a lot of people. While in a nightmare, look around and find something to read. This could be a sign, a book, a paper, or anything else. The part of your brain that is active while reading typically is not active while dreaming. Engaging that type of activity in your brain may help to rouse you from your sleep.
Practice Makes Perfect
Nightmares can be quite a challenge for many people, and mastering the ability to wake yourself up from them is not likely to happen immediately. Trying the above options every time you experience a nightmare, or even a normal dream, will help you to get better at it over time. With practice, you can end nightmares quickly, so you don’t have to go through the traumatic experience.