How to Give Yourself Nightmares, If You Must

6 min read

Last Modified 21 May 2021 First Added 25 July 2016

By Jessica Kadel

We’ve all been there; waking up in a cold sweat after being chased, falling from a great height or losing a tooth. With whatever terrifying form they come in, nightmares are unfortunately a very common occurrence among both children and adults. Roughly one out of every two adults in the UK suffers from the occasional nightmare. Around 2-8% of the population is plagued by nightmares on a regular basis. But is there a way to find out how to have a nightmare?

Can you give yourself a nightmare?

Every month roughly 600 people actually research how to give themselves nightmares. With this in mind, we at Dreams aim to cater for the people crazy enough to search “How can I make myself have crazy dreams?”. So if you’re one of the loopy folk looking how to have a nightmare, then we’ve asked all the top sleep experts to answer your question. Here’s how to give yourself nightmares, if you must.

Related: How to Avoid Nightmares

Alter Your Sleeping Position

Apparently, changing your sleeping position can have an effect on how to have nightmares. A study by Calvin Kai-Ching Yu, of Shue Yan University in Hong Kong, tested how sleeping position correlates with dreams. He examined 63 subjects, 41 of whom slept on their right side and 22 who slept on their left. Apparently 40.9% of those who slept on their left reported having disturbing dreams. In contrast, only 14.6% of the right-side sleepers did.

Yu’s study also revealed that people who sleep face down are more likely to have dreams about being smothered, locked up, unable to breathe or move. Therefore, if you alter your sleeping position to your left side or sleep on your front, it may increase your chances of having a nightmare-filled nap.

Image of a woman having a nightmare

Scare Yourself Before Bed

Those of you who have ever watched a particularly frightening horror film will know that it can significantly affect your sleep. Aside from the potential of a sleepless night, when you finally drift off horror films can linger in your subconscious mind.

Dream analyst and founder of What Your Dreams Means, Lauri Loewenberg claims “we tend to dream about what is on our mind the most of the day or what affected us most that day, so if you are mentally processing a slasher film, a psychological thriller or some horribly disturbing news story as you drift off to sleep, you are likely to carry that into REM sleep, resulting in a disturbing dream”. If you’re looking how to have nightmares, this is a classic.

Related: These are the 7 Best Nightmares in Popular Literature

An image of girls watching a horror film

Take Vitamin B6

While there is not a strong correlation between this vitamin and nightmares, rumour has it taking vitamin B6 can make your dreams extremely vivid, sometimes uncomfortably so. Dr. Lisa Medalie states taking a supplement of vitamin B6 increases the level of Serotonin in your body. This will cause your dreams to be more vivid. It can even improve your memory and consequently, help you remember your dreams.

Dr Susan Biali also agrees with this link, claiming “taking B vitamins in the evening could lead to nightmares, and I did experience that on the occasions where I did so”.

An image of scattered vitamin Bs

Lead a Stressful Life

A number of psychological triggers can induce nightmares in adults. For example, problems at home, school or work have been known to trigger nightmares. Major changes can also cause nightmares, like moving house or the death of a loved one.

Loewenberg adds to this, saying “the main cause of nightmares is difficult issues in waking life. Essentially, nightmares are good for you because they are being brutally honest with you about an issue that has gone on too long or that needs your attention to fix it. However, if you want to give yourself a nightmare, the best way to go about it is to get yourself into some sort of trouble in waking life, but I do not recommend that at all!”

If you’re desperate to seek out stress for the sake of a daunting dream, simple ways of getting out of your comfort zones could be the trigger. Doing a nerve-wracking presentation could be just enough to give you a nightmare.

An image of a stress ball

Related – The 10 Most Common Nightmares And What They Mean

Drink Alcohol

If you’re looking how to get nightmares, a glass of wine before bed could be worse for you than you think. It’s not uncommon for people who consume a fair amount of alcohol in the evening to have dreams filled with horror.

Sleep expert David Wagner claims to get a nightmare, “stress yourself out completely over something then drink alcohol. Alcohol actually reduces REM sleep and dreams for a while, but it wears off. This can launch an REM rebound resulting in lots of weird dreams or nightmares”.

An image of many alcoholic drinks

What foods cause nightmares?

Eating a hefty amount before bed not only feeds you, but also your nightmares. Apparently, a late night snack increases metabolism. Consequently, this signals the brain to be more active, which gives you more vivid dreams. This is a tasty way how to make yourself have a nightmare.

Loewenburg states “Eating something very rich, spicy, sugary or difficult to digest right before bedtime can induce nightmares. The body is horizontal when we dream, so if you still have a good amount of undigested hefty food in your stomach, your body is going to work hard to break it down and fight the heartburn from the acid that is creeping up on you, due to you being horizontal. Your digestive bodily functions can interfere with your brain resulting in upsetting dreams.”

It is believed that spicy foods are the best type of food for fuelling nightmares, because they require more effort from the body to digest. As spicy food also elevates body temperature, a curry before bed could potentially disturb the brain activity that generates bad dreams. A study published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology has added to this, finding that adding Tabasco sauce and mustard to subjects’ dinners markedly disturbed the sleep of six healthy male subjects.

Related: Does Eating Cheese Before Bedtime Really Give You Nightmares?

An image of a spicy curry

Have you tried any of the above? Let us know in the comments!

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