Do winters make you restless at night? Are you one of those who often wake up from a nightmare or scary dream in the middle of the night during cold weather? You are not alone. Many people are prone to nightmares during winter season and it could be due to a variety of reasons you may not be noticing.
The content of dreams may be largely influenced by the bodily sensations and what is going on in one’s mind. If the sleeper is cold during sleep due to the blanket slipping off, it might lead to a nightmare as one is feeling uncomfortable. So the next time you go to sleep, remember to take care of room temperature and relax your mind.
Another reason why you have more nightmares in winters coupled with sleeplessness could be due to depression triggered by seasonal affective disorder (SAD) which is common during the cold weather.
“According to studies, it is found that nightmares are common problem among people with symptoms of depression. It also frequently co-occurs with insomnia and, as such, these problems form a strongly interconnected symptomatic triad,” says Dr. Jalpa Bhuta, consultant- psychiatrist at Global Hospital, Mumbai.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is one of the more common causes of insomnia or hypersomnia I.e. sleeping for longer hours and resulting nightmares.
“Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder with seasonal pattern. Its symptoms often begin in autumn and remit in spring. SAD’s symptoms include depressive mood accompanied by a lack of energy as well as hypersomnia and an increased appetite,” says Dr Bhuta.
Nightmares are also common in night owls or evening people than morning people or those who start their day early and this could increase their chances of being haunted by scary dreams in winters.
“The reason behind SAD and subsequent nightmares being common in evening people is, that there is a possibility that the circadian system of evening people is more sensitive and thus more easily affected by external cues such as light and temperature compared with circadian systems of morning people,” says the psychiatrist.
Here are expert tips to tackle nightmares and other sleep troubles during winter:
* See a mental health professional to rule out depression or seasonal affective disorder.
* If there is a significant problem, after evaluation, medications and psychotherapy can be started.
* If the above symptoms are mild or in the early stages, regulate your sleep timings.
* Avoid excessive screentime for a few hours prior to bedtime.
* Avoid exercising or caffeine intake before bedtime
* Don’t bring your work to bed.
* Ensure your room is warm and comfortable.
* Avoid overthinking and relaxation training and breathing exercises can be tried.
* Light therapy is proven to be very useful in such cases.