COLUMN: Putting nightmares to rest

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By Shannon Brock

I was in a movie theater. My husband had gotten up during the film to use the restroom, and while he was gone, an enraged gunman entered the room and started to shoot. There were screams and people began to run frantically. He hit me twice. Each bullet skidded over an opposite side of my face. I was bleeding, but I don’t remember any pain. The gunman left and my husband came back. He looked at me and said, “Well, I guess we better get you to a hospital.”

Then, I woke up.

Nightmares wake me up on occasion, and once I wake from something like that, it’s darn near impossible to get back to sleep.

This particular nightmare isn’t the worst I’ve ever had, but it is the most recent. Thankfully, I didn’t wake up Sunday night screaming or kicking or crying, but it has happened before.

I don’t try to interpret my dreams, but occasionally I can pinpoint why I think they occurred based on what’s been going on in my world. Sunday during the day, I was in a movie theater. Later that day, I saw “Madagascar 2,” an animated movie in which a lion gets shot, but just barely through the ear. And, right before bed I watched an episode of “Numb3rs” about serial killers — which, for me, is just asking for a nightmare.

I learned at an early age just not to watch scary movies because they always had the same result, and I would rather not wake up in tears if I can help it.

Aside from cutting out the murder mysteries before bedtime, I decided to look into some tips on how to avoid those dreadful dreams. I’m not so surprised to find out that tips for healthy awake time are the same tips to get healthy sleep.

According to PsychologyToday.com, nightmares can be the result of severe stress. Those under severe stress should seek the support of friends and relatives, the website says. Talking about things can go a long way, it says.

Also, a regular fitness routine is recommended.

“You will find yourself able to fall asleep faster, having a deeper sleep and waking up feeling more refreshed,” the website says.

Caffeine and other stimulants, as well as prolonged use of tranquilizers, can also contribute, according to the website. (Hmm, maybe it’s all that Mountain Dew and cherry Dr. Pepper I’ve been drinking.)

Some nightmares are more serious than others. You should call your health care provider if nightmares occur more often than weekly, or if they prevent you from getting a good night’s rest and persist for a prolonged period, the website says.

I don’t think my nightmares are that bad, but just in case yours are, I thought I’d include that information.

As for me, I think I’ll stick to happy shows before bedtime, trying to get into an exercise routine and cutting out at least a Dew or two.

Follow Shannon Brock at Twitter.com/ANewsSBrock.