time your meals and drinks
The fuller your stomach and the more hyped-up your brain before bed, the more you’ll toss and turn. Try eliminating your afternoon and evening caffeine consumption. A study published by the American Academy of Sleep Science last year found that drinking a cup of coffee even six hours prior to bedtime can drastically disturb your sleep patterns, which, in turn, can lead to nightmares. You should also avoid eating at least three hours before hitting the hay. “If you eat late at night your body is still working to digest and process the food, so it can't fully shut down into sleeping and dreaming mode,” explains therapist and health and wellness expert Jenny Giblin. While more research is needed, two small studies have linked spicy foods and foods high in fat to bad dreams.
spruce up your sleep space
A clutter-free environment means a stress-free environment, which is essential to a good night’s sleep, and therefore, good dreams. Light a candle, keep the surfaces in your room clean and clear, put away your clothes and make your bed whenever you can, recommends Giblin. Also, place some flowers on your nightstand. In a small 2008 study conducted by German researchers, women who wafted a rosy scent during REM sleep reported rosy (or good) dreams, whereas women who smelled rotten eggs reported equally as rotten (or bad) dreams.
put your thoughts down on paper
"If you’ve had a bad day, allowed things to bother you and didn’t manage your stress well, your dreams that night will reflect it,” says professional dream analyst and author Lauri Loewenberg. There’s no tricking your mind either. A study at Goethe University Frankfurt last year found that suppressing unwanted thoughts led to an increased frequency of those thoughts in dreams, not to mention more distressed dreams overall. The next time you lie down to sleep, try journaling your day first. “Get all your thoughts and worries out of your psyche and onto paper,” advises Loewenberg. “Before you close your journal, write down what you would like to accomplish tomorrow, and if you have a request for your dreaming mind, write that down too. It can be anything from Brad Pitt to getting along better with your mother-in-law.”
tea up and turn off
“This can set the stage for better sleep and dreams,” notes clinical health psychologist Lauren Ampolos, Ph.D, who suggests drinking chamomile and lavender teas and popping a magnesium supplement before bed. And though you've heard this advice, you're likely not heeding it: Turn off any and all screens at least an hour prior to tucking in.
download a soundscape
A two-year experiment conducted by University of Hertfordshire psychologists found that it’s now possible to create your perfect dream simply by downloading an iPhone app. Yep, seriously. The free app, called Dream:ON, allows users to choose from one of over 40 plus “soundscapes” to play while they dream, such as ocean view or grassy fields. Researchers discovered that those who selected a nature-inspired soundscape had a greater chance of dreaming of greenery and flowers, whereas those who selected a beach-inspired soundscape had a higher chance of dreaming about the sun on their skin.