Why do I have nightmares every time I sleep with my hands on my chest?

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Call it superstition, but people do believe that sleeping in a certain position or a certain direction helps keep the bad spirits away. You are more likely to get peaceful sleep and will dream about good things instead of experiencing nightmares. 

Every culture has its understanding of this. For instance, those following fengshui will tell you that placing your bed either facing East, South East, West, North West or South West garners best results. 

In India, the ancient practice of Vastu suggests sleeping in the South and East direction. 

The position in which you sleep not only affects the quality of your sleep at night, but it can also have a strange connection to the dreams you may have.

For instance, if you sleep with your hands on your chest, odds are you will toss and turn the whole night until you suddenly wake up from a horrid dream. Surprisingly, many people have a similar complaint about sleeping with hands on chest.

But have you wondered why it happens? Let’s try to figure it out.

Sleeping with hands on chest: Possible reasons behind your nightmares

Certain theories about sleeping with hands on chest suggest that it can induce some levels of stress on the body.

Now, remember that when you are sleeping, there’s minimal work being carried out and the parts of your body are in a state of relaxation. Even a slight trigger can possibly disturb them and raise your heart rate. 

So from a state of relaxation, the body tries to adjust itself to the additional weight imposed when you are sleeping with your palms on the chest.

ALSO READ: What dreams may come: Why you're having more vivid dreams during the pandemic

The brain quickly interprets the stimulus and this tends to cause an emotional imbalance, in the form of dreams.

Another theory is when you are stressed, the oxygen flow to the part of the brain which stores memories gets disrupted. This in turn, creates panic and the brain tries to alert us by sending us negative imagery in the form of nightmares. 

Why do we have dreams?

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Our waking life often influences our dreams or nightmares. You may have noticed that you barely recall any of your dreams. Here are a few reasons why that happens: 

  • Some theories suggest that we perceive things emotionally and that contributes to shaping our dreams at night.
  • Dreams can be highly influenced by the way your brain processes different emotions and stimuli. So what you see or do before bedtime can also impact your brain and result in dreams.
  • You are most likely to have a dream, during the REM sleep cycle. During this time, your brain is most active. So, yes, your sleeping pattern can affect your dream visuals. 

All of these can possibly impact the subconscious and therefore, impact your dreams.

Does changing sleeping positions help?

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There are some studies that suggest that changing your sleeping position can have a great impact on your dreams. But do remember that while your dreams may change, it is mostly influenced by what you think or how you react.

Therefore, don’t add more stress over trying to change your sleeping pattern. Sleep in a posture that makes you comfortable and lets you sleep at peace. 

On the other hand, try to address the thoughts that may be disturbing.

If you’re still unable to overcome your nightmares, here are a few things you can try.  

5 ways to get quality sleep at night

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  • Switch off devices: The blue light from digital devices like mobiles, television can hinder your sleep. Try to stay away from them for at least one hour before you hit the bed. It will help your brain relax and prepare it for sleep. 
  • Avoid coffee before going to bed: It’s advisable to not indulge in a hot cuppa at least six hours before you hit the bed. That’s because it affects adenosine, a chemical that promotes sleep, thereby disrupting your snooze.
  • Inculcate good lifestyle habits: A good sleep is the result of a healthy body and you can get the latter by exercising regularly. However, try to avoid rigorous exercise right before you go to sleep as it disrupts sleep.  Instead, prepare your body to rest by indulging in a light walk, if you wish to move your body. 
  • Declutter your mind: Put aside any pending work at least three hours before you go to bed. Your brain will also take time to turn off the “noise” and will finally let you sleep. 
  • Relax: This is the most important element for a good sleep at night. On most occasions, we are either stressed with our work or we may end up watching the telly. This stays in our subconscious and may come in the form of nightmares. So try to relax your mind before you prepare to go to bed. Meditate or have a warm shower right before you hit the sack.

While there are no positions that can guarantee you sweet dreams, the above tips can surely help you relax and calm your mind and body. 

ALSO READ: 35 simple ways to improve your sleep

This article was first published in theAsianparent.