Stories from Healthy Sleeping Habits

Ever wake up from a dream feeling super angry? It happens, but doesn’t have to derail your day


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Photo: Getty Images/Lechatnoir Graphic by Well+Good Creative

Feeling irritated and agitated isn’t necessarily an uncommon occurrence for me—it’s something I attribute to my very unchill, George Constanza-like nature. But even as someone who harbors strong opinions about things as seemingly benign as black coffee and low ponytails, I’m still able to recognize that the random anger and frustration I feel toward friends and family after waking up from particular dreams is irrational and uncalled for.

But I also don’t think I’m alone. Think about it: You’ve definitely had dreams in which your parents, say, shared you’re their least favorite child; or maybe your partner hit on someone right in front of you; or maybe your BFF told your deepest, darkest secret to your crush. Any number of dreams can push your subconscious buttons to an extent that makes you feel angry upon waking up. And even when you can’t recall the exact narrative of what happened in your dream-verse (not all dreams are lucid, after all),  whatever transpired left a sour taste in your mouth—or, more precisely, on your mood.

Aside from having to contend with the immediate sensation of annoyance upon waking up, getting out of bed with a grumpy mind-set doesn’t really set up your day for success. But since dream rage can plague truly anyone, I tapped a couple of experts for advice on how to keep the snoozy negativity from putting a damper on your day.

3 tried-and-true methods for not letting your dream-anger hangover ruin your day.

1. Write things down

“After waking up from a restless night or weary dreams, it’s a good practice to write down what the dreams were about,” says sleep expert Kathrin Hamm, PhD, founder of Bearaby (a brand that specializes in mega-knit weighted blankets). “Over time you might be able to identify recurring patterns and be able to trace the root cause of it.”

And considering research has connected anxiety and worrying with the frequency of bad dreams, journaling—a noted mental-health boosting strategy—can help you stay aware of your feelings while also contextualizing tasks that feel unmanageable. One sleep specialist even recommends journaling specifically about your stresses and worries pre-bedtime as a method for stopping nightmares in their tracks. “Getting these anxious thoughts and worries out of your mind before bed helps to prevent those thoughts at night from turning into bad dreams and disturbing your sleep” says Whitney Roban, PhD.

2. Change your environment

When you wake up grouchy, your (okay, my) instinct might be to stay in bed and wallow, but the first thing experts suggest doing is changing your environment. Try getting out of bed and exposing yourself to bright light (for early mornings and wintertime, happy lights are your friends).  

“Another good option is to take a few laps around the house to distract your mind and to remove yourself from the area,” says Dr. Hamm. “Getting up from bed, stretching the body, and moving around helps you mentally and physically reset your mind and ramp up energy.” Positive energy, that is.

3. Try meditating

A mindfulness practice after a particularly troubling night of sleep and subsequent rough morning can do wonders for quelling anger. “Do some deep breathing and meditation to calm the mind and body from the bad dreams the night prior,” Dr. Roban says. Plus, Hamm adds, meditating can help you separate what happened in your dreams from real life by clearing your mind of anxiety and stress. And of course, reminding yourself that it was all just a dream.

Want more Sleep Week content? Here’s how one writer’s fear of the dark has impacted her bedroom environment. And why sleeping alone might just be the best thing ever—no matter your relationship status.

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