A Dream Therapist On Why Scary Movies Mess With Your Sleep & How To Avoid It

how to sleep after watching a scary movie

When I was a lot younger than I am now, I watched a scary movie (of which I will not name out of sheer embarrassment) and had consistently fucked up nightmares for at least a fortnight.

That’s a lot of sleepless nights, wet sheets and bed sharing with the ‘rents. It was a hell time for me, and my parents who I forever maintain were sterile and not at all sex-deprived because of my terrors.

Even as a full-blown adult, I can still find myself being a baby (and I hope you can relate) over something terrifying I’ve watched. Truth is though, there is still no research that directly correlates scary movies with nightmares.

So what is going on?

We spoke to dream therapist Jane Teresa Anderson to find out more about what this post-horror film nightmare crap is all about and how to get it the hell out of your mind.

Find out what the nightmare is low-key telling you

Anderson believes that dreaming about a character or scene from a horror film – or any film at that – is all to do with symbolism, because dreams have a way of processing our IRL happenings. “Think of the movie as having prompted issues that need your deeper attention,” Anderson tells PEDESTRIAN.TV. “Do not dismiss it as caused by the movie.”

She recommends figuring out what the heck it is that your nightmare is trying to tell you. Does the serial killer represent a sociopath friend turning everything they touch, including you, to shit? Does the debut fatality, usually played by the Paris Hilton types, showcase your inability to fight back? Are you running away from the villain, similarly to how your running away from life’s responsibilities?

Ah, suddenly it all makes sense.

“Once enlightened, you can act upon the insight you gain, and your dreaming mind may then have no further use of the symbol: issue resolved.”

Transform the dream when you’re awake

If you shat your pants thanks to a horror-movie induced nightmare last night, you might be nervous that history will repeat itself. This is where something called dream alchemy can help – it’s basically reimagining your nightmare while you’re awake and transforming it into something much happier. The evil spirit in your doorway? That’s Santa delivering presents.

“While you’re awake, re-imagine the dream, only this time change the scary movie into a more positive one, or change the scary character into a helpful one. The idea is to re-imagine the dream in a transformed, positive way.”
The added benefit? You might deal with some bigger issues in the process.

“The symbol is the language your unconscious mind has chosen to represent an issue or feeling in your life, so by re-imagining it in a transformed way, you’re programming your unconscious mind for positive change – you’re speaking its language.

The unconscious mind then responds appropriately, for example, the scary issue in your life is seen in fresh perspective and fear dissipates.”

Stop watching them at night

The biggest mistake we all continuously make is watching these movies before we go to bed. Giving yourself time before sleep to digest what just went down means you won’t have to do that in your REM.

Don’t try and kill them

We all want to be that main character who outsmarts the killer while everyone else literally gets slaughtered. But even though we can be almighty in our dreams, don’t try and kill the bad guy – it ain’t going to make the terrors go away.

“The mind interprets this as removing a horror or fear or issue rather than dealing with it or resolving it. It will come back to haunt you in your life and in your dreams if you don’t face it and resolve it.”

Anderson suggests making old mate a good guy instead, or having a heart-to-heart with the poor bloke to “heal him”. More often than not a horror film’s protagonist is hugely messed up with deep -rooted issues needing some love and attention. Remember that show Dexter? Was hard to have nightmares about someone you low-key felt sorry for, you know? Plus, he was weirdly hot in a sadistic Clive Owen in Closer kind of way.

“Your dream may process this transformation, and whatever the real waking life issue is for you will then also be processed in a more transformative way.”

Do your research

A bunch of Redditors have a great theory about making the movie less real. So, watching behind-the-scenes clips or interviews that’ll help you realise the serial killer is actually just a chill dad in Hollywood spoiling his nanny who can then spoil his kids. You won’t be so scared after that. If the movie is based on a true story, then that’s upsetting and you’ll have to refer to the aforementioned points to get you through that one.

I’m not encouraging anyone to stop watching scary movies. They’re great and help you feel ~alive~ (and not just because everyone in them is dying or close to kind of way).

Jane Teresa Anderson is a dream analyst / therapist, writer, and mentor who consults, trains and mentors worldwide. You can find out more about your dreams by contacting her HERE.