One of the most fascinating and perplexing components of sleep is dreams. Since Sigmund Freud helped bring attention to the potential importance of dreams in the late 1800s, a lot of research has been done to try to figure out the biology and psychology behind them. Despite advances in science, there is still a lot that we don’t know about sleep and dreams. Even the most basic subject of ‘why do we dream at all?’ is still a major topic of debate.
While everyone dreams, the nature of those dreams and how they affect sleep differ greatly from one individual to the other. Even though there is no easy explanation for the meaning and purpose of dreams, knowing the foundations of dreams, the possible impact of nightmares and steps you may take to sleep better with lovely dreams might help.
Why Do We Dream?
The question of why we dream is still being discussed among sleep experts. The following are some of the several theories about the function of dreaming:
Building memory: Dreaming has been linked to memory consolidation, suggesting that dreaming may play an important cognitive function in memory and knowledge recall.
Processing emotion: Part of the brain’s approach for managing emotions may be the ability to engage with and rehearse sentiments in various imagined settings. Periods of dreaming may be the brain’s way of “straightening up,” cleaning out incomplete, incorrect, or superfluous information. Dream content could be a warped version of instant replay in which recent events are examined and assessed.
Incidental brain activity: According to this theory, dreaming is merely a by-product of sleep with no inherent significance or purpose.
Experts in the fields of neuroscience and psychology continue to undertake experiments to learn more about what happens in the brain during sleep, but it may be impossible to confirm any explanation for why we dream conclusively.
The brain and body cycle goes through five distinct phases of sleep numerous times throughout the night. The transition from shallow to deep sleep occurs in the first four phases, while the fifth phase, REM sleep, is marked by increased brain activity and vivid dreams.
The body prioritizes deeper, slow-wave sleep during the first two-thirds of the night, REM sleep episodes are often brief. Because longer periods of REM sleep occur only in the final hours of sleep, the REM time can lessen if you don’t get a full seven or eight hours of sleep.
When Do We Dream?
Most people dream for about two hours every night on average. Although dreams can occur at any stage of sleep, they are more common and intense during the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) state. When compared to non-REM sleep stages, brain activity increases significantly during REM sleep. This helps to explain the different forms of dreaming experienced at these stages. Even while they may contain elements of daily life, dreams during REM sleep are often more vivid, fanciful, or weird. Non-REM dreams tend to have more cohesive content, such as thoughts or memories tied to a certain time and place.
REM sleep isn’t uniformly dispersed throughout the night. The majority of REM sleep occurs in the second half of a normal sleep cycle, dreaming is concentrated in the hours leading up to waking up.
The Impact of Dreams
Dreams impact your daily life and your sleep quality. Dreaming is a natural aspect of a restful night’s sleep. Studies have linked dreams to effective thinking, memory, and emotional processing, and good sleep. This is linked to enhanced cognitive performance and emotional wellness. Many experts believe that dreaming is either a reflection of, or a contributor to good sleep.
Nightmares, on the other hand, can have a negative impact on sleep. They affect sleep by making it more difficult to fall asleep again and cause difficulty transitioning between sleep cycles. This can cause fatigue during the day. Dreams can have a positive or negative impact on one’s daily life. Dreaming can also help a person to process other people’s positive emotions better, resulting in a higher level of social competence.
If you don’t dream, you’re not getting enough REM sleep, which can lead to increased drowsiness, depression, and health problems. People who experience nightmares appear to experience higher levels of stress during the day and are more prone to suffer from sleep difficulties. Those who experience happy dreams are less prone to suffer from sleep difficulties. However, determining the cause is difficult. Regardless, trying to think positively during the day may help with the types of dreams that occur at night.
How to ensure a good sleeping pattern and avoid nightmares
You can keep a strict pre-sleep regime to avoid sleepless nights and nightmares. Listed below are some of the tricks that may help individuals sleep better.
- Follow a sleep schedule: Keep a steady sleep schedule including on weekends, so you don’t exhaust yourself and keep a healthy pattern of sleep.
- Switch-off screens: Switching off screen 20 mins before sleep can help you fall asleep better.
- Keep an eye on your content consumption before sleep: It is important to keep a check on what you read and what kind of social media content you consume. This is pertinent to avoid nightmares if you get them frequently.
- Stretch before sleep: A good stretch before sleep can help loosen those muscles and help you sleep better.
- Avoid alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine in any form: Alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine harm your sleep cycle. These drugs are known to throw off your sleep cycle.
- Block room distractions: Blocking any sound or light distractions will help increase the span of your sleep.
- Ensure body temperature: It is advised that you keep your body temperature optimal by using ideal sheets, covers, and quilts according to the weather
How to record your sleep condition.
Dreams can disclose a lot about your sleeping habits. A way to keep your sleep condition monitored is the smart band or fitness bands. It captures data about your sleep, your heartbeat, and your breathing pattern directly through your pulse. Another way is to schedule a sleep test if you’re having problems sleeping at night and frequently wake up from a nightmare. This test will show you how much time you spend in each stage of sleep by measuring your brain activity as you sleep. You’ll learn if you have a sleep condition and what you can do to improve your sleeping habits.