Did you notice that odd fact in our previous blog that said: “If you’re snoring, you’re not dreaming”? It’s true!
But why? How?
There are multiple stages of sleep. Snoring occurs in the non-REM sleep stage. This typically occurs after you first fall asleep when your body is still relaxing. If awakened during this stage of sleep, most people report fewer dreams that are less intense or vivid.
The REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep stage is believed to program the central nervous system to maintain or organize instinctive behaviors. When awakened during this sleep state, researchers noticed “rapid, jerky, and binocularly symmetrical eye movements” and study participants reported more vivid and elaborate dreams. The REM state is kind of like a phone app that is constantly running in the background. It is always looking at things in our environment and connecting them with our perceptions and reality. When we sleep, the REM state is most active but it does not have the visual environment to analyze. This is when the brain calls upon our memory and creates metaphorical images to complete the “scan” that it is constantly performing. We can dream about faces that we don’t actively remember seeing but were in our environment at some point.
But why? Why can’t my mind just shut off?
Well, the easy answer is, if your mind shut off, you’d be dead. So your brain continues with neuronal activity to keep you alive. Some researchers believe that dreams are a way for the brain to solve problems, deal with emotions and make memories. Others believe it’s simply a by-product of the neuronal activity. So maybe your dreams are simply the brain’s way of responding to biochemical changes, or maybe it’s the brain’s way of protecting you from dangers and challenges.
Whatever school of thought you believe, at least one thing can be agreed upon. Your dreams are vulnerable to disruptions from problems with mental and physical health. Those suffering from depression are more likely to have stressful or disturbing dreams. In particular, the drug typically used to treat depression, Selective Serotonin Re-Uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), seem to affect dreams in several ways. They tend to intensify dreams which may create more emotional or disturbing dreams.
How can you boost your dreams? You can keep a dream journal to record dreams, helping to remember them later. Try meditating before you go to sleep. It will bring you more in tune with your body and mind, keeping you relaxed and open before you drift off to dreamland. Make sure to avoid scary books or movies before bed. You don’t want to take that feeling of fear with you as you fall asleep.
Now that you know where your dreams come from, keep an eye out for our next blog about how to interpret your dreams!
… sleep happily ever after …