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Why Do We Dream? The Role of Dreams and Nightmares

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https://www.healthline.com/health/why-do-we-dream

healthline.com

Why Do We Dream? The Role of Dreams and Nightmares
Dreams are hallucinations that occur during certain stages of sleep. They're strongest during REM sleep, or the rapid eye movement stage, when you may be less likely to recall your dream. Much is known about the role of sleep in regulating our metabolism, blood pressure, brain function, and other aspects of health.

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Dreams as therapists

Your dreams may be ways of confronting emotional dramas...

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Fight-or-flight training

One of the areas of the brain that’s most active during dreaming is the amygdala - the part of the brain associated with the survival instinct and the fight-or-flight response...

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Dreams as your muse

One theory for why we dream is that it helps facilitate our creative tendencies. 

Without the logic filter, you might normally ...

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Dreams as memory aids

Research shows that sleep helps store memories. If you learn new information and sleep on it, you’ll be able to recall it better than if asked to remember that infor...

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Nightmares

Regularly occurring scary dreams can be labeled a sleeping disorder if the nightmares:

  • cause you to be anxious about going to sleep
  • lead to frequent disruptions of your sleep

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Health conditions

  • You’re more likely to have more vivid dreams if you’ve had some restless nights.
  • Being pregnant is also a catalyst for vivid dreaming. Increased hormone production affects the way you...

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Foods

Certain foods lead to wilder or better dreams.

Food that causes you to wake up throughout the night may result in you waking up more frequently in the REM stage. When that...

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Daily activities

Runners and other serious fitness enthusiasts tend to spend less time in dreamy REM sleep, which is one of the lightest stages of sleep. 

Also, the more effectively you can ...

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How to remember your dreams

The dreams you remember are the ones that are ongoing when you awaken. To help recall your dreams, tell yourself as you’re falling asleep that you want to remember your dream. If ...

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Nightmares

Nightmares are broadly defined as frightening dreams that result in some degree of awakening from sleep. 

Nightmares themselves contribute to disrupted sleep not only by waking th...

Night terrors

Night terrors are very intense episodes of fright during dreams. These frightening episodes are often accompanied by screaming or yelling, as well as by physical movement such as leaping out of bed or flailing in panic. 

Research suggests that sleep terrors occur during non-REM sleep dreaming, while nightmares tend to happen during REM sleep. 

Recurring dreams

Recurring dreams are dreams that re-appear with some pattern of regularity. 

Studies suggest that recurring dreams may contain more threatening content than regular dreams. Research suggests links between recurring dreams and psychological distress in both adults and children.

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Our sleep-wake pattern

Our molecular clock inside our cells aims to keep us in sync with the sun

When we disregard this circadian rhythm, we are at a greater risk for illnesses such as diabetes, heart...

The lifestyle imbalance

Thomas Edison said that sleep is "a bad habit." Like Edison, we seem to think of sleep as an adversary and try to fight it at every turn. The average American sleeps less than the recommended seven hours per night, mostly due to electric lights, television, computers, and smartphones. 

However, we are ignoring the intricate journey we're designed to take when we sleep.

Stage One Sleep

When we fall asleep, the nearly 86 billion neurons in our brain starts to fire evenly and rhythmically. Our sensory receptors become muffled at the same time.

The first stage of shallow sleep lasts for about 5 minutes.

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Trauma and nightmares

Nightmares appear to be more common in those who have intense reactions to stress. When our time awake is frightening or remains unpressed, the sleeping brain may produce horrible images to awaken ...

The effects of trauma on sleep

If an action against the threat is irrelevant or impossible - as it would be if the trauma happened long ago - then emotion-coping efforts like dreaming may be useful to get on with our lives.

If the threat will be encountered repeatedly, such as abuse, then waking problem-solving action is necessary.

Nightmares

Nightmares happen later in sleep when dreams are longest, and the content is bizarre and emotional. Nightmares wake the sleeper into full consciousness and clear memory of the dream. It temporarily relieves the negative emotion.

As we develop the skills for managing negative emotions while we are awake, nightmares will reduce in frequency.