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.

One theory suggests dreams may be the brain’s way of getting you ready to deal with a threat. Fortunately, the brainstem sends out nerve signals during REM sleep that relax your muscles. That way you don’t try to run or punch in your sleep.

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Your dreams may be ways of confronting emotional dramas in your life. 

Because your brain is operating at a much more emotional level than when you’re awake, your brain may make connections regarding your feelings that your conscious self wouldn’t make.

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 use in your waking life that can restrict your creative flow, your thoughts and ideas have no restrictions when you’re sleeping.

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 information without the benefit of sleep.

Dreams may help the brain more efficiently store important information while blocking out stimuli that could interfere with memory and learning.

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
  • bring about other sleeping or psychological problems
  • 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 your brain processes thoughts and emotions.
  • Mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety, as well as mood-related conditions, can trigger intense and sometimes disturbing or negative dreams and nightmares.

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 happens, you’ll probably remember more of your dreams.

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 de-stress during the day, the less likely you’ll be to bring stress and anxiety to bed. That should help cut down on nightmares and interrupted sleep each night.

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 that’s your last thought, you may be more likely to wake up with a dream still somewhat fresh in your memory.

Try to remember as much of your dream as soon as you wake up. Try to grasp whatever images or memories you have of your dream and write them down.

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Dreams about self
Research indicates that a majority of dreams contain content related to autobiographical memories—memories about the self—as opposed to episodic memories, which deal with events and details such as locations and times.

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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.

Sleep deprivation has been shown to change the body’s basic metabolism and the balance between fat and muscle mass.

A review of existing studies found permanent night-shift workers were 29 % more likely to become overweight. They were also 41 % more at risk of a heart attack or stroke.

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