5 Habits That Make You More Likely To Dream At Night

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Some people remember their dreams more than others, as you’ll well know if you have that one friend who wants to tell you about her dreams without realizing that they’re boring to anyone besides herself. (Or, if you are that friend.) But, there are some habits that could make you more likely to dream and more likely to remember your dreams. The thing is, some of the habits that could cause you to rememberdreams more often don’t really promote a good night’s sleep and won’t necessarily cause more dreams.

Basically, there’s a difference between dreaming because you sprayed around some lavender essential oil and chose to go to bed with a book rather than a laptop, and remembering a dream because you ate too much queso dip and aren’t sleeping as well as you could be. So many things you do during the day can affect your sleep (Did you exercise too late? Did you take a nap? Drink too much caffeine?), and in turn, these factors can have an effect on dreaming.

Here are some common habits that can make you more likely to remember your dreams or to actually dream more. Before you eat a giant cheese plate at 11 p.m. to try to have otherworldly dreams, you’ll want to take a few things into account and maybe just try taking a bath instead.

Eating Foods That Upset Your Stomach

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One of the foods most commonly thought to cause more dreaming — particularly bad dreams — is cheese. But it seems likely that eating cheese before bed isn’t causing the dreams, but rather causing people or remember their dreams.

According to Psychology Todaya study showed that of people who believe certain foods affect their dreams, many attributed it to dairy or to spicy foods. While the site points out that this could be because of the foods themselves (“due to general effects of food on mood and cognition”, as is the case while awake, too), it could also be that the foods are “influenc[ing] dreams indirectly due to poor metabolism or digestive intolerances.”

Sleep.org similarly explains, “certain foods can upset your body and wake you up throughout the night, helping you remember your vivid dreams more.”

Eating Late At Night

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As with eating certain foods, eating late at night can also affect metabolism and the state of one’s stomach, which could cause more waking in the middle of the night.

“Dining on a big meal just before turning in for the night boosts your body’s temperature and metabolism — two consequences that result in more brain activity during the REM stage (a.k.a. when you dream),” Sleep.org explains.

Drinking Alcohol Before Bed

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According to Cleveland Clinic, Jessica Vensel-Rundo, MD says drinking alcohol before bed “creates more fragmented sleep.” She explained, “There’s more disruption. Deep sleep decreases during the second half, and REM, or dreaming, sleep increases.” It could also lead to more vivid dreams or nightmares, and an increased risk of sleepwalking or acting out dreams.

That said, having vivid or bad dreams after drinking alcohol isn’t really desirable. In this case, yes, you are dreaming, but not exactly due to sleeping well.

Lacking Sleep

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In 2007, Scientific American published an article called “Strange but True: Less Sleep Means More Dreams,” which explains “REM rebound.” This is a phenomenon in which a lack of sleep one night will lead to increased time in REM during the next appropriately lengthy sleep. Neurologist Mark Mahowald explained, “When someone is sleep deprived we see greater sleep intensity, meaning greater brain activity during sleep; dreaming is definitely increased and likely more vivid.”

Doing Things To Help You Sleep Well In General

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If rebounding from a bad night of sleep leads to more time in REM and more dreams, then it also makes sense that just sleeping well overall can lead to better sleeps with more time to dream. According to HuffPost, Dr. Shalini Paruthi, the director of the Pediatric Sleep and Research Center at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, said that getting a good night of sleep is “the most important thing” one can do to dream.

As HuffPost explains, achieving this includes all the classics, like sleeping in a dark room with a cool temperature, reading a book, taking a bath, meditating, not exercising too late in the day, and not eating too much too close to bedtime. (This is in contrast to the items about food above. In those cases the food caused remembering the dreams, more than actually contributing to better sleep and more time to dream.)

Maybe recognizing whether you have some of these habits will come in handy, whether you want to stop remembering bad dreams or want to sleep more peacefully.

Lucid Dreamers May Help Unravel the Mystery of Consciousness

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We spend around six years of our lives dreaming – that’s 2,190 days or 52,560 hours. Although we can be aware of the perceptions and emotions we experience in our dreams, we are not conscious in the same way as when we’re awake. This explains why we can’t recognize that we’re in a dream and often mistake these bizarre narratives for reality.

But some people – lucid dreamers – have the ability to experience awareness during their dreams by “re-awakening” some aspects of their waking consciousness. They can even take control and act with intention in the dream world (think Leonardo DiCaprio in the film Inception).

Lucid dreaming is still an understudied subject, but recent advances suggest it’s a hybrid state of waking consciousness and sleep.

Sleep paralysis. My Dream, My Bad Dream, 1915. (Credit: Fritz Schwimbeck/Wikimedia)

Lucid dreaming is one of many “anomalous” experiences that can occur during sleep. Sleep paralysis, where you wake up terrified and paralyzed while remaining in a state of sleep, is another. There are also false awakenings, where you believe you have woken up only to discover that you are in fact dreaming. Along with lucid dreams, all these experiences reflect an increase in subjective awareness while remaining in a state of sleep. To find out more about the transitions between these states – and hopefully consciousness itself – we have launched a large-scale online survey on sleep experiences to look at the relationships between these different states of hybrid consciousness.

Lucid Dreaming and the Brain

About half of us will experience at least one lucid dream in our lives. And it could be something to look forward to because it allows people to simulate desired scenarios from meeting the love of their life to winning a medieval battle. There is some evidence that lucid dreaming can be induced, and a number of large online communities now exist where users share tips and tricks for achieving greater lucidity during their dreams (such as having dream totems, a familiar object from the waking world that can help determine if you are in a dream, or spinning around in dreams to stop lucidity from slipping away).

recent study that asked participants to report in detail on their most recent dream found that lucid (compared to non-lucid) dreams were indeed characterized by far greater insight into the fact that the sleeper was in a dream. Participants who experienced lucid dreams also said they had greater control over thoughts and actions within the dream, had the ability to think logically, and were even better at accessing real memories of their waking life.

Another study looking at people’s ability to make conscious decisions in waking life as well as during lucid and non-lucid dreams found a large degree of overlap between volitional abilities when we are awake and when we are having lucid dreams. However, the ability to plan was considerably worse in lucid dreams compared to wakefulness.

Lucid and non-lucid dreams certainly feel subjectively different and this might suggest that they are associated with different patterns of brain activity. But confirming this is not as easy as it might seem. Participants have to be in a brain scanner overnight and researchers have to decipher when a lucid dream is happening so that they can compare brain activity during the lucid dream with that of non-lucid dreaming.

Ingenious studies examining this have devised a communication code between lucid dreamer participants and researchers during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, when dreaming typically takes place. Before going to sleep, the participant and the researcher agree on a specific eye movement (for example two movements left then two movements right) that participants make to signal that they are lucid.

The prefrontal cortex. (Credit: Natalie M. Zahr, Ph.D., and Edith V. Sullivan, Ph.D. – Natalie M. Zahr, Ph.D., and Edith V. Sullivan, Ph.D.)

By using this approach, studies have found that the shift from non-lucid to lucid REM sleep is associated with an increased activity of the frontal areas of the brain. Significantly, these areas are associated with “higher order” cognitive functioning such as logical reasoning and voluntary behaviour which are typically only observed during waking states. The type of brain activity observed, gamma wave activity, is also known to allow different aspects of our experience; perceptions, emotions, thoughts, and memories to “bind” together into an integrated consciousness. A follow-up study found that electrically stimulating these areas caused an increase in the degree of lucidity experienced during a dream.

Another study more accurately specified the brain regionsinvolved in lucid dreams, and found increased activity in regions such as the pre-frontal cortex and the precuneus. These brain areas are associated with higher cognitive abilities such as self-referential processing and a sense of agency – again supporting the view that lucid dreaming is a hybrid state of consciousness.

Tackling the Consciousness Problem

How consciousness arises in the brain is one of the most perplexing questions in neuroscience. But it has been suggestedthat studying lucid dreams could pave the way for new insights into the neuroscience of consciousness.

This is because lucid and non-lucid REM sleep are two states where our conscious experience is markedly different, yet the overall brain state remains the same (we are in REM sleep all the time, often dreaming). By comparing specific differences in brain activity from a lucid dream with a non-lucid one, then, we can look at features that may be facilitating the enhanced awareness experienced in the lucid dream.

Furthermore, by using eye signaling as a marker of when a sleeper is in a lucid dream, it is possible to study the neurobiological activity at this point to further understand not only what characterizes and maintains this heightened consciousness, but how it emerges in the first place.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.