Dreaming & Sleep Quality

Dr. Dan JensenSleep

Dr. Dan Jensen
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Can you remember your dreams? Whether or not you remember your dreams in the morning, sleep experts say we all spend several hours per night dreaming. Dreaming is completely normal and can actually tell you something about the quality of your sleep.

What Happens When You Dream?

Dreams are part of a normal night of sleep. Dreams can occur at any time during the night, and in any sleep stage, but most of your dreams will happen during REM, or Rapid Eye Movement sleep. REM sleep occurs a few times per night. During this phase your brain shows almost the same level of activity as when you’re awake.

During this phase of sleep, your dreams will be the most vivid, and these are the dreams you’re most likely to remember when you wake up. If you wake up during REM sleep, you’re more likely to remember what you were dreaming about.  

Dreams can be images, feelings, emotions, or stories you experience during sleep. They can help us replay events that happened during the day, or a future event we’re worried about. Dreams usually reflect reality. If you’re feeling stressed and anxious, you’re more likely to have bad dreams. If you’re feeling calm and relaxed, your dreams will probably be pleasant. Regardless of what you’re dreaming about, dreams can have some effect on the quality of your sleep. 

Bad Dreams

When you have a scary dream or nightmare it can affect your sleep. You will have a hard time falling asleep again and you’ll get less sleep overall. Bad dreams won’t make you spend more or less time in REM sleep, but they can make it harder to fall asleep at night or get enough sleep. The dream can also be on your mind the following day, creating worry or stress. 

Bad dreams are normal. We all have negative dreams from time to time, and this won’t impact the overall quality of your sleep. However, if you have bad dreams several times per week, it can point to some negative thinking. You may have some past issues that need to be resolved, have a negative outlook on life, or feel weighed down by stress. Finding a way to manage daytime stress, as well as getting to the root of what’s making you stressed, will help you avoid bad dreams.

Good Dreams

Good dreams don’t usually affect the quality of your sleep. When you get a good night’s rest, you’ll probably remember having peaceful dreams. Researchers don’t know if pleasant dreams make you sleep better, or if having a good sleep makes your dreams peaceful. Either way, good dreams can be a sign that you’re getting a great night’s sleep.

Good dreams aren’t always peaceful. Confusing, strange, or bizarre dreams can also be good dreams that help your brain process memories and emotions.

How Nightly Dreams Impact your Daily Life

Dreams can have an impact on your life. Do you have bad dreams almost every night? This is tied to insomnia, trouble falling asleep, and lower sleep quality. Bad dreams can be linked to daytime drowsiness and fatigue, trouble concentrating, and increased stress and anxiety. Bad dreams are also more common among people with sleep disorders, so frequent nightmares can be a sign of a sleep disorder. If you’re not dreaming at all, it can be a sign that you’re not getting enough REM sleep during the night. This can lead to sleep deprivation, fatigue, anxiety, and depression.

Good dreams can indicate that you’re getting enough sleep and waking up feeling refreshed and ready for the day. You’re less likely to have a sleep disorder, and less likely to feel daytime drowsiness. There’s also a connection between daytime thoughts and dreams. When you think positively in the daytime and evening, you’re more likely to have positive dreams when you’re asleep. 

Schedule a Sleep Test

Dreams can reveal something about your sleep patterns. If you’re having trouble sleeping at night and often wake up from a bad dream, then schedule a sleep test. This test measures your brain activity during sleep and will show you how much time you’re spending in each stage of sleep. You’ll find out if you have a sleep disorder, and what you can do to sleep better.