Dreaming Your Way to Better Health

Dreams may not always make sense, but they are not as meaningless as you may think. Recent studies report that there are actually health benefits to dreaming.


Since the beginning of history, dreams have been a topic of interest to mankind.Yet,dreams remainone of the great unsolvable puzzles. Scientists have begun to connect the dots, and evidence is pointing towardthe ability of dreams to help with coping and improving well-being.


According to the National Sleep Foundation, people dream about 2 hours every night. Dreams typically occur during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of the sleep cycle, when the brain is most active. Brain activity can be monitored overnight by specialists during a sleep study.

The most popular theory about why we dream stems from the 19th century psychologist Sigmund Freud, who said that dreams are sneakpeeks into ourunconscious desires.Freud’s theory, however, has been challenged and debunked time and again.


Modern day studies have instead realized that dreams are not at all random.Theyare organized and selective. While dreaming, the brain builds a world out of the pieces of your life. Because the pieces areoften disproportionate to reality, dreams tend to feel surreal and illogical.


The content of dreams usually reflects what is happening in the waking world, particularly current concerns.Concerns may include an upcoming deadline, marital problems, or a dilemma at work.


Dreams are a means of coping with major stress, consolidating memory, and regulating mood.


A study published in the Psychiatry Research Journal reported that recent divorcees often dream about their ex- spouses.Researcher Rosalind Cartwright and her colleagues worked with 20 recently divorced people who had clinical depression and 10 recently divorced people with no depression.


In a sleep lab at Rush University in Chicago, the participants were woken up when they reached REM and asked to recall their dreams. Before going to sleep, they were given a test to assess their level of concern with recent life events.


The findings strongly supported that dreams are a coping mechanism. The more concern people hadabout an ex-spouse, the more frequently the ex-spouse appeared in a dream.By dreaming about their ex-spouses, the participants were getting over a recent major stressor whileasleep.


Depression also correlated with fuzzier dreams. Those who were not depressed reported more well-developed dreams.


Cartwright also found evidence that dreaming helps with mood regulation. In a 1998 study, she worked with 50 students at a sleep lab. The students took a mood test before and after going to sleep. Those who were depressed pre-sleep reported higher scores on their mood tests after they woke up. Higher scores were linked with longer durations in REM and the presence of dreams.


Cartwright said that dreaming is like visiting an “internal therapist.” While you dream, your brain works its way through your emotions, helping you deal with and reduce stress.


Sleep center specialists are available to help determine if you are visiting your “internal therapist” to the extent that you need.Maintaining good sleep cycle has been shown to improved quality of health, both physically and now mentally. Knowing that dreaming leads to better health,make sure that you are reaping these health benefits too.

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