Many of us have at some time or the other suddenly woken up in the middle of the night with our heart beats pacing. There has always been deliberation on whether sleep quality and dreams are connected i.e. does sleeping well lead to pleasant dreams and vice-versa? Sigmund Freud the famous Neurologist referred to dreams as a safety valve, he believed that dreaming irrespective of good or bad is an indicator that your sleep cycle is working just the way it should.
A good night’s sleep is not just about getting 7-8 hours of sleep but also ensuring it’s quality i.e. one should not feel groggy but refreshed and energetic in the morning. Occasional nightmares or bad dreams are not harmful, but frequent bad dreams, nightmares, and night terrors are a sign of poor sleep quality. To understand the connection between sleep and dream, we must first understand the sleep cycle. Sleep occurs in 2 main phases - REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and Non- REM. Most dreams occur in the REM phase also known as the active sleep. Good quality REM sleep helps our brain to consolidate the day’s events and experiences, re-process the upsetting ones, and take valuable learnings for the future. Dreaming works like an overnight therapy as it helps ease pain of an unpleasant experience to improve sleep quality.
Dreams are subconscious images created in our sleep usually based around our thoughts, events, experiences and people we have met during the day. Dreams cannot be completely controlled; however the following measures can help you experience the REM stage effortlessly.
As dreams are influenced by our surroundings we can control them to a certain extent. A pleasant fragrance in the bedroom for example, using aromatic candles or electric aroma diffusers at bedtime helps create a positive sleep environment. Sleep and meals have a direct connection; hence avoid heavy meals, spicy food, and alcohol just before sleep. Happy thoughts always help us sleep better and trigger pleasant dreams, therefore, read a book or listen to a song that reminds you of pleasant and calming memories.
Researchers believe that dreams help solve problems that nag us when we are awake. Dmitri Mendeleev, Otto Loewi and Srinivasa Ramanujan are some eminent scientists among many others who have found answers to mysteries of the Universe and solutions to complex problems in their dreams. Though sleep is the ultimate remedy to fix a fatigued mind and body overnight, dreams are equally necessary to help us cope with our daily stress and emotional baggage.