‘Consult Not Your Fears But Your Hopes And Your Dreams’ Pope John XXIII
Dreaming is an essential subconscious state to help our brains process and recover from the day’s activities and learning – but not everyone remembers their dreams or enjoys having them. Establishing a good sleep ritual each night will help you to relax without fear of sleep disorders such as nightmares and sleepwalking taking over, while benefiting from the release dreaming gives our brain from their daily load. Here are some of the reasons we dream – and what to do if your dream state overloads.
Why We Dream
Do you remember your dreams? Our brain remains active throughout the night while we sleep, but not all our subconscious thoughts are recoverable. Dreams that we recall occur most often during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep where our muscles are most relaxed. REM happens regularly for around 90-minute cycles in our circadian sleep patterns, and the dreams we remember here have a structure or train of thought to them. While dreams can relate to our daily experiences, most often they are visual – when we sleep we think in pictures, when we speak we think in words!
Dream a Little Dream
Nightmares are the opposite of productive brain de-stressing – where the brain dreams in vivid and often frightening patterns which tend to pull us out of sleep and scare us, making us fearful of dreaming. Most often nightmares occur in children, and can be brought on by fears, stress, illness or trauma. In severe cases they can escalate to sleep terrors, where the child has no recollection on waking of the nightmare but has experienced distress while in deep sleep. Sometimes there is no known cause for disturbed sleep – drugs or programmed sleep therapy (where you train your brain to control your dreams) can help. While up to 50% of children experience nightmares, under 10% of adults experience the same condition.
Walking, Not Waking
Not as common is the experience of sleepwalking, which is known formally as a disorder of movement while asleep. Usually starting in childhood, sleepwalkers tend to move about in their phase of deep sleep and have little or no recollection of where they were going when they awake, and can be confused about where they are. In severe cases injury can occur if the sleepwalker bumps into household items or furniture or leaves the home. This is a condition that can be inherited, but it tends to drop off as people move into early adulthood – but stress, trauma, illness or poor sleeping habits can contribute to the condition. The best way to help a sleepwalker is to gently direct them back to bed! For severe cases, a psychologist or sleep specialist may assist.
For more information try this fact sheet: https://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/facts-about-dreaming.html