Sweet dreams are made of … not these.
We know that sleep is crucial for our well-being, but have you ever wondered why sometimes our brains play the most insane, wtf movies while we snooze? Dreams that leave you so unsettled that you think you should text your therapist?
Dr. Wendy Troxel is a clinical psychologist and author of Sharing the Covers: Every Couple’s Guide to Better Sleep. She wants to assure people that, although they may be unpleasant, weird dreams are normal and may even help people work through different emotional issues that are going on in their waking lives.
But what factors can cause weird dreams? Dr. Troxel outlines her top three offenders below.
1. Not Enough or Low-Quality Sleep
Sure, staying up an extra hour to scroll on social media or engage in a group chat seems like a good idea at the time, but it has consequences. Dr. Troxel says that regularly skimping on sleep or getting poor-quality sleep is likely the culprit of weird dreams. “After being deprived of sleep, the individual experiences greater sleep intensity after falling asleep. That means there is more brain activity, which can lead to more vivid or bizarre dreams,” she explains.
Women’s hormones are constantly shifting, especially around that time of the month and during pregnancy. According to Dr. Troxel, this affects both the body and mind. “Hormonal changes, as well as the increased stress often experienced before the birth of a baby, can also lead to especially weird dreams,” she notes.
A boozy beverage (or two or three) leading to a good sleep is a myth. “Alcohol use suppresses rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep), the sleep phase when most of our dreams occur,” Dr. Troxel explains. That means regular drinkers who abstain “are likely to experience a rebound in REM sleep and an increased likelihood of vivid dreams.
How to Prevent Weird Dreams
Dr. Troxel has some additional tips for the weird-dream-prone sleepers:
Check your medication labels. See if intense dreams are a possible side effect.
Get professional treatment. She recommends this for those who experience chronic or distressing dreams/nightmares that begin to affect daytime functioning or overall sleep quality.
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