Back when my insomnia was chronic, I had a lot of scary dreams. They left me with a pounding heart and fear that could keep me awake for a couple of hours.
Surprisingly little is known about the dreams of people with insomnia. So when a new article about insomnia sufferers’ dreams came out in Sleep Medicine, I snapped it up.
Rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep) is when most dreams occur. Episodes of REM sleep also help defuse negative emotions and improve the learning of motor skills.
Until recently, insomnia wasn’t thought to be a problem of REM sleep. Insomnia, the thinking went, was caused mainly by phenomena occurring—or failing to occur—during quiet, or non-REM, sleep: insufficient deep sleep, for example, or wake-like activity occurring in other stages of non-REM sleep, resulting in insufficient or poor sleep.
In the past few years, though, REM sleep has become a suspect in the quest to identify what causes people to wake up frequently in the middle of the night and too early in the morning. (This type of insomnia is called sleep maintenance insomnia). Here’s more about this intriguing proposition.
Most of us know that drinking coffee after dinner will probably disrupt our sleep and that regular exercise will improve it. But some ideas I see tossed out about sleep and insomnia are not quite accurate. Here are six misconceptions followed by information that is evidence based.
My husband is a champion sleeper. He’s also prodigious when it comes to remembering his dreams. Often his dreams are unpleasant: He’s running to catch a plane and realizes he doesn’t have his bag, or he’s shouting at a class full of students. By the time he gets to the dessert table at a party, all the chocolate (i.e. real) desserts are gone.
Still, I envy his amazing powers of recall. I’d love to have half as much access to what goes on in my head at night.
A new study in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology sheds light on why some people tend to remember dreams and others don’t. Could it explain why I remember fewer dreams now than ever before?
Do you remember your dreams?
People who recall certain types of dreams—those in which they’re rehearsing a skill like riding a unicycle or skiing downhill—have a leg up on people who do not recall such dreams. They’re generally able to master skills faster.
I used to be a “disordered” sleeper. That, at least, is the term I’ve heard applied to someone with a sleep schedule as erratic as mine was. One night I’d start nodding off after dinner, and the next night I’d be up till 3:30 in the morning. There was no rhyme or reason to it that I could see.
Waking up on the wrong side of the bed often has to do with being short on sleep, and in recent years scientists have begun offering theories about why this is so.
Rosalind Cartwright’s research suggests that one function of sleep is the down-regulation of negative emotion so we can wake up in a happier frame of mind.