Whether you remember them or not, dreams are a normal part of your sleep. Everyone dreams of a total of about two hours per night, and dreams can occur at any stage of sleep, even though they are most vivid during the REM phase. If you’ve ever woken up from a peaceful dream feeling calm and rested — or a disturbing one feeling on the edge — you may have wondered if the nature of your shut-eye reveries would make a difference to your overall quality of sleep. Here’s what’s going on:
Scary Dreams Linger into the Next Day
Dreams can be either positive or negative, and there is no doubt that nightmares have consequences that linger long after you wake up. Sleeping back after waking up from a nightmare is hard, and those scary memories will affect your mood and actions the next day, creating the equivalent of a bad-dream hangover.
Dreams Don’t Change Sleep Structure
Given how it might feel, however, unsettling dreams don’t really have a drastic effect on your sleep system, which means that they won’t actually affect how much time you spend in the various phases of sleep or how many times you wake up. What they may change: how long it takes to fall asleep at night, and how difficult it is for your body to transition between non-REM and REM sleep periods, which can make you feel less rested.
Does Good Sleep Equal Happy Dreams?
The relationship between dream quality and sleep quality could be compared to the old chicken-and-egg scenario: nobody is sure who comes first. Research shows that good sleepers often describe their dreams as more pleasurable and joyful, while people who suffer from insomnia tend to have fewer positive emotions associated with their dreams, but whether or not a happy or sad dream means that you will sleep better or worse still is not clear.
Dreams Reflect Reality
Dream material is also linked to what’s going on in your waking life. If you experience low stress and a lot of fulfillment in your day-to-day life, you may have more optimistic dreams. On the other hand, if you are depressed or anxious during the day, you may have more unpleasant dreams and compromised sleep quality at night.
The good news is that while you cannot control your dreams directly, you can work on improving your state of mind during the day. This, in turn, may help improve the quality of your dreams— and perhaps sleep—at night
This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation