Let me just preface this honestly. I’ve been having some really intense dreams lately. There’s no pinpointing their overwhelmingly odd origins, but some factors I’m leaning toward are a.) Filling my days to the brim, b.) Stretching myself out creatively, and c.) To put it simply: Stress.
But why do we dream? WebMD says it’s necessary to succumb to the void of dreamland because it’s the best way to get a good night’s sleep. Well, is that explanation dry enough for you?
I think dreams stem directly from activity perceived during daily life. This form of distorted memory recall acts as a digestive system whereby the short-term memories are sifted through and compartmentalized into long-term memories.
From the forebrain to the hindbrain.
For example, if you encounter a traumatic episode during the day, you’re thoughts on the recent event may metastasize into a hyperbolic world-building catastrophe during sleep that night, to help you face your fears and get over the shock. Of course, it depends on how sensitive or desensitized you are; not everyone has nightmares when they watch The Walking Dead, for example. Sometimes, these temporary memories are shoved down, subconsciously, allowing you to forget about something as trivial as hitting a squirrel on the way to work (another “example”), but then you’ll just hear about it later during a somnambulist playback of your verbal recollection of the event during your all-too-predictable mid-life crisis, right?
Or, who knows? Maybe you dream about puppies and rainbows and don’t worry about money, relationships, TV shows, or anything at all, really. Not to say he isn’t a dreamer (because we haven’t talked about it in some time), but my brother says he doesn’t dream. He says most nights he just kind of konks out in a black-blank state, then awakes the next day.
Whether you remember them or not, most sources say that everyone dreams.
I’ve found plenty of resources online, like Psychology Today and the National Sleep Foundation, (and if bullets points are more your thing, MNT has some interesting insight about why we dream) who are on the fence about the origin of dreams, but I haven’t found any preëmptive tips for fighting off bad dreams.
And should we? Are nightmares a necessary part of the territory? I like watching a good horror flick, but I would really rather stave off a nervous breakdown while I’m trying to get some rest, thank you.
So, let’s get started, shall we? Here’s a brief rundown on how to wrangle those restless alligator-sized dreams that rend you from peaceful sleep and instead find you tossing and turning in the middle of the night.
Pillows are important – Being comfortable is the first surefire way to falling asleep and staying asleep. Subconsciously, you may be tossing and turning because your arm is stuck way above your head, at a weird angle unfathomable to event the most ardent of yogis. The pain you feel during sleep may leak over into dreams of pain. It happens. So, if you’re feeling like you’re sleeping on a box of rocks, try replacing your mattress or bed spread and see how that treats you. And if you can’t afford to replace the entire bed, settle for just the pillow.
Talk to yourself – This may sound silly, but telling yourself that you’ll have good dreams can become pretty effective as far as actually inducing good dreams. It takes practice, but I’ve found that if you think about a particular person, place, or thing just before you begin to fall asleep, you’ll dream about the object of said noun. (P.S. Still working on this one, myself, sometimes I’ll think about a place, and concentrate on that, then go into a tailspin of lucid dreaming involving an entirely different time period and whoops! Stumbled down the rabbit hole, there.)
A Dreamcatcher may work – Some people swear by Dreamcatchers. I have one in my car, and when I’ve fallen asleep in there, I haven’t had nightmares. I should get one for the wall above my bed, though…
Soothing music – Who doesn’t like being serenaded by sea creatures? If you’re having trouble sleeping or need a little boost in the direction of the land of the lost, try listening to Ken Davis’s Dolphin Magic. It worked wonders for me as a kid.
Night light – A little warm lighting can help banish those fears. I find it quite comforting to turn on my red/brown/tan lamp when I can’t sleep. It helps clear the cobwebs of dark dreams and brings the room into focus for me, while adding a little rosy effect to my overall disposition. Nothing like the smack of reality to dispel those subconscious visions of hyper-realistic brain munchers, really.
Keep a dream journal – Could prove a cathartic solution for those midnight jolts that send you like a springboard bouncing out of bed. Write that stuff down, and be as specific as possible to live out the terror in full, and get it out of your system. Anyone who’s anyone can benefit from a bit of writing time.
I’m working toward taking this advice myself, and if sharing these tips can help you, then I’d consider my work done as a fellow worrier, researcher, blogger-type human bean.
Is sleeping one of your favorite activities? Want to read more about dream-related science and stuff? Visit VanWinkle’s blog. It’s pretty neat… I don’t know how factual some of those articles are, but they’re sure as heck entertaining. (And the collage art featured in their blog headings are sick!)