Sleep on it and wake up happy and healthy (The importance of dreaming)

Sleep on it and wake up happy and healthy (The importance of dreaming)



We all know that good quality sleep enhances memory, improves our stamina, helps mood and is important for cardiovascular health.

But what about dreaming? So many people I know tell me they can’t remember their dreams or don’t know if they dream.

According to Matthew Walker, PhD in his book, “Why We Sleep”, dreaming has important physiological and psychological functions.

During sleep, your body goes through REM (rapid eye movement) and Non-REM sleep. Dreams occur during REM cycles. Most people cycle through REM and Non-REM sleep during the night, but the body will prioritize deeper (Non REM) sleep in the first number of hours and prolonged REM often occurs around six or seven hours into sleeping.

During REM sleep our bodies do not produce certain anxiety provoking neurotransmitters and there is decreased activity in rational thought. Portions of our brains relating to vision, memory and emotions have enhanced activities. This implies that during sleep we can re-experience memories or events or feelings that we have with less emotional duress, giving us a capacity for perspective that we might not be capable of during our waking hours. In other words, dreaming can help us work through stressful events or trauma much like therapy can. REM sleep has been shown to reduce fear type overreactions when exposed to stresses in our waking life. Of course, dreaming can also force us to revisit traumatic events and process emotions associated with them as can be the case with PTSD.

Dreaming also gives us a chance to sort through our events from our day and assimilate them into things of greater or lesser importance. This gives credence to the advice to “Sleep on it” before making an important decision.

Non-REM sleep can improve memory, but REM sleep helps with problem solving and creativity. When I was in medical school, I worked nights, so sometimes during classes I had a hard time concentrating. I learned that if I went to the student lounge and took a 20-minute power nap, my brain turned back on, kind of like rebooting a computer.

Here are some ways to improve your dreaming:

  • Get adequate sleep.
  • Try and get to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
  • Turn the temperature down at night.
  • Turn off screens 1-2 hours before going to bed and get sources of artificial light out of the bedroom.
  • If you have sleep apnea get it treated.
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, marijuana as they interfere with REM sleep.
  • Supplements like vitamin B6 (in the morning), melatonin before bed, gingko biloba, citicholine are known to increase dreams.

And if you want to remember your dreams, have a dream journal on your nightstand and write any dreams down the minute you wake up, even if it’s the middle of the night.

Sweet Dreams!


Dr. Jennifer Means welcomes you for Primary Care for the whole family: Nutrition, IV Therapy, Naturopathy, and Acupuncture. Contact us at 503-641-6400.