Mental Health

Self Improvement

Mandy Kloppers

Do Dreams Affect How Well You Sleep?

Sleep restores both the body and mind. While hormones work to repair muscle tissue, our minds are actively working to sort through information and impressions from the day. As we sleep, we experience this brain activity through dreams. 


Dreams can be funny, soothing, helpful, or simply terrifying. Sometimes, we may not even remember our dreams, while other times, they are so realistic we often have a hard time separating them from real life. 


But what do dreams say about our sleep quality? While there is no direct link between bad dreams and poor sleep, our dreams can affect the rest we get each night. 


Read on to find out how specific types of dreams could be impacting your sleep and your health.

Reduced REM Sleep 

A recent survey by Amerisleep polled more than 2,000 sleepers on their most frequent dreams and nightmares. One of the most alarming statistics this survey uncovered was the link between stress, fear, and nightmares. 


54 percent of the survey participants claimed that fear over their general well-being, such as death, being attacked, or being trapped, were among their most common dreams. About 43 percent cited stress-related topics as their most common dream. These included dreams such as waking up late or missing an important event. 


Stress dreams are common. As our minds work through information, the anxieties and fears we focus on most are bound to come up. While these dreams may seem harmless, they do have consequences. 


The most memorable dreams occur during the REM phase. REM is vital to brain health and memory function. During this stage, the mind moves data from short term to long term memory, and stores critical information. Shorter periods of REM sleep can hinder creativity and the ability to commit things to memory. If bad dreams are continuously interrupting our REM sleep, it could affect our brain health. 


Dreams that take place during non-REM sleep can keep us from falling asleep and switching between non-REM and REM sleep. The most common non-REM dreams are those that cause you to feel as if you are falling. In fact, 64 percent of those surveyed cited falling dreams as their most common type. Although there is no evidence as to what causes a falling dream, one theory suggests that as our muscles relax and prepare for sleep, the mind interprets this as a physical fall. 

Mood Changes 

The impressions from our dreams can linger. Whether it is positive or negative, your thoughts will likely remain on the dream even after you wake. During the night, it can be difficult to return to sleep after a particularly vivid dream. This sleep loss can leave you feeling tired and unprepared for the day ahead.


For example, the study mentioned above notes that the death of a loved one was the most common nightmare for 36 percent of those surveyed. Dreams like these can leave your mind reeling with worry and may even cause you to form anxieties you didn’t previously have. The images brought on by the dream can stay with you throughout the day and affect your mood. 

What Can You Do? 

As we mentioned above, there is no direct link between bad dreams and poor sleep. However, experts note that our dreams do reflect our reality. If you are stress-free and happy in your everyday life, your dreams will likely be more positive. In turn, if you are going through a particularly stressful life event, such as a move, a job change, or a relationship issue, you are likely to have more fear-related dreams.


This data means that while you may not be able to control our dreams, you can manage stress and anxiety to improve dream quality. If you can maintain a healthy state of mind, your dreams will likely become less disruptive, and you will be able to sleep more soundly. 


Below, we have outlined 5 tips to help reduce stress so you can find better sleep. 

1. Consider Your Mattress

A new mattress could just be what you need to reduce stress and rest more fully. If you are sleeping on an unsupportive mattress, it can be difficult to find adequate sleep, which, in turn, can worsen symptoms of stress and anxiety.


At the end of a long day, you need a mattress that is going to hug the curves of your body and provide pressure-relieving support. If you find you are frequently waking with aches and pains, or if you are experiencing poor sleep night after night, it is likely time to replace your bed. 

2. Wind Down Before Bed

As you lay down for the night, your mind may be full of thoughts and worries from the day. Not only does this make it difficult to fall asleep, but it may also contribute to stress dreams. To combat this, consider creating a relaxation routine before bed. Taking a warm bath or shower, reading, or gently stretching while taking deep breaths can help you let go of stress from the day so you sleep more peacefully. 

3. Journal

If you find your mind racing with worry, one of the best things you can do is write in a journal. Before bed, consider taking 15 minutes to jot down any tasks, thoughts, issues, or concerns in your journal. The goal is to get them off your mind and onto the page. This exercise will help you set stress aside so your dreams are more positive. 

4. Make Your Bedroom a Sanctuary 

If your sleep space is cluttered with stress triggers, such as dirty laundry, exercise equipment, mail, or paperwork, it can be next to impossible to let go of stress. Consider removing these items from your bedroom to create a more serene space.

5. Reduce Screen Time Before Bed

Light from electronic screens can disrupt our natural circadian rhythm and cause us to lay awake for hours. Additionally, if you are looking at images that are particularly stressful, such as violence or disturbing newsreels, these impressions may bring fear-related dreams. To help control anxiety before bed, consider reducing your exposure to electronic screens at least two hours before bed. 

Mandy X

Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash

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