Contributors: Michelle Drerup, PsyD, DBSM and Alexa Kane, PsyD.
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There are a lot of areas of sleep that science and medicine can understand and explain. But dreams are an entirely different territory, as the question ‘why we dream’ remains largely unanswered.
Vivid and frequent dreaming is often left open to interpretation through things like dream dictionaries and discussing with friends. Did that dream about your ex-boss really mean you have pent-up guilt and anxiety about your last job? Frequently having stress or anxiety-ridden dreams is usually a red flag for real life stress and the role it’s playing on your body. If you’re constantly waking up panicking in a cold sweat over a dream, it’s time to get your thoughts and stress in order.
Stress is an emotional, physical or mental tension that results from something that’s outside of us.
Some of the bigger stressors or stressful life events include moving to a new place, changing roles at school or work, relationship issues or losing a family member. Stress can cause sleep difficulties, including insomnia, by making it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. This impacts the quality of rest. Stress can also cause hyperarousal, which can upset the balance between sleep and wakefulness.
Being stressed is associated with poor sleep in general, and may trigger more frequent dreams. So it’s not uncommon to experience a distressing dream prior to a big event like a job interview, taking an exam or an important appointment.
And although there’s limited research about controlling the content of dreams, anxiety dreams can generally be a result of increased stress during our day-to-day lives. Daily stress can also increase the frequency of these dreams.
The good news? You have a great deal of control over your stress. If you learn to better manage stress in your life, you’ll likely decrease anxiety-ridden dreams and improve your sleep.
Here are four simple strategies to help your mind and body relax before turning in for the night:
We’ve all been there – a nightmare or stress dream causes you to wake up. The next thing you know you’re lying there overthinking your finances and everything you have to do the next day.
When this happens, what can you do to get back to sleep?
Since dreams obviously aren’t measurable, there’s no real answer to what meaning they hold in our day-to-day life. But we do know that we generally have control over daily stress, which can trigger weird or anxiety-clad dreams. Learning to control the crazy and manage your stress is your best defense to help you sleep peacefully.