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What does the dream reveal about health?

Bad dreams, also known as nightmares, can be a sign of stress, certain diseases such as heart disease, blood pressure, or a side effect of medication.

Dreaming is a normal stage of sleep that is important for brain function. However, certain types of dreams can signal underlying health problems.

Most people will spend about 6 years of their life dreaming, but on average 95% of dreams are forgotten soon after waking up. One theory is that this is because the frontal lobe of the brain – which processes and stores memories – is not active during sleep.

In dreams, the body is temporarily paralyzed. The only muscles that work are the muscles that help with breathing, the muscles that control the eyes.

Why do people dream?

From a neurological perspective, experts put forward many theories about the role of dreams in the sleep process.

“Dreams are related to learning and self-correction, while reinforcing experiences, skills and recalling encounters in earlier days,” said Dr Pixie McKenna, spokesperson for the organization. function Dreams, explained.

This is the process of fine-tuning deposited memories, says Dr Guy Leschziner, consultant neurologist at the Sleep Centre, London Bridge Hospital.

The range of normal dreams is quite wide, triggered by psychological and physical components. Dreams are even influenced by social and cultural factors. One study found that before color TV, only 15% of respondents dreamed of color. Older people tend to dream in black and white more than younger generations.

Causes of nightmares and abnormal dream behaviors

Certain changes in dreams and sleep habits could be a sign of an underlying health problem.

The first factor that affects dreams is lifestyle. People who are in a different time zone or overworked will dream when they are not deep asleep or even while awake. This is a sign of lack of sleep.

“Dreams are also signs of pregnancy or low blood sugar. Nightmares represent psychological stress, anxiety and negative experiences,” says Dr. McKenna.

Humans spend about 6 years of their lives dreaming.  Photo: Tirachardz

Humans spend about 6 years of their lives dreaming. Image: Tirachardz

Drinking alcohol, eating too much, or being exhausted (mentally and physically) before bed can also cause disrupted sleep and disturbed dreams.

Some common medications, such as antimalarials and beta-blockers given to people with high blood pressure, also cause the condition, says Dr. Leschziner. Antidepressants produce vivid dreams, but some completely eliminate the dream cycle, limit REM sleep (the state that occurs after 70-90 minutes of deep sleep), and reduce the time spent in sleep. dream.

Recalling vivid dreams each night signals factors that disrupt sleep, such as sleep apnea (which is worse during dreaming), narcolepsy, or sleep behavior disorder .

“The area of ​​the brain that controls REM sleep is often damaged when a person has neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s. Therefore, patients often dream violent dreams such as fighting or being attacked or physically abused. , shouting or swearing,” Leschziner said.

One study found that repeated nightmares were linked to cardiovascular disease and menopause. “Certainly patients with epilepsy, cardiovascular disease, migraine or Parkinson’s can dream the same dream often,” says McKenna.

Some experts consider dreaming to be a form of nighttime therapy. In it, the human body deposits memories related to strong emotions during the day through REM sleep, but reduces some of the emotional content involved.

“In people with post-traumatic affective disorder (PTSD), the reason they dream the same nightmare over and over again is because they never actually fulfilled the dream. They keep waking up in the middle of the night with jerks. probably because of trauma before the brain can fully process the emotional content,” Leschziner said.

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