We all know sleep is crucial for our brain health, but it’s not just the shuteye that helps it thrive. Scientific research has found that our dreams also play a significant role in protecting and strengthening our minds. According to a 2010 Harvard study, dreams improve memory as well as other essential functions of our brains.
Why Do We Dream?
Scientists have been obsessed with dreams for an exceptionally long time. While many believe dreams improve memory, they’re still yet to figure out the exact reason why. However, this hasn’t prevented them from proposing some interesting theories.
Dreams Prepare Us
One of these theories is that dreams work as a defence mechanism which prepares us for problems we may face in our waking lives. By allowing us to experience unusual and potentially frightening situations in a safe environment, we’re subconsciously being taught new ways to solve problems that may be impacting us.
Dreams Advise Us
Some specialists believe that all dreams have meaning. They suggest that even the strangest dream could be a cryptic message from our bodies. This especially applies to recurring dreams, which may be an attempt to process dormant feelings or deep-seated worries that need to be addressed.
Dreams Strengthen Us
A more recent theory proposes that dreams reorder our memories and boost our mental abilities. It’s thought that dreams improve memory this way by processing and reliving important moments from our lives.
How is Dreaming Good for Your Brain?
There’s compelling evidence that dreams improve memory, but that’s not all that comes from our night-time imaginations. Whether we realise it or not, we pick up new information every single day. While we may not understand it at first, research suggests that when we sleep our brains piece together that information and help us retain it.
If that wasn’t enough, dreams are also thought to unlock our creativity, giving us a peek into the parts of our subconscious that are unavailable during waking hours.
How Do You Get a Better Night’s Sleep?
Falling and staying asleep is not always as easy as it should be. However, there are things you can do to make your rest as peaceful as possible.
Daily exercise can greatly improve sleep. Exercise burns excess energy which helps you to rest better. On top of that, there’s a lot of activity that happens in the brain during and after exercise. It’s this activity that scientists think helps your dreams improve memory.
Unfortunately, when we get older finding ways to exercise can become more difficult. However, there are plenty of fun activities to choose from. Even something as simple as gardening can be a brilliant way to exercise.
Napping has been proven to be great for your health, but try not to overdo it. A short 30-minute nap during the day is more than enough of a boost to help keep your spirits high. Studies have found that napping longer than this – or multiple times in a day – can interfere with your body’s natural clock and cause restless sleep.
Sleep on a Regular Schedule
Life rarely fits into a schedule, and sometimes sticking to a healthy sleep pattern can feel impossible. Dreams improve memory better when you’re getting enough rest. By sleeping and waking at the same time each day you’re ensuring your sleep will be smoother and stronger. This means you’ll be happier and healthier!
Avoid Drinking Before Sleep
Did you know that caffeine can stay in your body for up to 8 hours? If you’re a coffee drinker looking for a better night’s sleep, it’s recommended to avoid that evening drink for up 6 hours before you go to bed. Your dreams improve memory, but caffeine can be troublesome.
For an even better rest, you shouldn’t drink any liquids for up to an hour before bed as it increases the chances of nature’s call further disrupting your sleep.
Deal with Concerns That May Be Keeping You Up
Your worries and fears can be the biggest hurdle between you and the rest you need. If your sleep is being affected this way, there are things you can try. Many people have found that writing down what’s on their mind and, where possible, a solution to their problem has helped them rest easier.
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Editor’s Note: This article was updated on 6th February 2023 to reflect current information.