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Scientific studies have shown that dreaming is ideally good for sleep, and overall health. Dreams are said to occur during the last stage of sleep, the REM (rapid-eye movement) stage, however, experts state that dreams occur during the other stages of sleep too, it's just that we're unaware of it. Good, happy dreams are believed to be beneficial for the mind's well-being, while nightmares are said to cause anxiety. There is no conclusive proof of whether and how dreams do affect sleep and our lives, in general.
Dreams and Sleep Stages
Dreams and Sleep Stages
Sleep stages are said to occur in 90 - 120-minute phases. NREM stages occur during almost the entire phase, while the REM stage lasts for a few minutes at the end of each phase, after about 70 minutes. As the night progresses, the NREM stages are said to shorten their span and the REM stage increases by a few minutes after every phase. Just before gaining full consciousness, the REM stage may last up to 40 minutes, thus making the dreams clear and lucid.
The first stage of sleep is said to be light, where one can wake up easily. The second stage is a little more dense, with slower brain waves. Neurons in the brain stem release neurotransmitters to keep the brain active while the body is asleep. Some neurons at the base of the brain are switched off. The third and fourth stages are called 'the stages of deep sleep'. It is difficult to awaken someone during this phase. The final stage is when there is an inability to flex our limbs - here's where dreams occur. Most people recall these dreams easily, they are more than just visual images. Sometimes, it is so strong that the person has a feeling of actually having experienced what happened. For many others, they last as strong memories, triggered by certain important events. Whether good or bad, these dreams affect the way one sleeps. Good dreams create a happy feeling in the mind, leading to restful periods later on. Bad dreams produce a spate of unhealthy memories, terrifying people from going to sleep again.
Dreams and REM Sleep - What Actually Happens
Dreams and REM Sleep - What Actually Happens
When the REM stage starts, the thalamus receives signals and sends them to the cerebral cortex, responsible for thinking and analyzing. Base signals shut off the spine neurons, causing temporary sleep paralysis, where one cannot move. This may be the brain's action to protect the body from acting out the dream. If this does not occur, one is likely to act out the dream. This affects sleep quality - once jolted awake (in shock/surprise), getting back to that sleep stage is tricky.
Vivid Dreams and Sleep Quality
Vivid Dreams and Sleep Quality
Vivid dreams occur only during the REM stage and remain stored in long-term memory. Studies depict that dreams may even help consolidate memories and store information. Some scientists believe that vivid dream recall indicate a proper REM sleep and vice-versa, which in turn leads to an active life. Scientists are still not sure whether an active dream life indicates a good sleep or not, but it does not hamper life negatively.
Sleep Quality and Nightmares
Sleep Quality and Nightmares
Nightmares are said to be a part of normal dreams, but frequent nightmares may affect sleep in a negative way. Disturbed dreams set the heart racing even in the deep sleep stage, leading to irregular heartbeats or high blood pressure. Even if one is not awake, the body can feel the effects of the nightmare. This causes a tumult in sleeping patterns. One might feel he's asleep, the truth is, he's not.
There is no definite proof of this theory, but experts state that the brain's struggle to cope and fight bad dreams and their effects on the body affects sleep patterns. Nightmares may occur due to innumerable reasons, like negative emotions. Frequent nightmares may also lead to sleep disorders and vice-versa, Before sleep quality is impaired totally, one needs to undergo therapy to get rid of bad dreams.
Is Dreaming Good for Health or Not?
Is Dreaming Good for Health or Not?
Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud believed that dreams are a passage to our subconscious mind, and whatever we dream about are repressed emotions and conflicts that we are unable to bring out in the open. Conflicting views are stated by other psychiatrists, who maintain the view that dreams reflect the current lifestyle, problems, and other issues pertaining to domestic life. Either ways, dreaming is said to be good for health.
How much dreams affect the health is still a matter of research as well as perspective. There are several events in our life that we might wish had never happened. And when delicate issues are left open without a closure, it hurts even more. Without meaning to, we close all those paths that may lead to closure. According to Freud, these issues manifest themselves in the form of dreams. Long-forgotten memories, repressed emotions, issues that may have left us battered, etc., are mainly depicted in dreams, and are believed to be a kind of catharsis, helping us release the fears and insecurities of the past through our subconscious. Even though the closure isn't real and is a part of our sleep, Freud believed that they help us face the demons we may have battled at some point of our lives. This helps us indirectly to open our minds, sleep better, live better, and remain healthy.

Several other experts state that dreams merely manifest the day's events, problems, likely solutions, and everything else pertaining to what happens everyday. This is believed to be a sign of release from the stresses of daily life, and helps improve overall health. Dreaming actually indicates that you have a healthy, regular sleep-wake cycle, as opposed to people who have poor sleep.
How Do Dreams Impact Sleep Quality?
How Do Dreams Impact Sleep Quality?
The answer to this question oscillates between 'yes' and 'no'. The quality of sleep depends on the type of dreams that occur. Clear dreams indicate an active REM stage, which is generally good for sound sleep, psychological well-being, and healing emotional scars, though it causes a stir in natural sleep patterns. Bad dreams do hamper sleep quality and health. This can however be solved with drugs and therapy.
There is no structural evidence to state that dreams affect sleep quality and vice-versa. Positive thoughts lead to good dreams, even intense dreams that linger for long. Any kind of dream disturbs the deep sleep mode, but good dreams are said to infuse the mind with happiness, and this reflects in the way you sleep. That is why experts state that good dreams better your sleep quality. Bad dreams cause one to wake up frequently, increasing the fear of sleeping, and hampering overall health. Sleep quality and quantity are both affected when one has frequent nightmares.