Facts of Dreams

We all dream several times a night, even if we don’t recall them. If you wake up at the end of a sleep cycle, you’ll likely remember a dream, but if you snooze through until the next one, you probably won’t.

Since you have more REM sleep in the early a.m. hours, it’s easier to recall a dream when you wake up in the morning, versus, in the middle of the night.

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Age can play a role as well: REM sleep decreases as we get older—kids need more of its stimulation for brain development than adults—causing dreams to become less vivid.

You’re not alone. Research suggests that up to 8 percent of adults suffer from chronic nightmares, like drowning or being chased, at least once a week. “Most of the time, they’re triggered by ongoing stress.

Because your brain is just as active when you dream as when you’re awake, some areas of your brain—like the occipital lobe, which processes images, and the amygdala, which regulates emotions—are even more active when you’re dreaming, which is why a dream can seem so vivid and evoke so much emotion.

A lot of us have had dreams that foreshadowed an actual event—a relative’s death, the breakup of a relationship. But in reality, a prophetic dream, even one about something unexpected, is just bringing to light an issue you’ve been subconsciously worried about. If you wake up from a dream feeling disturbed, ask yourself, Have there been hints of that situation in my daily life that I’ve ignored? Say you dreamt of losing your job. Have you recently had any unnerving discussions with your boss?

If you dream of medical ailments like heart attacks, take it seriously, say experts. It’s your body’s subtle way of telling you that something strange is going on. If you have a dream like this more than a few times, see your doctor to get checked out.