It's a lot of fun to decode what your dreams mean about what's going on in your mind. But they can also say a lot about what's going on in your body. Your sleep quality, diet, and other aspects of your health can affect your dreams, which gives a whole new meaning to the concept of dream interpretation.
There are a few particular dream patterns you should be aware of because they could point toward sleep problems. Other signs of a sleep disorder include constant foggy-headedness, inability to sleep in new places, constant waking up at night, and sleeping for less than four hours a night. These problems are important to treat, because when you can't sleep, you can't think, and when you can't think, you can't do anything to the best of your ability. Sleep deprivation can lead to a weakened immune system, overeating, impaired memory, indecisiveness, breakouts, and a lot of other awful things.
While interpreting the content of dreams is very individual and not entirely scientific, specific dream patterns have been proven to reflect certain sleep difficulties across the board. Here are some dream abnormalities that could potentially point toward health issues. They alone don't prove you have one of these problems, but they are worth bringing up with a doctor if you've been having trouble sleeping.
1. Remembering More Dreams Than Usual
Your long, detailed memories of your dreams might entertain your friends, but they could be a bad sign for you. A study in Frontiers in Psychology found that people who wake up a lot at night remember their dreams more clearly. So, if you have uncanny dream memory, you may not be sleeping well, Kelsey Allan, a sleep expert from Sleep Train, tells Bustle.
2. Weird Dreams
If your dreams seem like they came out of a Stanley Kubrick movie, watch what you eat before going to bed. "People with more intense or wild dreams may be experiencing more disruptions at night, such as heart burn or stomach aches due to something they've eaten," says Allan. Greasy or processed foods and alcohol can be especially problematic.
3. No Dreams
If you never remember your dreams, you could have sleep apnea, Mattress Firm sleep expert Dr. Sujay Kansagra tells Bustle. The sleep disorder occurs when your breathing is interrupted during sleep. "Sleep apnea tends to be worse during R.E.M. sleep (the stage in which we have the most vivid dreams), so this stage of sleep becomes very disrupted with frequent awakenings, thereby preventing dreaming."
Regardless of its cause, a lack of dreaming indicates that you're not spending a lot of time in REM sleep, which can contribute to depression, Jennifer Stagg, MD tells Bustle. REM starts 70-90 minutes into sleeping, so too many late-night wakeups can interrupt it.
4. Lots Of Dreams
If you're dreaming all the time — including during short naps or right as you fall asleep — you may be suffering from narcolepsy, says Kansagra. This is a disorder that makes you tired during the day and can cause bouts of weakness. It interrupts the process regulating your REM sleep, so your brain may go into this state quickly, leading to dreams that begin before they should. You might even see things in your room as you're falling asleep.
5. Anxiety Dreams
While there hasn't been much research on this, many people find that they're more likely to dream about being chased, losing their teeth, and other anxiety-inducing things when they're anxious in real life, says Kansagra. You may not actually be worried about a bear attack, but that bear could represent a problem you're dealing with.
These patterns don't always indicate a problem, but they're worth mentioning to your doctor, especially if you have sleep problems. They could offer valuable clues into what sort of problem you're dealing with.