You’re running through your childhood home. You smell the familiar aroma and see everything is exactly as it was years ago. It’s quiet — too quiet. Just as you yell out to your family to see where they are, the floor collapses underneath your feet will a loud crack. Before you fall to your doom, you sit up in bed, sweating and breathing heavily. It was only a dream. But why are some dreams so vivid while you have trouble recalling others?
Although scientists do study dreams, there is still a lot about dreams they just don’t know due to their intimate, subjective nature. After a particularly memorable night of dreaming, you may find yourself searching the web to find out what your dream can tell you about your waking life. Dreams can give you insight about your conscious and subconscious hopes, fears, and desires. How your day goes while you’re awake and your current health status can also change the course of your night time slumber.
There are many stories of pregnant women having more vivid dreams than women who aren’t carrying a child. "There is a greater amount of actual dreaming and dream recall when a woman is pregnant than at any other time during her life," Patricia Garfield, PhD, told WebMD. This increase in dreaming can be attributed to fluctuating hormone levels and the tendency for pregnant women to take more naps.
Other groups also report having more vivid dreams. You may notice a change in dream frequency and recall if you’re really stressed out. There’s a lot of research on the dreams of folks suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). It’s estimated the 90 percent of people with PTSD report having disturbing dreams. Even if you don’t have PTSD, higher levels of stress can trigger nightmares. Research also shows a link between anxiety and mood disorders and nightmares.
The media you consume right before bedtime can impact your dreams as well. Have you ever been watching a scary movie and when you fall asleep you’re in the scary movie, fighting off monsters and vampires? Yeah, me too. A study out of the journal Dreaming found that folks who consumed violent media within 90 minutes of falling asleep were 13 times more likely to have nightmares than those who didn’t watch violent images. So stress and Stranger Things could be contributing to your vivid dreams. Who knew?
According to Shelby Harris, PsyD, director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center, people who are anxious or depressed or more likely to remember their dreams.
If you’re having trouble recalling your dreams, and you'd like the ability to do so, you can train your mind to remember them without having to deal with the negative side effects of stress, depression, or anxiety. “To increase your ability to remember dreams upon awakening, you actually need to prepare your subconscious mind before you go to sleep. On your nightstand keep something to record dreams, such as a fancy journal with a pen, recording device, or a dream journal app for a tablet or smartphone. Right before falling asleep, repeat this affirmation over and over inside your head: ‘I will remember my dreams, I will remember my dreams.’ Record your dream within moments of waking up for the clearest recall,” Pamela Cummins, a dream interpreter, tells Bustle.
Sometimes you may prefer to forget your dreams, but vivid dreams can be a clue about how you’re feeling while you’re awake. Even though you’re not conscious, your brain is still working and mulling over the many aspects of your life. If you don’t like the nature of your vivid dreams, try to eliminate stressors in your waking life — and limit your Stranger Things watching to the a.m.