Some dreams you barely remember. But some are just so strange they stick with you long after you’ve thrown off the doona.
What makes some dreams so much weirder than others? Here are seven possible culprits.
1. YOU ATE SPICY FOODS BEFORE BED
Eating fiery foods before bed is a possible cause of nightmares, says sleep medicine specialist Robert S. Rosenberg, author of Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day.
“They may do this by increasing metabolism and body temperature, which can increase brain activity, especially during REM sleep (the stage where dreams take place),” he says.
2. YOU TAKE MELATONIN SUPPLEMENTS
When good quality sleep is hard to come by, melatonin supplements can help you fall asleep and stay asleep, says sleep expert Robert Oexman.
Reacquainting yourself with REM sleep increases the intensity of your dreams because your body is essentially making up for lost time (or rather, sleep).
There’s currently no recommended dose for melatonin supplements, so it’s best to check in with your doctor for a consult, especially since higher doses may cause anxiety and irritability.
3. YOU WATCHED TV BEFORE BED
Bingeing on a few shows before bed might lead to stranger dreams when you snooze.
“Our dreams come from our subconscious mind, so if you expose yourself to a TV show (or even a book) that has a strong emotional component for you personally, your mind may give it more significance and focus on it more, causing it to come out in your dreams,” says psychologist Steve Orma.
4. YOU’VE RECENTLY STOPPED TAKING A MEDICATION
Common antidepressants such as Paxil and Zoloft, as well as psychostimulants such as Ritalin, have been known to suppress dream sleep, says Rosenberg.
Stopping medications like these can cause your dreams to come back in full force.
“You'll experience more REM sleep for several days than you have in years,” he says.
“This can result in a flood of vivid dreams as well as nightmares.”
Crazy dreams can also strike after stopping chronic drinking or marijuana use, he adds.
5. YOU HAVE SLEEP APNOEA
Because sleep apnoea messes with your breathing during sleep, that drop in oxygen as you’re dreaming can cause disturbing and vivid dreams, says Rosenberg.
If you feel sluggish even after a solid eight hours or you snore frequently, you may want to get in touch with a sleep specialist.
6. YOU DIDN’T SLEEP WELL THE NIGHT BEFORE
When you’re sleep-deprived, there’s a good chance that you’ll experience a more intense dose of REM sleep the following night, known as REM rebound, says Rosenberg.
And you know what that means: more intense dreams.
7. YOU’RE ALWAYS STRESSED
The stress and anxiety you experience during the day can also do a number on your dreams – and may be your brain’s way of processing and working through negative emotions.
“It's during REM sleep that we believe most emotional modification takes place,” says Rosenberg.