Dreams and How They Relate to Your Sleep Cycle

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World Sleep Day is an event that celebrates sleep and brings attention to important issues related to sleep. Tomorrow marks the 10th annual World Sleep Day. In the spirit of the event, this blog will focus on dreams and how they relate to your sleep cycle. Have you ever wondered why some dreams are so vivid while others you can barely recollect? We’ll take a look at things from a scientific perspective to see how your sleep habits impact the frequency and intensity of your dreams.

Some sources claim that there are four stages in a sleep cycle, while others claim five. For our purposes, we will follow the four stage model. Regardless of the number of stages, one full sleep cycle lasts around 90-120 minutes. While the amount of sleep required by each person varies, most experts recommend that adults sleep seven to nine hours a night. This means that you will go through four to six sleep cycles on average if you are getting the recommended amount of rest. Stage 1 is a light sleep where you lose most sensory attachment to the physical world. In Stage 2, you are still in light sleep but your body temperature drops and your heart rate slows. Stage 3 is a deep sleep where you would feel disoriented or confused if someone woke you up. The final stage, Stage 4, is REM sleep.

REM (rapid eye movement) sleep dominates the latter half of the sleep period, especially the hours before waking, and accounts for around 20-25% of total sleep time. However, this percentage decreases as you get older. This is because you sleep more lightly and get less deep sleep as you age. No matter your age, as you go through each sleep cycle, you experience more REM sleep with each new cycle. A large proportion, especially the most vivid dreams, occur during this stage. That is not to say that dreams cannot occur during other stages of sleep as well. Scientists have found that you can dream in non-REM stages of sleep but there is no consensus on how often or how much.

Are you someone who has trouble recalling any dreams at all? This does not necessarily mean that you are not dreaming. While there is variation from person to person, research indicates that most people dream four to six times a night during an eight-hour sleep cycle. It is possible that you are simply not remembering your dreams as research also indicates that most people forget 95-99% of their dreams.

Is there a connection between quality of sleep and dreams? If you do not dream often, it is possible that you have bad sleep habits. If you are not sleeping enough, or your sleep is interrupted frequently, your body does not have the opportunity to reach REM sleep where most dreams occur. While the frequency of dreams depends on a long list of factors, the single most important one is getting a good night’s rest. Difficulty sleeping may be an indication of a sleep-related disorder such as snoring or sleep apnea. In fact, 15% of the U.S. population suffers from some type of sleep-related disorder. If you think you might fall into this group, the Epworth Sleepiness Scale is a common screening tool that you can use as an initial evaluation. The Pasha Snoring & Sinus Center investigates the cause of your sleeping problems and provides real solutions. Schedule an appointment with us today to see if we can help. Sweet dreams!

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