Whilst we are dreaming, we are in fact in subconscious creative mode. We process over 70k images that we see on average each day, made up of interactions, emotions and experiences, and then extract overarching rules and commonalties.
Neuroscience research has since demonstrated that dreaming is not just a by-product of REM sleep, but actually serves critical functions for our well-being and mental health. All dreams, nightmares and night terrors are all caused by different chemicals being released while you are sleeping. The way you fall asleep is through the activation of the neurotransmitter GABA gamma-aminobutyric-acid and, when dreaming, the neurotransmitter acetylcholine a chemical that motor neurons of the nervous system release is released in high levels as a result of wakefulness and alertness during the day.
But it is also found in high levels during REM sleep. GABA is calming, and can reduce anxiety.
Pre-menstrual-induced insomnia and restless nights are real, and also really normal. When you get your period, you have drops in oestrogen and progesterone levels and that unbalances your sleep cycle as well. We know that the amount of REM sleep — which is when we have most of our dreams — is less in this part of the menstrual cycle.
Hormonal changes at this time e. In turn can affect sleep quality.
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In women with PMS, disturbances of sleep are very common in the second half of the menstrual cycle as compared with the first half of the cycle , and dream sleep is greatly reduced. Lower levels of allopregnanolone a breakdown product of progesterone which helps block anxiety are also found in women with PMS, as well as lower GABA receptor activity levels.
Our age matters here as well, as when we approach the menopause, our overall oestrogen levels decline.
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So, right at and just before ovulation we will mostly notice some sleep disturbance. During this time, production of progesterone decreases slowly. When this hormone is low, you have less ability to balance out your oestrogen levels. This is the source of the insomnia: elevated oestrogen negatively impacts melatonin and serotonin production.
The combination of both is what we need to fall asleep and stay asleep.
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For so many of my clients a caffeine curfew after 12pm, or even a week off entirely, is hugely helpful. Feed your gut bacteria. Right after you ovulate, you have much more oestrogen circulating in your body. What you eat can help your body metabolise this, and fermented foods and probiotics are a great place to start.
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If you notice that you have more bad dreams after having a late-night bite, make a goal not to snack after dinner, or at least to avoid heavy meals right before bed. Medications: Prescriptions that affect chemicals in the brain such as antidepressants , as well as some blood pressure medications, have been linked to nightmares. Talk to your doctor to see if a different drug or a lifestyle change might be a better alternative. If you have no options beyond that one drug, then you'll have to weigh the pros and cons with your physician—in some cases, it may be worth putting up with the nightmares if the pill is helping you treat a serious condition.
What your dreams can reveal about your health
Sleep Disorders: Sleep problems such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome may cause nightmares. Ask your doctor about treatment options if you suffer from a sleep disorder, since treatment may help improve the quality of your sleep and also nix the nightmares.
Stress: Anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder can both lead to nightmares. There are a number of reasons why you may have nightmares, including: Eating Before Bed: A pre-bedtime snack can increase your metabolism, which causes the brain to become more active and can possibly lead to nightmares.
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