Every night has become a new adventure.
Sometimes I’m running from someone or something.
Sometimes I’m both in France and the United States at the same time. Sometimes I’m speaking French, sometimes English.
Most of the time, these dreams leave me waking up more exhausted than I was when I went to sleep.
And yet, from what I have read and listened to in podcasts, it seems that many around the world are experiencing this odd phenomenon in one way or another. Being that life in general feels like some episode of the Twilight Zone, it’s no wonder that our subconscious is a little wacky during this time.
I’ve always been a vivid dreamer, so it is no shock to me that my dreams are slightly more odd than usual (especially being that stress/anxiety dreams can be extremely vivid). But I’ve noticed it becoming more of a theme in various news articles and podcast episodes (shoutout to NPR’s Fresh Air!!!). So let’s dig into the behind the scenes of our dreams.
REM 101: A Crash Course
REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is just one part of your sleep cycle. Essentially you pass through sleep phases multiple times throughout the night. The National Institute of Health (NIH) has a helpful little article explaining more if you’re intrigued. Here are the four basic stages.
Stage 1: Non-REM sleep (Time to lay down!)
This is the “changeover from wakefulness to sleep.” Your body starts to slow down and your sleep is pretty light at this point. This is the stage when you can wake yourself up from feeling like you’re falling, or when your muscles might start twitching like crazy.
Stage 2: Non-REM sleep (Dozing off now…)
This is “a period of light sleep before you enter deeper sleep.” At this point, your body temperature has dropped and your heartbeat slows down. The NIH even reports that “brain wave activity slows but is marked by brief bursts of electrical activity. ”
Stage 3: Non-REM sleep (You’re asleep.)
This is “the period of deep sleep that you need to feel refreshed in the morning,” according to the NIH. This is a longer stage of sleep, normally throughout the first half of the night. Your heartbeat and breathing is the slowest in this stage. Brain waves also slow down.
Stage 4: REM sleep (Sound asleep.)
This “occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep.” Appropriately named, during this stage your eyes move rapidly from side to side behind closed eyelids. The NIH states that “mixed frequency brain wave activity becomes closer to that seen in wakefulness. Your breathing becomes faster and irregular, and your heart rate and blood pressure increase to near waking levels. ”
This stage is where most of your crazy dreams happen. Actually, your arms and legs are temporarily paralyzed, preventing you from getting up during your dreams (unless you sleepwalk, I suppose).
While there are many theories as to why humans dream, one thing is certain: it gets weird sometimes. Maybe next thing we know, having dreams where everyone is wearing a face mask is going to become the new normal. Kinda like how people used to dream in black and white before color television was widely available.
Are you having weird dreams?! Share your crazy dream stories below (I like listening to people’s dreams).
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Thanks for reading! If you have a particular subject you’d like me to discuss, don’t hesitate to send me a quick message.