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6 Ways to Reap the Health Benefits of Dreams

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6 Ways to Reap the Health Benefits of Dreams

By Melissa Breyer, Senior Editor, Healthy & Green Living

Were you being chased in a dream last night? Did you find your teeth falling out, or worse, find yourself falling out of something? So maybe that wasn’t much fun, but if you remembered your dreams last night, good for you–you’re one step ahead in learning how to maximize the health benefits of dreaming.

Experts claim that our brains’ midnight shenanigans can give us insight to help heal emotional trauma and stress, improve our sleep, increase happiness and even help figure out problems in our lives. New studies suggest that dreams are part of a healthy emotional coping process–the thoughts that happen when we sleep combine recent events, hidden memories, hopes, and fears into a new mix, forging neural connections that might be impossible to attain while awake.

Along with basic emotional housekeeping, dreaming can help alleviate depression. In sleep studies of recently divorced women with untreated clinical depression, scientists found that patients who recalled dreams and incorporated the ex-spouse or relationship into their dreams scored better on tests of mood in the morning. And they were much more likely to recover from depression than others who either did not dream about the marriage or could not recall their dreams.

According to a report at MSNBC, recent brain scan studies show that regions active during dreaming are the same ones responsible for processing memories and emotions when we’re awake. Dreams, the new thinking goes, shape your self-image by helping you work through unresolved emotions from waking life. (For this reason, even unpleasant nightmares can be beneficial.) In fact, for a day or two after a significant life event—and again about a week later—hints of it show up in your dreams, according to a study at Canada’s University of Alberta. “Revisiting events in dreams helps reshape your understanding of them,” says study author Don Kuiken, PhD.

But the health benefits of dreams don’t just happen by themselves. You need to pitch in a bit–here are six tips that experts recommend to help you use your dreams to their full potential.

Next: Hold that thought!

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

11 comments

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10:43AM PDT on Jun 14, 2009

thanks...
Kabin
Konteyner

4:02AM PDT on May 21, 2009

Very nice article. Thanks

3:13PM PDT on May 19, 2009

I am an avid dream explorer and practice the arts of lucid dreaming. I journal all my dreams and have been doing this for 5 years now. Last night, I just stopped a tsunami during lucidity!

6:10AM PDT on May 17, 2009

Interesting article,i like to think i can learn from my dreams although they can be unsettling.Sometimes totally changing my mood for the day.

6:28PM PDT on May 12, 2009

Great article! Thanks so much.

6:58PM PDT on May 10, 2009

Yes, I fully agree, dreams can provide valuable insights into how we really feel about things and what is truly valuable to us. Our conscious mind is greatly influenced by our environment, including our friends, family, and society. Our dreams strip this away so that we can get to our actual feelings.

My dreams are very vivid, but I don't always remember them. I've also noticed that I have a soundtrack, usually music. Some of my dreams seem to be playful, a recreational outlet. I remember waking up one night and laughing as I recognized the music and realized it was an ironic pun on the action of the dream. Sadly, I couldn't remember what it was in the morning!

12:44AM PDT on May 9, 2009

I don't agree at all. I have been dreaming all my life -- almost every single day -- vivid, brilliant , fantastic dreams and I remember every little detail like the colours of the brocade, the shape of the teeth or feet, the threads that stick out of well ironed clothes and so on..it is great fun, that's all. I don't see any connection with my dreams and my life. I wake up and it is another dream!

12:00PM PDT on May 8, 2009

I find that trying to remember feelings experienced and not so much detail in dreams, gives one insight into real life situations that might normally be suppressed.

11:53AM PDT on May 8, 2009

I find that if I try and recall the feelings that I had during a dream instead of details, it gives me more insight into real life situatuations and things I might be suppressing.

7:37AM PDT on May 8, 2009

I found this article very helpful. I've had a very vivid dream life since I was a child and have found the one common theme is about time travel to the past. I use a digital recorder to keep my dream journal rather than writing but over the years I've found these "time travel" dreams as well as all my other dreams have pointed me in the right direction on issues both in the past, present and future.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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