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!