There’s nothing like waking up from a great dream. You might even wish you could go back to sleep just to relive the bliss.
On the other hand, there’s nothing like the relief of awakening from a nightmareand realizing that reality is much safer than the frightening world you were in during sleep.
What is the point of terrifying nightmares, if there is one at all? Can something so distressing have a positive impact on our brain chemistry, or is it harmful?
Although you likely want to have a good dream over a distressing one, there is an explanation and need for nightmares.
It all starts in the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep phase where we do most of our dreaming.
REM Sleep and Nightmares
The REM sleep phase is known for evoking strange, vivid dreams.
Scientists believe that sleep is an important part of memory processing, and dreams may play a larger role in storing memories than we once thought.
During non-REM sleep, our memories are sorted through just like your recycling bin. Some memories are moved from temporary storage areas to permanent locations in the brain, becoming long-term memories.
Vital details important to your survival and recall become harder to forget, while memories that aren’t as important are discarded.
This explains why you might feel more level-headed after some sleep – the phrase “sleep on it” is no joke!
This process is repeated to desensitize and reorganize the brain to the trauma and has a success rate of 77 percentwhen it comes to treating PTSD symptoms, including nightmares.
If you don’t believe that trauma is to blame for your bad dreams, sleep apnea may be the cause.
Sleep Apnea Leads to Bad Dreams
Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by an obstructed airway during sleep.
In turn, the blocked airway results in a lack of oxygen. This interruption in breathing is known to activate our fight or flight response, causing stress hormones to skyrocket.
Entering this stressed state may show up in your dreams, causing nightmares.
A sleep study can rule out a sleep disorder, but the following symptoms may be a strong indicator of sleep apnea:
Dry mouth in the morning
Irritability and difficulty concentrating
Lapses in breathing during sleep, which may include choking or gasping
If you suffer from sleep apnea, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy may help to relieve the blockage during sleep by keeping the airway open with a continuous stream of air during sleep.
That might mean you’re more likely to breathe easier at night, causing you to have a good dream over a bad one.
However, mouth leaks are still possible, even with a chin strap. That’s where mouth tape comes in as your best bet to ensure you have a good dream, whether you have sleep apnea or not.