Dreams can be impactful in more ways than you and I may give them credit for. Oftentimes people will wake up from one of these nighttime visions, shoo away the lasting remnants of its memory, and go about their day without a second thought. While I don’t necessarily believe all dreams require a lengthy analysis, sometimes dreams can affect you in real life, so whether they’re negative or positive visions, the worlds and scenarios the mind creates in its sleep are, at the very least, worth noting.
Have you ever woken up from a dream that felt so out of this world that you had trouble pinpointing what the visions could have been drawn from in real life, if anything at all? Dreams aren’t always delivered black-and-white, and there isn’t always a clean-cut reason for why your imagination conjured up those specific places and circumstances. According to the executive editor of Mattress Advisor, Alesandra Woolley, however, regardless of how your mind decides to communicate its message, there's always some level of truth to your dreams.
"There have been numerous studies that say you can find at least some truth within all of our dreams, and they can become reflective of our daily lives," Woolley tells me over email. When dreams strike an emotional chord — be it negative or positive — she adds, that's when they can have a lasting impression on you, and even impact your mood for a day, or, in some cases, over an extended period of time.
I know myself, and I’m a very emotional person, so I’ve always been sensitive to dreams, and I'll often try to decode whatever lingering moments I can remember. For instance, I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve dreamt about my husband leaving me, and (to his dismay) reacted with tears or distance. To clarify, my husband is the most loyal, loving man on this planet, yet for some reason these falsities still sting in real life.
Whether your sleep introduces you to the potential dark side of a lover, an evil boss out to get you fired, or whatever it is your own personal horror story might feature, Woolley assures me it’s most likely just the result of “feeling anxious throughout the day,” whether it be from work, relationships, or other aspects of life. No matter how wild it may seem on paper, Woolley says a negative dream can still have the power to put a damper on your mood in real life. The good news, though, is that the same concept applies when it comes to happier dreams, only instead of putting a damper on your mood, positive dreams translate to positive moods. Makes sense, right?
You might be wondering how such intense, emotional dreams fester in your imagination to begin with. I’ve thought about it, too. If dreams are typically so out-of-this-world nonsensical, then why do they strike a nerve? Even if they are somehow connected to real life, shouldn’t the absurdity outweigh the emotional pull?
It turns out, when pieces of real life clearly come through in your dream, it’s not just because your sleepy self has a passing memory floating through your imagination. In fact, according to certified sleep science coach and founder of SleepZoo, Chris Brantner, dreaming is your brain's way of processing, sorting, and consolidating any information and/or emotions from the day before. “Through dreaming, deep insights, the ability to solve problems, and strategies for daytime performance are sharpened,” he explains. “So when you hear someone say 'I'll sleep on it,' well, there's some truth to that.”
The main takeaway here is that, when your body goes into REM sleep mode — aka rapid eye movement, aka dream state — your brain is working hard to break down the complicated stuff that might’ve gotten lost in translation, whether that’s a chunk of code from your computer science course that you just couldn’t make sense of, or some hard-hitting emotions you put away because you just didn’t want to deal with them at that moment. “It’s like going to therapy at night while being unconscious,” Brantner tells Elite Daily.
The way I see it, you should never underestimate the impact dreams can have on real life, but it seems like you also shouldn't overestimate them, either. While there's definitely reason to believe dreams can provide valuable insight about your reality, fixating too much on these visions could disrupt your reality in unnecessary ways, like causing you more anxiety than you were originally grappling with before you started trying to connect the (potentially nonexistent) dots.
However, obsessing aside, if you're having recurring nightmares that consistently wake you up in the middle of the night and prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep, Brantner suggests paying close attention to your sleep hygiene (think things like cutting back on caffeine, limiting time on your phone at night, creating a comfortable space that relaxes you). Woolley also says it might be a good idea to reach out to either a doctor or sleep coach to figure out what's causing these dreams, and the necessary adjustments you can try to make.