No, we aren't talking about Inception or the latest sci-fi thriller; what you do while awake actually can influence your dreams and how you sleep!
Dreams often seem out of our control, like a movie we watch at night rather than something we direct.
However, newer research shows that some behaviors can actually affect your dreams in both good and bad ways. Learn what habits and daytime activities might be influencing your rest, and see how to hack your dreams.
10 Ways to Hack Your Dreams
Want to sleep better or have sweeter dreams? The 10 following things have been found to alter dreams, and may represent interesting ways to hack your sleep or at least rest better.
Change Your Sleep Position
The position you favor before falling asleep can have a significant impact on your dreams. Sleeping on your left side is most likely to result in nightmares, while sleeping on your right side is associated with more peaceful dreams. Stomach sleeping, on the other hand, has been linked with feeling smothered as well as more, ahem, erotic dreams.
Take Music Lessons
Do you often hear music in your dreams? The Sleep Lab at the University of Florence discovered that the younger people were when they began taking music lessons, the more likely they were to have dreams that included music.
Additionally, musicians' dreams included twice as much music as non-musicians' dreams. The study also found that 28 percent of the people who dreamed of music hadn't ever heard the particular tune while awake.
Dairy may inadvertently hack your dreams, with links not only to whether you may suffer from lactose intolerance, but also to the very type of cheese you enjoy. Cheddar and Red Leicester are recommended by the British Cheese Board for pleasant sleep, while Stilton (blue cheese) and lactose intolerance might result in odd or more vivid dreams.
Don't Scare Yourself
Just like your mom said, watching scary movies or reading horror novels before bed can induce your brain to manufacturer it's own terrifying stories.
Actually, any activity immediately preceding sleep can influence dreams, so take a few minutes to relax and think happy thoughts before dozing off if you want to keep them positive. Try our watching our list of feel-good videos to indulge in some warm, fuzzy feelings before bed.
Watch Black and White TV
Chances are if you are under 55, you dream exclusively in color. However, people who watched primarily black and white television between the time they were 3-10 years old are more likely to experience their dreams in shades of gray than those who grew up with colored TV, according to a British researcher. The fact that TV color can affect dreams is odd, since everything in the real world was still in color.
Don't Go to Bed Hungry
Feeling hungry while you are asleep can decrease sleep quality and wake you up due to drops in blood sugar. You might even find yourself dreaming of a juicy burger or cupcake!
Try enjoying a light snack before bed like a banana, nuts or peanut butter and crackers to counter this effect. Skip fatty and spicy foods which may lead to indigestion.
Take Dream-Enhancing Supplements
Taking your vitamins is a good thing for most people; however, Vitamin B6 supplements have been linked to an increase in lucid dreams in several anecdotal accounts and in one study.
Other studies found that the herb calea zacatechichi heightens dream vividness during non-REM sleep and increases chances of lucid dreams, but also decreases deep-slow wave sleep.
Other supplements like vinpocetine, galantamine, and choline have also been reported to induce more vivid and lucid dreams, and some people actually use them specifically to affect dreams.
Cutting back or stopping them altogether can reduce the effects if it bothers you. (Remember, always talk with your doc before taking new supplements.)
Sleep With Soothing Smells & Sounds
When you're snoozing, strong smells like brewing coffee or breakfast may subconsciously creep into your dreams.
One study found that rose smells can induce positive dreams while sulphur smells induce negativity. Though you may not dream directly of flowers when smelling roses, your memory's association with a scent can have an influence.
Sounds that are loud enough to hear but not too loud to wake you can also become part of your dreams. For example, have you ever found that the sounds on the TV were happening in your dreams, or incorporated your alarm clock into a snooze?
Hack your dreams by surrounding yourself with pleasant aromas like lavender or lilac, and with pleasant sounds like ocean waves. Since environmental cues can affect dreams, a comfortable mattress and cool temperatures may also help.
Eat Caffeine and Spicy Foods
Caffeine can overstimulate you and spicy foods can contribute to indigestion, both reducing how deeply you sleep and increasing the number of times you wake during the night.
A side effect of this is that they may also make you more likely to remember your dreams. Whether experiencing a nightmare or other dream state, if you wake up within a five minute window following it you are more likely to remember the dream.
Deal With Daytime Stress
Trying to avoid something or someone during the day, or to suppress a thought? This can lead to dreams that focus on that problem during the night, according to both Sigmund Freud and studies from Australian and German universities.
Whether it is a job deadline, concerns over physical appearance or relationship issues, attempts at suppressing the issue often make it front and center during sleep. Tackle your issues during the day or consider journaling at night to clear your mind.
Sleep is a science that we are just beginning to understanding, and not much is known yet about why or even how dreams exist. These discoveries indicate that we may be more in control of dreams than we once thought, and if you are plagued by bad or frightening dreams, there are some things you can do.
Perhaps the best way to hack your dreams is to practice healthy sleep habits and surround yourself with positive, happy thoughts before bed for sweeter sleep.
This article originally appeared on the Amerisleep blog.
Rosie Osmun is the Creative Content Manager at Amerisleep, a progressive memory foam mattress brand focused on eco-friendly sleep solutions. Rosie writes more posts on the Amerisleep blog about the science of sleep, eco-friendly living, leading a healthy lifestyle and more.
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