We spend about two hours per night dreaming. Many people don’t remember their dreams or have only a vague recollection of what took place. However, sometimes, you may wake up with clear memories of your dreams.
The content of a vivid dream can cause feelings of joy or comfort. You may even find yourself waking up wishing you could return to the dream. Vivid dreams may be fantastical, leaving you wondering how your brain could have conjured such a strange scenario. Vivid dreams can also be upsetting or disturbing, and in some cases may interfere with experiencing quality sleep.
The two main stages of sleep are rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep. Although dreaming can take place during both REM sleep and non-REM sleep, dreams experienced during REM sleep tend to be more vivid. Additionally, REM cycles are typically longer and deeper in the morning (towards the end of sleep).
Factors that may contribute to vivid dreaming:
Typically, vivid dreams are not a cause for concern. Although researchers don’t yet fully understand the specific function or meaning of dreams, some postulate that dreams are a natural part of emotional processing and memory formation.
Nightmares are vivid dreams with frightening or unsettling content. Many people experience occasional nightmares that resolve on their own. However, nightmare disorder is a sleep disorder in which nightmares interfere with one’s ability to get sufficient sleep. If you are experiencing sleep loss due to chronic nightmares, it is important to speak with your doctor.
Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the body which supports the sleep-wake cycle. There is conflicting data on the effects of melatonin supplements and dreams. It has been shown to reduce vivid dreams in certain sleep disturbances. For example, a study of individuals with REM sleep behavior disorder found melatonin supplements reduced frightening dreams and other symptoms.
In other scenarios, melatonin may increase REM sleep, and subsequently the chance to experience vivid dreams. Long term effects of melatonin use are unknown, so be sure to ask a doctor about whether it is safe and appropriate for you.