Having an occasional strange dream isn’t unusual—but sometimes they can border on a nightmare, resulting in stress and lost sleep. If that sounds familiar, you’re not alone: More than 50 percent of adults have nightmares or intense visions at night. The latter are known as lucid dreams, and can be so vivid that you wake up certain they really happened. They go beyond run-of-the mill stressful dreams (like the ones where you’re running late for an important meeting and all the doors are locked, or you show up at a party only to realize you’re not wearing any clothes). Lucid dreams can feel incredibly real and may leave you shaken as a result. Understand more about this kind of dream and learn tips for better sleep—fast.
Lucid dreaming may be associated with narcolepsy, a clinical sleep disorder that causes people to fall asleep quickly at any point during the day. Many people with this condition report having extremely vivid, strange dreams that feel true to real life.
The reason behind vivid night dreams in those with narcolepsy may be related to the stage of sleep called REM, or rapid-eye movement. A person with narcolepsy often enters this deep dream stage very quickly, which means he or she has the chance to experience a vivid dream in a short amount of time.
Although you can’t control vivid dreams, you can take steps to reduce the likelihood of them occurring. For instance, not getting enough sleep may increase the risk of having nightmares, so be sure to tuck in at a reasonable hour and keep your room cool and dark. Following a regular sleep routine is also an easy way to lower the chances of vivid dreams at night.
While there’s no cure for narcolepsy and you can’t prevent every lucid dream from disturbing your slumber, there are ways to improve the sleep you’re getting. Consider taking a daily nap, fitting regular exercise into your routine, and avoiding sleep-disrupting nicotine and alcohol.
If none of these lifestyle changes seem to help, talk with your doctor about your experience to see if there are other medical ways to handle it.