We’ve long known dreams and creativity are connected: Both Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Salvador Dali’s melting clocks were inspired by dreams. Thanks to brain-imaging technology,we now know why. “During REM sleep, the part of the brain responsible for logic and reason, the frontal lobe, doesn’t fully regulate the amygdala, the part of the brain that governs emotion, the way it does in waking life,” says Dr. Joseph De Koninck, director of the Sleep Laboratory at the University of Ottawa. “Images and thoughts become linked in new and vivid ways.” Here’s what else:
Dreams help you learn: De Koninck’s research shows that language mastery is enhanced after REM sleep, and dreams reflect that. “As people learn more, they start to dream in the new language,” he says.
Nightmares are extreme versions of regular dreams: “In nightmares, the amygdala, which produces feelings of fear, and the frontal lobe are less connected than during pleasant dreams,” says De Koninck.
You can improve dreams: “Write down a nightmare, then rewrite a new scenario,” De Koninck says. “People who want more pleasant, or even lucid, dreams can also try ‘pre-dream suggestion’ by meditating on what they want to dream about before falling asleep.”Related:
How to fall asleep in 10 minutes (or less)
Which material makes the best pajamas?
3 signs you have insomnia