How to not dream so much when I go to bed?
July 11, 2010 9:22 PM   Subscribe

How to not dream so much when I go to bed?

Whenever I sleep, I'll start to dream all the way till I'm awake in the morning. Even if i wake up in the middle of the night to pee, when I just get back to my bed and start dozing off, I'll start dreaming. As a person, I think a lot. I think most of the time. I think of anything. Most of the time its just stupid stuff that I think of.

Some people said that dreaming means that you are sleeping soundly and all. For me, I feel that my brain isn't shut down yet when I sleep. It just keeps on running that's why I dream so much. I always feel sluggish and not fresh when I'm awake.

Once a while, if I am really really tired, I won't dream when I go to bed and I'll be fresh when I'm awake.

I've been given advice to not to use computers or watch tv 1 -2 hours before I go to bed so that I would get a better sleep. Somehow, it still doesn't really work.

So here I am seeking advice from anyone that has knowledge about the situation that I'm in. How do I promote a better sleep each night?

Thank you in advance.
posted by red_rika to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you aren't reaching the deepest stage of sleep which is usually dreamless.

Maybe earplugs? Blotting out even the faintest background noise helps me a lot. Also, keep your room cooler than you normally would.
posted by hermitosis at 9:24 PM on July 11, 2010

Some people said that dreaming means that you are sleeping soundly and all. For me, I feel that my brain isn't shut down yet when I sleep. It just keeps on running that's why I dream so much. I always feel sluggish and not fresh when I'm awake.

This isn't, to my knowledge, true. In fact, from what I recall reading about dream states years ago, the human body needs R.E.M. sleep, which is when dreams occur. If you wake a person up randomly in their sleep cycle repeatedly, they'll eventually start going directly into R.E.M. sleep--because their bodies need it!

Truth be told, what's probably happening is that you're not sleeping long enough, or waking up repeatedly in the middle of your sleep cycle, which is when dreams occur. You're much more likely to remember dreams if you wake up directly out of R.E.M. sleep. You're also much more likely to feel tired, because your sleep cycle isn't finished yet. My advice would be to focus on getting more sleep, and judge your restfulness based on how you actually feel in the morning--not whether you're dreaming or not.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:26 PM on July 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Are you on any sort of medication? SSRIs, for example, cause vivid dreaming. When I'm taking one I feel like I have dreams all night. They're always of the mundane sort, such as being about work or school. Sometimes I have trouble in the morning differentiating what was a dream and what actually happened.
posted by lizjohn at 9:46 PM on July 11, 2010

You should probably check in with your doctor, discuss your medications and your sleep issues, and see what he or she recommends. You might need a medication change if you're on something that messes with your sleep cycle, or you may need a sleep study to check for apnea or other sleep disorders.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:47 PM on July 11, 2010

I have noticed that I don't dream as much when I'm sleeping alone as I do when I'm sleeping with my boyfriend. The main difference is that I sleep much more soundly (don't wake up as much) when I'm by myself. Try to isolate yourself as much as possible from things that could be triggering you to wake up throughout the night: earplugs, a dark room, temperature cool enough that you can be cozy in a blanket, etc.

If you're still having problems with the crazy dreaming, go to a doctor. S/he will likely have you do a sleep study to check for apnea or any other issue affecting your sleep. You may just have a vivid imagination even while resting, but it's possible that your dreaming may be symptomatic of some larger health issue. Better safe than sorry; see a doc.
posted by phunniemee at 10:02 PM on July 11, 2010

I think PhoBWanKenobi answered your question quite well, and there's just a few things I can add from personal experience that may or may not help. First, dreaming is definitely vital to your mental health. People can actually die from lack of REM sleep specifically, not just sleep, period. I wish I had the citation for you, but I can't even begin to imagine the name/authors of the study I read on this.

However, I can understand the feeling of "I haven't really rested because I still was doing stuff all night even though I wasn't...." It has happened to me occasionally, after dreams that were extremely lucid/vivid, and particularly if they were of a disturbing nature. You don't mention nightmares specifically as being a problem, but I just want to let you know you're not alone or "crazy" here.

I think PhoB is right on in that you may not necessarily dream more than other people, but you remember them more because somehow your sleep cycle is being interrupted so that you do remember them. There are quite a few things you can experiment with to try and correct this, and if none of it works, I would second fairytale of LA that a doctor visit wouldn't be a bad idea.

*Temperature/light/sound situation? If you're in a loudish building and/or neighborhood, it can get to the point where you get used to the noise enough to fall asleep, but not enough to really get the full, restful cycle. Same with light coming in through windows. Earplugs or one of those sleep masks might be all you need.
*Changing bedtime hour? If you're tired in the daytime, maybe just getting to bad an hour earlier can help.
*Drinking/drugs? This can seriously mess with your sleep cycles (and dreams), and not just that same night, either.
*A significant other who sleeps in the same bed with you can also be a real pain in the ass, to put it bluntly. If that is the case, maybe try separate sleeping arrangements temporarily.
*This is kind of a long shot, but my mother swears by it and she's a pretty cool lady. She says sleeping on her back gives her all sorts of weird dreams, many of which are not pleasant. Personally, I have found that pretty much every time I wake up from some icky-ish dream, I am indeed on my back.

Good luck to you! Chronic tiredness is NOT a fun way to spend one's days, and I really hope you find a good solution.
posted by deep thought sunstar at 10:10 PM on July 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

In addition to other good advice here, I say definitely do not have any stimulants after noon. No coffee, no tea, no chocolate, no sudafed decongestants, nada. Foods containing tyramine may also have a slightly stimulating effect, if you're really sensitive to it. When I was younger, like 17 or 18, I seemed to be able to get away with having caffeine late in the day and then sleeping. Now, however, if I have any caffeine in the afternoon, I experience very similar sleep patterns to what you're describing.

Do you have high anxiety? You're describing stuff that sounds sort of like racing thoughts. So this one time when I was having really terrible anxiety, I had a lot of trouble sleeping, and it just kept getting worse until I finally didn't, couldn't sleep for about a week. The results were not pleasant, and set my academic career back by about five years.

Since then, I've taken sleep problems very, very seriously. Please do see a doctor and explain that this is seriously troubling you and you need help with it.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 10:19 PM on July 11, 2010

I'd like to agree with most the things said here already, but from my memory it isn't REM sleep that particularly rests and replenishes you so much as it is deep dreamless sleep. Not that it isnt necessary or helpful, but just that it isnt as restful as deep sleep.

For me, I feel that my brain isn't shut down yet when I sleep. It just keeps on running that's why I dream so much.

I would definitely agree with this. I think on overactive mind has a lot to do with your dreaming and the dreaming is what creates the lack of good restful sleep. I think this is where the no t.v./books idea comes from, but maybe this alone just isn't enough for you. All I know is that since I have started meditating and doing yoga daily I have been having much more restful deep dreamless sleep - and have also needed much less sleep to feel completely rested because of it. Maybe try (for a couple of weeks) doing a short 5 - 10 minute meditation right before you go to bed to help calm your overactive mind a bit. Find a good teacher and a technique that you like and are comfortable with. Or try something simple like focusing on your breath or humming a deep 'hoooo' sound (like an owl, but long deep and continuous) and concentrate on the sound of the humming. If thoughts enter your mind, allow them, then let them leave just as quickly as they have entered without judging or criticizing them, then get back to focusing on the breath or humming. I've found these techniques really helpful for me. But if you do try it, give it just a little bit of time to start helping before you 'can' it, meditation doesnt come overnight or in one sitting.

Good luck! and happy resting!
posted by Arlecchino at 11:03 PM on July 11, 2010

Exercise. Nothing makes me sleep soundly more than exercise, swimming in particular.
posted by new brand day at 3:34 AM on July 12, 2010

There are a lot of good suggestions on here. But I wanted to clarify one thing. I have a sleep disorder called Hypersomnolence (which pretty much translates to very tired all the time). The main cause of this is my lower then normal levels of REM sleep. I get too much deep sleep according the the sleep studies I have done. REM sleep is the sleep which refreshes you the most says the sleep doctor (which seems backward to me, since you feel more "active" during this stage). Therefore, if you are getting a lot of REM sleep this is a good thing.
Dreams actually last only a very short time (less than 1 minute). It is more likely that you are remembering them better than you have before.
Dreams also occur around times of wakefulness (right when going to sleep, right before waking up, etc.). If you are being disturbed in your sleep or wake up to use the bathroom often, you will experience more dreams than normal.
On the up side: dreaming is extremely important for our mental functioning. It helps us to solidify memories from the day before, helping our memory develop.
But since it is something that is causing you discomfort, I would highly recommend you getting a referral to a sleep doctor (I have been to 2 sleep studies, so if you wanted to learn more about what to expect mefi me.)
posted by angelaas525 at 5:12 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do you take any vitamins? I have found when I take B vitamins, whether by themselves or in a multivitamin, on a regular basis, that I have lots of vivid dreams that sometimes disturb my sleep.
posted by unannihilated at 6:05 AM on July 12, 2010

If you are waking up sluggish and unrested, perhaps the fact that you remember the dreams is really evidence of the real problem, i.e., that you aren't sleeping properly.

Remember, you are asleep when you dream. You may only remember the dreams from a portion of your sleep time. I remember dreams from early morning, when the sun comes up, the birds sing, cars start, etc., all things which rouse me from deeper sleep.

Don't take your problems to bed. Don't put your head on the pillow and then try to resolve every one of life's problems. Don't second guess what you did that day and don't plan tomorow. Just stop thinking. From your post, that may take some practice, but it will pay benefits.

Wind down the last hour or so before bedtime. Your brain expects it to be dark then, so don't keep your place lit up lke a shopping mall until a minute before bedtime. Don't snack just before bedtime.

Make sure the room you sleep in has a comfortable temperature. Make sure some recurring noise isn't disturbing your sleep throughout the night. For example, the sound of my AC or heat coming on disturbs my sleep, so I shut if off at night. It doesn't wake me, it just disturbs my sleep and I wake up feeling tired and grumpy.
posted by justcorbly at 7:28 AM on July 12, 2010

Thank you very much for all the repliles.. Just for your info, I don't take vitamins or alcohol or drugs. And my sleeping environment is pretty quiet and dark.. so yeah .. and 99% of the time I don't wake up in the night. Is that normal? Cause i used to wake up when I was younger.

I guess I will start to do some meditation 10-15 minutes before I sleep.

I admit that I have racing thoughts all the time and I believe that leads to me dreaming non stop as my brain is still active.

I must also admit that it sucks having chronic tiredness due to lack of good sleep and besides that I do also have a chronic back and neck ache where my bones are not 100% in its natural alignment. However, I always tell myself there's like 1 billionnnnn or more people who are worse than I am.

Thank you everyone!
posted by red_rika at 8:21 AM on July 12, 2010

Made of star stuff already mentioned this, but to reiterate: How much caffeine to you take in, and when? Afternoon or evening caffeine could make a big difference.
posted by umbĂș at 8:26 AM on July 12, 2010

I admit that I have racing thoughts all the time and I believe that leads to me dreaming non stop as my brain is still active.

Potentially stupid arm chair doctor thought: Are you bipolar? Or something similar, though I'm not sure what that is. Might be worth mentioning that aspect of this to a doctor or three and see what they say.
posted by new brand day at 8:30 AM on July 12, 2010

I don't take caffeine or smoke anymore these days. It had been like ages since i took caffeine and I didn't smoke for more than 2 weeks. I stopped because I was down with a sore throat and took the opportunity to quit.

And caffeine cause its a bit too hot and uncomfortable for me to drink coffee in my country (Malaysia) as the weather is a bit hot. I used to drink like 1 cup of coffee a day in the last 3 years when I was studying in Melbourne, australia.
posted by red_rika at 8:31 AM on July 12, 2010

I admit that I have racing thoughts all the time and I believe that leads to me dreaming non stop as my brain is still active.

I must also admit that it sucks having chronic tiredness due to lack of good sleep and besides that I do also have a chronic back and neck ache where my bones are not 100% in its natural alignment. However, I always tell myself there's like 1 billionnnnn or more people who are worse than I am.

It sounds to me like the real issue might be one of anxiety, not of a sleep problem--the racing thoughts and fixation on dreaming as the source of your problems isn't healthy, and you might consider talking to a counselor. Again, it's nigh-on impossible that you're "dreaming non stop" (that's not how the body works), even if it seems like that's the case--and in any event, REM sleep is just as integral as deep sleep to feeling well-rested. You might want to read up on sleep cycles for more information.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:34 AM on July 12, 2010

You could also check to see if you have sleep apnea or another sleep disorder, which leads to you waking up, or almost waking up, enough to interrupt your sleep, preventing you from getting enough sleep even though you're dropping into REM. You might not have many of the usual symptoms of sleep apnea, but I think it can occur in their absence.

Worth going in to a doctor to ask about, I'd think.
posted by telophase at 10:55 AM on July 12, 2010

However, I always tell myself there's like 1 billionnnnn or more people who are worse than I am.

Which may be a reason to not whine or complain, but is *definitely* not a reason to not seek help for yourself! Don't every single one of those people who are worse off than you are deserve better? Don't *you* deserve better? You do!

If you're in chronic pain, too, it's no wonder you have so much trouble getting restful sleep. The lack of restful sleep could be causing some of the pain, or the pain could be contributing to the lack of sleep, and both can also be affected by the anxiety that we have hesitantly internet-diagnosed you with. Either way, get thee to a doctor who will take you seriously, my dear! You could be on the verge of developing much more serious problems, but if you can act now to change it, then you won't ever have to be one of those billion people who are worse off than you.

It's okay to take care of yourself! You won't be taking anything from anybody else if you do!
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 2:29 PM on July 12, 2010

A few years ago I did a sleep study. They said it was rare to see cycles as "perfect" as mine, which actually kind of sucked because it didn't explain why I wasn't able to sleep. But's a link to the chart that resulted.

Anyway, you see the red areas? Those are when I was in REM sleep. A completely normal cycle of REM and standard sleep exchanges. To the left of the first one you can see how it's all jagged? That's when I was getting settled in and falling asleep.

Long story short, too much dreaming can be an indicator of you not getting deep enough sleep to go beyond REM.

But the only way to find out is a sleep study.
posted by carlh at 5:03 PM on July 12, 2010

Red Rika, I totally get what you mean.

Look up REM and Depression.
More REM sleep, and disordered REM sleep, is highly correlated with depression - and precedes the onset of depressive symptoms.

More daytime 'worrying' can also lead to more REM sleep. Imagine dreams as your brains way of trying to 'close loops'. Accomplish the things it was worrying about that day. That's why, strange dreams may appear to be random, but the emotions they evoke can feel very familiar?

Things that I've found that help...
Write down anything 'running around in your mind'. Eg write it down on a to-do list, schedule a time on your calender for you to sit and worry - er, brainstorm - about it. This just reassures your brain that you aren't going to forget it, and that it has been dealt with in some way.

Have a hot shower before bed. A very hot shower, and immediately dry yourself and go to bed. The sudden drop in body temperature induces sleepiness, while the elevated body temperature from either the shower, or vigorous exercise earlier in the day (no more than a few hours before bed), leads to deeper sleep.

Breathing - make sure room is well ventilated, cool, and that if you have any breathing problems, you have dealt with them. Eg take hayfever/anti-histamine medication before you sleep, not when you wake up. Put your pillows sheets etc through a hot dryer if you have any reactions to dust mites.

Try listening to meditation tracks before bed. has some free samples.

Jump out of bed in the morning and don't try to remember your dreams. It just encourages them, and over time, I've figured out that that isn't helpful for me. Get outside, get exercise, all the things that kick your body into appropriate routines. And even if you are tired, try not to go beyond 9 hours sleep. I think that just makes it worse.

Good luck!
posted by Elysum at 3:02 AM on July 17, 2010

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