Social Media and Dreaming
September 5, 2019 2:03 AM   Subscribe

Why has cutting down on social media and general online time resulted in more dreaming?

For several reasons I've drastically cut down on social media use, and to some extent internet use in general. I'm happy with the decision and with the benefits I expected to see – more time in the day, less anxiety, probably my concentration improving, reading more. But an unexpected thing that's happened is that I'm dreaming a lot more – just 'ordinary' dreams when I'm sleeping. I used to be a dreamer and didn't really realise that they'd more or less gone until they came back. Insomnia never was a problem. I can't prove that it's as a result of less on-line time, but it happened at the same time. I'm possibly watching slightly more tv.
I quite like it and am not looking for a 'cure'. But I am curious. So does anyone know of any research that's been done on this? Or even your own theories/experiences (which might be different to mine).
posted by sianifach to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My personal theory is that dreaming is related to learning. For instance, if I'm studying a foreign language, I think I dream more. Maybe your extra reading and concentration is leading your brain to have more items it thinks worthy of moving into long term memory, and dreams help you do that.
posted by tofu_crouton at 5:39 AM on September 5, 2019

You dream every night, but something has changed that is making you remember your dreams more often.

I go through periods where I remember more or remember less. I tend to remember more when I'm well rested or when I wake up slowly. Has your changes in social media use had any effect on when you go to bed or fall asleep? (Like, you're no longer checking your phone in bed?) Or have you done something new with your morning routine? (Like, you're no longer using your phone alarm and so you're using something else?)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:48 AM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

My theory is that instead of constantly refreshing the page and looking for "new" information your brain has more time to relax and start sorting through "old" information. Because your conscious mind doesn't need to be so vigilant at processing content, your subconscious has the space to come alive as it's supposed to.
posted by winterportage at 6:29 AM on September 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

If you were using a backlit screen a lot, particularly at night, you may have altered the quality of your sleep by cutting down on your exposure to blue light.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:52 AM on September 5, 2019

I agree with winterportage. When you stop filling your brain with packing peanuts, you stop drowning out your subconscious and start dreaming more.
posted by dianeF at 8:03 AM on September 5, 2019

Everyone dreams when they enter the stage of deepest sleep. You might be achieving more of the deeper state of sleep that allows for dreams now that you feel less anxiety and feel like you're in a better mental state. Also, if cutting out social media has reduced phone/screen usage in bed, that might be allowing you to sleep better due to just better "sleep hygiene."
posted by AppleTurnover at 2:38 PM on September 5, 2019

I had more memorable and interesting dreams (and a few lucid dreams too) when I was practicing mindfulness meditation every day. Something about taking the time to slow my brain down primed me to remember dreams too. Brains are funny.
posted by potrzebie at 9:54 PM on September 5, 2019

I agree with Kutsuwamushi "...well rested or when I wake up slowly". I sit in front of a computer almost all day, not so much social media as random browsing and MeFi and TV. The thing I think started kicking off the dreams (or just dream recall) was waking up slowly without an alarm. You just drift back into consciousness and realize you're awake and thinking something weird and have the time to lay there and go back to try and piece together what have you been thinking about before you 'woke up' before you have to get out of bed.

Being old (well ~50) and slipping into a easy "when tired sleep" sort of routine, and waking up pretty damn regular and easy... That has made the remembering dreams be so much more of a thing.

I'm pretty big on the idea of sleep cycles and that waking up when you're at the end of one and almost awake anyway vs having an alarm jar you out of sleep right in the middle of going down or in the midst of REM sleep is a key factor.

I personally don't fit into the media / screen time / etc. that much. For me, it's more in the having enough sleep and waking up at the right time in the right frame of mind to be able to remember the dreams that are always there.
posted by zengargoyle at 4:50 AM on September 6, 2019

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