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Do you dream when you sleep?

July 2019

It’s a question I ask every one of my clients, do you dream when you sleep? I’m not seeking you to remember your dreams and recite them back to me, but it tells me a lot about the quality of sleep you’re getting.

Sleep is absolutely essential to the body, both physically and mentally. Just ask a new mum how much she misses sleep. But beyond feeling energized sleep has important functions on a physiological level.

Health benefits of sleep

– memories are filed and stored
– growth hormone secretion; which supports tissues repair, muscle building, normalise blood sugar regulation and more.
– it acts as an antioxidant for the brain, free radicals that can damage the neurons of the brain are not present
– may support weight loss; those that have interrupted sleep have night time elevations of cortisol
– supports the immune system
– a time for your body to heal

Normal Sleep Patterns

Now if you have kids, you may already know this, but there are two types of sleep: REM (rapid eye movement) and Non-REM. Whilst you may keep track of your kids sleep patterns, the same applies to you as an adult.

Non-REM is divided into four stages and is defined by EEG activity (electroencephalography activity or much easier to remember and pronounce; brain activity) and ease of arousal. As sleep progresses through the stages, it deepens and brain activity slows. REM sleep would be considered stage 5, and this is when brain activity suddenly spikes up (which is why the eyes move during this stage, rapid, heavy breathing occurs, heart rate increases, creepy right?).

REM sleep is when dreaming takes place. It is also when the deepest sleep takes place, your body in a paralysis-like state. Again, thinking about kids, an example of this paralysis-like state in REM sleep is when you can’t rouse them and they can be carried from a car to bed and they have no recollection of it happening when they wake. Personally, as a kid I would pretend I was in this sleep stage just so my parents had to carry me (success rate of about 25%).

Importance of Dreams

When I say the importance of dreams, I don’t mean the actual content of your dreams. I mean, the importance of reaching that REM stage so you dream. The most important factor of dreaming, is on mental health. There was some research conducted on people who were awakened right before they hit REM stage, and then allowed to go back to sleep. They found that those that were woken reported more irritability, anxiety and appetite.

How much sleep you need varies from person to person, and one stage of life to another (ie; babies vs. adults). But what all research points to is the importance of sleep, and going through the full sleep cycle each night.

If you’re experiencing trouble sleeping, it may be helpful to speak to someone if you’re experiencing a time of greater stress, anxiety or depression. If you’re not, it can be linked to the food you’re eating and how your body is reacts/responds to the food.

Until next time… x



Written by Jessica Worth, Nutritionist, Sydney, Northern Beaches, Mona Vale


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