Our understanding of how dreaming works has come a very long way since scientists first began studying sleep. However, how to improve sleep and thereby improve quality of life is a topic still widely debated and researched today. We know that spicy foods can influence your dreams, but can your mattress do the same?
Related Blog: 4 Things That Our Dreams Tell Us about Ourselves
While dreaming can happen during any stage of a normal sleep cycle, the most vivid deep dreams occur during the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase. Not only is REM sleep your dream space where your brain can explore endless, creative ideas, but it is also the stage your brain needs in order to reboot and perform at its peak the next day.
People who remark that they 'never dream' are often the people who usually describe themselves as 'restless' sleepers. If you are sleeping on an uncomfortable mattress, or in a bad position, the consequences can be greater than an achy back the next day.
Consistent, restless sleep affects your dreams and cognitive performance. Below are two main reasons you might be having trouble getting that REM sleep: Mattress Discomfort and Sleeping Position.
How Mattress Discomfort Affects Deep Sleep
Discomfort in any part of the body can have a significant impact on your ability to sleep and reach the REM cycle (where you dream). This physical discomfort can lead to less REM sleep on a regular basis, which affects your overall health. What factors can make a mattress uncomfortable?
When heading to bed, your body will naturally cool down, and slow down all the functions in your body. This is why it feels so cold when you first wake up- your body has reached the optimal sleep temperature, which is lower than everyday, active body temperature.
To trigger sleep faster, you want your mattress to keep you cool without making you feel chilly. If your mattress retains a lot of heat, not only will you feel hot and less relaxed, you will also sweat more, which causes a buildup of sweat and dead skin on your mattress and sheets.
Older mattresses might have worn spots or rips, which can cause skin irritation, itchiness, or simply distract your body from being able to relax. Similarly, a lumpy mattress or mattress with dips/slopes can hit all the wrong pressure points. Waking up every day with the same pain in the same spot is usually a sign of this problem.
But these physical issues aren't limited to morning discoveries. Physical discomfort can keep you from sleeping, or reaching a state of deep sleep. It can also interrupt sleep. Lumps or dips can cause pain and soreness that seeps into your dreams, and your brain might create situations in which you are fleeing painful or traumatic events, causing you to wake up in the middle of REM. We talk more about interrupted REM here!
Sleeping Position and Dreams
A study conducted at Hong Kong Shue Yan University found a distinct correlation between sleep position and what happened in the participants' dreams. The study suggested that sleeping on your left side might lead to more nightmares, while sleeping on your right side might lead to more peaceful, serene dreams.
The least common position according to the study, the stomach, actually affected the intensity of their dreams, seeming to lead to scarier, stranger, or more romantic dreams.
Regardless of how you sleep, your spine and muscles will adjust accordingly. Here are a few principles to keep in mind:
- Keep your spine straight: If you fall asleep with your spine twisted slightly, it will lead to back pain.
- Avoid leaving weight on your joints: Don't let your dog fall asleep on your legs, or you will end up with knee pain. Likewise, don't sleep with an arm or hand curled underneath you.
- Keep your hands open: Finally, since we all spend more time than we'd like to admit typing away at a keyboard, give your fingers, knuckles and wrists a chance to rest by keeping them open. Falling asleep with tight fists can trigger nightmares, and cause incredible pain in the hands.
If you find your mattress uncomfortable or you can’t get that great night of sleep that you need, it might be time for a new one. Contact us today, or visit one of our two Sarasota and Bradenton locations to sleep on a new mattress tonight!