6 Things causing you to have weird dreams

October 7, 2020 5 mins read
6 Things causing you to have weird dreams

Do you have weird dreams? We’ve long outgrown our fear of the dark (well, some of us, anyway), so why are we still haunted by nerve-wracking nightmares or just plain weird dreams?

It’s true; our dreams may sometimes feel like a scene from Alice in Wonderland where rules and order don’t exist. But is our mind really that busy concocting random stories, or is there some method to this deep-sleep mad-hatter madness?

Let’s explore why your weird dreams probably don’t come out of the blue, and why your before-bed habits could be causing you to wake up a little perplexed.

What are examples of vivid dreams?

Do your dreams transport you to your happy place, only to leave you in your birthday suit? Or are your dreams waking you mid-mouthful only to realise you’ve lost your teeth? These weird dreams are more common than you think and are all connected to our subconscious mind. (And sometimes our food cravings).

During sleep (specifically in rapid eye movement sleep), your brain is sorting and solving your daily thoughts, memories and problems. It’s processing that information by determining what’s important, what’s not, and figuring out what to store or discard.

Cue the role of (weird) dreams. Sometimes these thoughts, memories and problems get wrapped up in mixed narratives which process the emotions of our waking life, leaving them to be interpreted into our dreams…

For example, if you dream of finding money this could symbolise that you’re worried about money. Of course, your dreams could borrow other subconscious scenarios and leave you naked at the same time.

But why am I having these dreams?

6 Reasons why you have weird dreams

There are many causes of weird dreams, some of which we have no control over. If you’re having any genre of mysterious dreams, these could be a starting point in figuring out what’s taking your mind into this strange land.

1. Eating certain foods

Step away from the pad-thai. Certain foods could be playing a role in your sleeping patterns as well as your dream psychology. Spicy foods, in particular, have a higher rate on the weird dream Richter scale. Fiery foods can raise your body temperature during sleep, causing your sleep state to be interrupted and inexplicably bring on vivid dreams.

2. Watching TV before bed

You may think that a little binge-watch before bed could be a soothing recipe for sleep. But exposing yourself to any emotional (or strong character) narratives could give your mind something to think about as you drift off, often reinterpreted (in some weird form) in your dreams.

3. Dealing with stress

Our minds are incredibly powerful, even more so when it comes to dumping our stress out into our dreams. If you wake up after some strange storyline unfolded in your dreams, or suffer from frequent nightmares, it might be time to check your stress.

Suppose you’re suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety or purely deadline-driven stress. In that case, it might be time to integrate a relaxation technique before bed to keep the boogeyman out of your dreams.

4. Sleep disorders

It’s okay to blame your genetics for your weird dreams. If you have sleep apnea, insomnia or narcolepsy, these sleep disorders (amongst others) could be causing you to have wacky dreams. Although not all sleep disorders are genetic (as some are brought on by a run-down lifestyle) most of these sleep disruptors can have various effects on our dreams.

If you’re suffering from frequent bouts of nightmares or disturbing dreams, you should chat to your GP who will be able to assist you in getting back to a more enjoyable dream state.

5. Sleep deprivation

Life happens. We get it. But when you’re sleep-deprived, there’s a higher chance that you’ll experience a more intense dose of weird dreams. When you’re overly tired and eventually get that much-needed shut-eye, you could experience REM rebound. This means that your body will slip straight into REM sleep (skipping the restorative sleep stages) and bring on more intense dreams.

6. Medication

Did you know that certain drugs can affect the vividness of your dreams? Medications like antidepressants, beta-blockers (treatment for high blood pressure) and medicines for Parkinson’s disease can increase the weirdness of your dreams. But not only can administering these drugs be a dream invader, changing medication or stopping medication can have this effect too.

If you’re experiencing unusual sleep patterns whilst you’re on any medication, again, chat to your GP who should be able to help.

Is it normal to have vivid dreams every night?

Every night, no. Occasionally, yes. We typically have several REM dreams per night as our dreams (or rather the sleep leading up to our dreams) helps regulate our mood, performance and cognitive functioning. Some even say that our dreams act as a defence mechanism for our mental wellbeing, by giving us simulated experiences to work through our fears and to rehearse for stressful real-life events.

But, if your dreams are feeling a little more weird and frequent than usual, identifying the root cause is always a good place to start. As we’ve explored, many factors could cause weird dreams, but if these aren’t ticking any boxes, your GP should be able to assist.

In most cases, weird dreams will go away on their own. Keeping up a healthy sleep routine, and knowing when to say no to your latest binge-watch can help keep the weirdness away.