Do vivid dreams tire you? Here’s how to stop them (or deal with them)

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In this week’s Sleep Diaries, a 27-year-old business founder discovers a technique she can use to master her vivid dreams.

About me:

Age: 27

Occupation: founder of two companies

Number of hours of sleep you get each night: I get about 8-8.5 hours each night. We no longer set alarms unless we have to wake up abnormally early, so that’s every time I wake up!

Number of hours of sleep you would like to have each night: 8-8.5 hours. I’m happy with the number of hours I get, but more interested in the quality!

Cringe your teeth/have nightmares: I have a LOT of very vivid dreams. Because they look very real, I don’t wake up feeling refreshed or even rested on nights when I have a lot of them. I feel like my brain is still working while I sleep and I may wake up tired. Sometimes they’re mundane, everyday things, sometimes they’re good, and sometimes they’re anxiety-inducing. I often wake up feeling the emotions I feel in the dream and it is hard to change. Most of the time, I even know I’m in a dream, but I can’t wake up! I’ve also noticed that if I’m stressed, I have more vivid dreams.

How much water do you drink on average per day: including herbal teas, about 2 liters on average.

How much caffeine do you drink on average per day: not much – I don’t drink caffeinated coffee or tea, but I drink a very small soda (150ml) maybe 2-3 times a week.

How much exercise do you do on average per week: not enough! I currently average 8-10,000 steps a day and urgently need to get back to the gym.

Day 1

It’s Saturday and we’re going out tonight. Today I met a friend for brunch, I stayed home in the afternoon to catch up on work and personal life, and tonight we are going to a comedy show.

I have a drink (rum + ginger beer) at the theater and afterwards, as it’s late and few restaurants are still taking tables, I head to Nandos for a bite to eat before heading home. I have a chicken burger and fries, with a little coke.

We get home around 11 p.m., watch a little TV and go to bed at 11:30 p.m. It’s been a nice weekend so far, so I feel happy and relaxed.

My partner and I always fall asleep by putting on an old episode and falling asleep. I know this goes against the usual rule of tech-free sleep hygiene, but it really helps me disconnect from the outside world and keep my brain from overthinking. Tonight I put on an old episode of Office US and fall asleep in about 10 minutes.

Theater seats
“Today I met a friend for brunch, I stayed home in the afternoon to catch up on my work and personal life, and tonight we’re going to a comedy show.”

Day 2

I sleep through the night and wake up naturally at 8:30. I didn’t have any vivid dreams last night, which is great, so I woke up feeling rested. I have yoghurt (lactose free), granola and strawberries for breakfast, around 10am.

It’s Sunday and it’s a bit of a lazy day for me, going around the house, catching up on work (I run my own business, so my working hours are everywhere, and although I can work weekends- end, I also took the last Monday and Friday off for no real reason!) and watch TV/read.

I have leftover Indian food for dinner around 8:30pm and since it’s a Sunday we try to have an early night by going to bed around 9:45pm and reading for about 40 minutes. When I’m sleepy, I put on an old episode of The Office US and I fall asleep in 5 minutes.

Day 3

I wake up quite sleepy today, so when I naturally wake up at 6:50am, I tell myself I’m going to close my eyes for another 10-15 minutes and wake up at 7am. However, when I open my eyes, it’s 7:50 am, so I probably need an extra hour.

I had a lot of vivid dreams last night so it takes me a while to wake up and stop thinking about it. They’re about everyday stuff (not magic/what you usually think of dreams in any way) so it’s hard to ignore them. It takes me a long time to feel wide awake, but I go straight to my home office and start by scrolling the internet to help me wake up, then immediately go to work.

We have lasagna, fries (air fries) and salad for dinner around 8pm, after hitting the gym and doing a 30 minute run on the treadmill and some leg exercises. I shower, wash my hair, do my skincare routine, and we’re in bed by 9:30 p.m. We read for 30 to 45 minutes and I sleep at 11 p.m.

Woman reading in bed
“I shower, wash my hair, do my skincare routine and we’re in bed by 9:30 p.m. We read for 30 to 45 minutes and I sleep at 11 p.m.

Day 4

I wake up naturally feeling refreshed at 7:15. I’m going to the office today, so I’m doing a bit of house admin and getting ready before heading to the post office and reaching my desk at 9am. I skip breakfast and don’t eat until lunch at 12:30.

I get home around 7:45 after having walked halfway to do my steps (and take the bus the rest of the way) and order Deliveroo (vegetarian burrito with guacamole) because I’m tired after a day at the office. I feel like I had a lot of energy today, which is amazing.

I go to bed around 10:30 p.m. but I really have trouble falling asleep. My boyfriend has a cold and doesn’t sleep well, gets up in the middle of the night to take medicine. In turn, I don’t sleep very well either, I wake up often and have very vivid dreams.

Since I don’t sleep well and my dreams are about everyday things, it’s hard to differentiate my dreams from reality, so even though I feel like my boyfriend got up 5-6 times in the middle of the night, it is more likely that there are only two.

Day 5

I wake up at 8:45 a.m. feeling exhausted and not well rested at all. However, I force myself out of bed and head to my office at 9am to start work. I have a yogurt (lactose free) and a granola for breakfast at 9:45.

At lunchtime we find out that my boyfriend actually has covid (do people even catch covid anymore? Ha) which explains the restless night. My test is negative, but I’m canceling my party plans just in case.

We have steak and beer pie with mash and veggies for dinner around 8pm before watching some Netflix and going to bed around 10pm after doing my nighttime skincare routine. We spend time on our phones chatting with an episode of The Office US playing in the background. I sleep before 11 p.m.

So what does this all mean? A sleep expert gives her opinion

Sleep expert and professional physiologist Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan says: “You have a good level of consciousness and good habits – you drink minimal caffeine, are fairly active and have an average hydration habit. I like that you don’t wake up with an alarm and listen to your body , but you may need to be aware that you’re sleeping too much Sleeping soundly after about 8 a.m. can cause some sleep inertia – sluggishness and lethargy caused by too much sleep in the morning.

“You have vivid dreams that you remember, and they are often related to mundane, everyday things. We dream for all kinds of reasons – to make sense of stressful events and emotions, to store the day’s information and creative dreams. I suspect you have all three types of dreams. Some of these problems may be caused by watching television in bed to fall asleep. I understand that you do this to distract your overly pensive mind, but I wonder if you can experiment with white noise?”

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan Stylist Sleep Expert
Sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

Dr Nerina continues: “It would also be helpful if you practiced some form of meditation or breathwork to help calm your mind at night. Doing some sort of brain dump before bed can also be helpful – in its simplest form, writing lists. You run two businesses, so your “musts” could be the source of some of these dreams.

“Capturing these dreams first thing in the morning in a journal can also be a very helpful practice – it will reduce their intensity and may even lead you to discover creative gems that might be lurking in your subconscious. I recommend Julia Cameron The artist’s path for tips on dream journaling through the Morning Pages writing process. Good luck!”

If you want to participate in Stylist‘s Sleep Diaries, please email [email protected] with your name, age and any sleep issues you are facing, using ‘SLEEP DIARIES’ as the subject. We look forward to hearing from you.

Principal Image Design: Ami O’Callaghan

Other images: Getty/Dr Nerina Ramlakhan


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