Many a time we’ve woken up without remembering our dreams from the night before. However, we may recall small slivers of them, or perhaps their general aura. They're usually pretty weird; we’ll wake up after visiting a bizarre city splashed in pastel colors, giant giraffes, and winding staircases. Or maybe that’s just me.
But according to a small new study, it’s very likely that our dreams get weirder as the night goes on: right after we go to sleep, we dream of things somewhat based on reality. But once hours have gone by, our dreams tend to get stranger, the authors of the study surmise, “like a wild animal tearing up your back garden.” The study was published in the journal Dreaming.
“We found that dreams were increasing in bizarreness from the early to late night,” Dr. Jose Malinowski, a lecturer in cognitive psychology at the University of Bedfordshire in the UK, told Time. These later dreams are also more emotionally charged.
For the study, the researchers examined 16 participants while they slept for two nights. They woke them up at various times of the night to ask them what they were dreaming about. Each participant was awoken about four times every night. In the morning, as soon as they woke up, they also reported what they had been dreaming about.
But whether or not dreams are rooted in reality, or if they’re pretty far-fetched and bizarre, Malinowski believes that dreams are a “safe haven” for problem-solving and figuring out personal issues. They’re a way for us to gain insight into our emotions that might normally be repressed, and are often a way for us to approach a problem we might not normally see in our waking hours. She also recommends dream therapy as a different avenue for people to examine their psyche.
“People really enjoy [dream therapy],” Malinowski said. “Dreams are like a safe space. People feel like they haven’t generated them because they’re often so bizarre. [But] they’re a safe way to explore the self.”
Source: Malinowski J, Harton C. The Effect of Time of Night on Wake-Dream Continuity. Dreaming. 2014.