While You Were Sleeping
9 things you didn't know about your dreams
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Everyone dreams—every single night—and yet we tend to know so little about our dreams. Where do they come from? What do they mean? Can we control them and should we try to interpret them? We spoke to the dream experts to bring you nine surprising facts about dreams. Read before snoozing.
1. Dreaming can help you learn.
If you're studying for a test or trying to learn a new task, you might consider taking a nap or heading to bed early rather than hovering over a textbook an hour longer. Here's why: When the brain dreams, it helps you learn and solve problems, say researchers at Harvard Medical School. In a study that appeared in a recent issue of Current Biology, researchers report that dreams are the brain's way of processing, integrating and understanding new information. To improve the quality of your sleep—and your brain's ability to learn—avoid noise in the bedroom, such as the TV, which may negatively impact the length and quality of dreams.
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2. Just like men, women can have orgasms during dreams.
Did you think only men experience this phenomenon? Not true, says Barbara Bartlik, MD, a psychiatrist and sex therapist in New York. Warning, further reading may produce blushing: "Women have orgasms during their sleep, just as men do," she says. "These orgasms often accompany erotic dreams, but they also may occur during dreams of a nonerotic nature." When women dream, she says, it's not uncommon for their genitals to become engorged and lubricated. "This occurs during REM sleep, which happens several times during the night," she says. A similar thing happens to men. "Men get erections during REM sleep, whether or not the man is having an erotic dream."