6 Surprising Things That Can Influence Your Dreams

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By Aatif Zubair, Delhi Technological University, India

What goes into creating dreams is a subject of great interest to almost everyone—including scientists. Here are some things which they've discovered can influence what happens after you close your eyes.

1. Sleeping on your belly gives you erotic dreams

People who sleep on their fronts are way more likely to have erotic dreams compared to those who go to sleep in other positions. According to a study, people who sleep on their tummy tend to get short of breath at night, and because of that, they often get dreams of wild sex. The people who sleep in such a position often experience racier dreams, like those involving being “tied up” or “locked up.” Another interesting fact to note is that most people who have experienced such dreams report that they also often involve a really famous personality.

2. Nightmares can be Shared/Genes influence your nightmares

Identical twins may usually have the same interests and habits, but scientists have discovered that their genetic basis is much stronger than anyone can imagine. It’s so strong that they can even experience nightmares on almost the same frequency. In a large study that involved nearly 2700 identical twins and 4200 non-identical twins, scientists found that identical twins are twice as likely to have the trait of having frequent nightmares as fraternal twins, which is both awesome and slightly creepy.

3. Earth’s magnetic field triggers weird dreams

It's possible that the Earth’s magnetic field has a profound effect on dreams in people. Psychologist Darren Lipnicki has been recording his dreams for over eight years and concluded that low geomagnetic activity caused weirder dreams, but when the geomagnetic activity was high, the dreams got more normal and sensible. His findings are strictly anecdotal but have provided the impetus for further controlled studies.

4. Black and white television gives you black and white dreams

Trying to think of a world in black and white might sound impossible, but some people actually do so in their dreams. A study published in 2008 by psychology student Eva Murzyn at the University of Dundee has shown that the type of television you watched as a child has a profound effect on the color of your dreams. Murzyn found that her respondents aged 55 and over had colorless dreams 20 percent of the time, leading her to believe that children who were exposed to black-and-white film and TV from ages three to 10 are more likely to dream in greyscale throughout their life. Other studies have shown that since the 1960s, 83 percent of the population dreams in color, a timeline that coincides with the advent of color TV—so it is possible that media has as much influence on our subconsciousness as life experience.

5. Different Cheeses affect your dreams

This might be a bit hard to digest, but a study has found out that different types of cheeses can affect your dreams. All cheeses contain an amino acid called tryptophan, which is helpful in normalizing sleep and reducing stress levels. A 2005 study conducted by the British Cheese Board discovered that the subjects who normally ate cheddar cheese dreamt more about celebrities; the people who ate Blue cheese (Blue Stilton) experienced bizarre dreams. Cheshire gave the best night's sleep, but it caused dreamlessness. The people who ate Red Lancashire had nostalgic dreams about their families and childhood and the ones who ate Blue Lancashire dreamt mostly about their work.

6. What you hear and smell influences your dreams

Our mind interprets the noise occurring around us while we’re asleep, and makes it a part of our dreams. This means that sometimes in our dreams we hear a sound from reality which is incorporated it a way that makes sense to our subconscious. For example, you may be dreaming that you are in a concert while your brother is playing a guitar during your sleep. In one study, researchers found that there was a significant difference between the dreams of the people who heard no music and the people who did. The ones who did hear reported that they had heard music in their dreams.

Even smells have an influence on dreams. Similar to noise, our brain interprets smells as a signal and incorporates it in dreams. For example, the scent of rose gave people pleasant dreams while the scent of rotten eggs gave weird dreams to people.

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January 19, 2014 - 9:00pm
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