5 unexpected ways dreaming can improve your health

Dreams can be tricky things. They may reveal your biggest aspirations — a huge success at work, the marriage proposal you’ve been waiting for, a visit to one of your bucket list destinations — or your greatest fears. They can keep you up at night or draw you so deeply into sleep that you find yourself dozing past the alarm.

You may remember them in great detail or forget that they ever even happened. Beyond their mystery, dreams are associated with physical, mental, and emotional well-being in ways that might surprise you. Terry Cralle, registered nurse and clinical sleep educator and consultant for Saatva, tells us that there are five ways in particular that dreaming can boost your overall health and quality of life.

Keep reading to learn more, then cross your fingers and hope for dreams next time you’re counting sheep.

1. Dreams can offer a new point of view

Most people have experienced those dreams that put them in the odd position of watching themselves from the outside. They can sometimes be creepy, but these out-of-body dreams may also improve your mental health by giving you a unique perspective from which to consider what’s happening IRL. A new perspective might be just what you need to create a new go-forward plan in a relationship or tricky work situation that’s been weighing you down.

2. They’ll prepare you for challenges and stressful circumstances

No one likes a nightmare, of course, but scary dreams prime your brain to more effectively manage anxiety and perceived danger. By experiencing negative emotions in your dreams, you’ll likely find yourself more ready to deal with high-stress situations in your waking hours.

3. Dreaming is linked to sleeping more soundly

Cralle notes that researchers have looked at dreams as “sleep guardians who protect your beauty rest” ever since the days of Freud, who was the first to propose that they prevent sleep disruption. Research shows that people who dream less frequently experience more sleep issues than those who are often frolicking in dreamland.

4. Dreams help reinforce your memory

According to Cralle, dreaming has been shown to strengthen our memories and help us better absorb new information during the day. Even dreams that seem totally unrelated to a moment you’ve experienced while awake may help you process and remember information old and new. Many of us experience memory loss as we age, so in a way, dreaming can help keep us young!

5. They promote a more consistently positive mood

“Researchers have found that the more dreams you have in a night, the more your disposition changes,” Cralle shares. “In other words, those seemingly random dreams can actually moderate your mood, causing you to wake up cheerier and ready to take on the day.” And don’t we all need a little mood boost every once in a while?

This article was originally published on Brit + Co.