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Why Bad Dreams Are Good for You

You’re terrified. You need to escape, to do something. But no matter what, you just.can’ You can’t yell for help. Your mouth seems glued shut and your legs drag like lead and the terrible thing (fill in the blank) chasing you is catching up. You can feel it behind you, closing in

It’s not a fun feeling—waking up at 3am in a cold sweat with that feeling of absolute terror washing over you, and then the realization: ”Ohhh, it was just a dream!” And then if you’re lucky you can fall asleep again.

Nobody likes nightmares. But about 50 percent of adults sometimes have them. And apparently, bad dreams are actually a plus for your mental health!

Sleep researchers claim that bad dreams are the human brain’s way of releasing emotions and stressors that afflict us during the day.

“The things that concern us most while we’re awake continue to mess with us when we sleep,” says a Science of Us Sleep Institute videorecently released by New York Magazine. “You need bad dreams to help you process all the bad stuff in the world around you.”

When you have nightmares, your unconscious brain is taking the things that scare and bother you during the day and putting them into a story—perhaps a nonsensical story, but a story nonetheless. Then, you wake up remembering the story as if it had actually happened to you.

So nightmares are like “factories” that take vague, abstract fears about life or spiders or being late to work and turns them them concrete memories. They’re how your mind distances you from your fears and worries, and makes them easier to deal with.

Once that process is complete—sometimes it doesn’t happen immediately—those fears are behind you, in the past instead of the present.

So yay! Your waking trials and tribulations could be gone overnight. Let’s add nightmares to the ever-growing list of life’s hidden blessings. J

Sleep tight, Urbanites!