How your dreams change across your monthly cycle

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How your dreams change across your monthly cycle


Ever wonder why you have pleasant dreams one night, then a frightening dream the next? While what happened in your day and the kinds of foods you eat before bedtime can impact dream content, research shows so can the hormones in your monthly cycle.

Here’s how your hormones impact your dream content so you can pinpoint patterns and know what to expect:

If you’re in the first half of your cycle–Week 1 and Week 2, which starts with the first day of your period and ends with ovulation–you’re more likely to have upbeat and erotic dreams. For instance, you may dream about going on a job interview, being on a hot date or taking a trip somewhere fun.

You can thank rising estrogen and a short spike in testosterone at the end of your Week 2 for the pleasant nocturnal imagery. As the levels of these hormones increase, they boost your mood and rev your libido, which then influence your dream life.

Now, this doesn’t mean you won’t have any stress-filled dreams or outright nightmares during the first half of your cycle. But, the chances are nudged in the direction of more positive sleep experience.

Not so in the second half of your cycle:

During your Week 3 and Week 4–which starts the day after ovulation and lasts until the day before your period–you’re more likely to have intense and fearful dreams, according to research from the University of the West of England. So, you may dream of situations like losing a job, falling down an elevator shaft or confronting someone in your life.

One theory why: Progesterone triggers a slight spike in body temperature right after ovulation, which may lead to brain changes that prompt the scary scenarios.

Again, this doesn’t mean that every night of the second half of your cycle is going to be a terror-fest that rivals a Hollywood thriller. However, the chances are nudged in the direction of more stressful dream scenarios.

Not a fan of the whole stressful dream thing? I don’t blame you. Daytime stress is hard enough. Who needs to double up at night, amIright?

Well, luckily there are two study-proven ways you can help nudge your dreams into a more positive direction no matter where you are in your monthly cycle:

1. Dab on a favorite scent before turning in. Research shows that breathing in a pleasant odor as you sleep makes you more likely to have upbeat dreams. I apply a vanilla or jasmine essential oil before I turn in. If you can’t wear perfume or essential oil, keeping a fragrant bowl of potpourri by your bedside (far from pets and kids) will also work.

2. Sneak in more positive experiences during the day–especially leading up to bedtime. One study shows that in the first few hours of unconsciousness, your dreams tend to be inspired by details you picked up from movies, TV, the newspaper and other media during the day and evening leading up to your bedtime–so maybe skip the news and crime dramas and stick to sit-coms and late-night gabfests instead.

Also in the study, researchers found that as the night goes on, your dream topics switch to events that occurred recently in your life (like going to a meeting) and objects you interacted with (such as fixing a leaky toilet). So, try to experience more fun stuff during the day so you can experience them again while in dreamland, like having lunch with friends, going for a bike ride or planting an indoor herb garden.

Oh, and if you have problems sleeping (especially on your premenstrual days), here’s a recent post I wrote about 5 easy, study-proven ways to fall asleep faster and get deeper, more restful sleep.

Happy dreaming!

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