Dream Hacking: Understanding Everyday Behaviors That Impact Your Dreams

By Rosie Osmun Certified Sleep Coach

Last Updated On August 22nd, 2023
Dream Hacking: Understanding Everyday Behaviors That Impact Your Dreams

What you do while awake actually can influence your dreams and how you sleep.

Dreams often seem out of our control, like a movie we watch at night rather than something we direct.

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However, newer research shows that some behaviors can actually affect your dreams in both good and bad ways. Learn what habits and daytime activities might be influencing your rest, and see how to hack your dreams.

9 Ways to Hack Your Dreams

Want to sleep better or have sweeter dreams? The nine following things have been found to alter dreams and may represent interesting ways to hack your sleep or at least rest better.

Change Your Sleep Position

Sleeping on left side, stomach, and right side
Photo by BigStockPhoto

The position you favor before falling asleep can have a significant impact on your dreams. Sleeping on your left side is most likely to result in nightmares, while sleeping on your right side is associated with more peaceful dreams. Stomach sleeping, on the other hand, has been linked with feeling smothered as well as more, ahem, erotic dreams.

Get Cheesy

Dairy may inadvertently hack your dreams, with links not only to whether you may suffer from lactose intolerance, but also to the very type of cheese you enjoy. Cheddar and Red Leicester are recommended by the British Cheese Board for pleasant sleep, while Stilton (blue cheese) and lactose intolerance might result in odd or more vivid dreams.

Don’t Scare Yourself

Just like your mom said, watching scary movies or reading horror novels before bed can induce your brain to manufacturer it’s own terrifying stories.

Actually, any activity immediately preceding sleep can influence dreams, so take a few minutes to relax and think happy thoughts before dozing off if you want to keep them positive. Try our watching our list of feel-good videos to indulge in some warm, fuzzy feelings before bed.

Watch Black & White TV

Black and white tv with white noise
Photo by BigStockPhoto

Chances are if you are under 55, you dream exclusively in color. However, people who watched primarily black and white television between the time they were 3-10 years old are more likely to experience their dreams in shades of gray than those who grew up with colored TV, according to a British researcher. The fact that TV color can affect dreams is odd, since everything in the real world was still in color.

Don’t Go to Bed Hungry

Feeling hungry while you are asleep can decrease sleep quality and wake you up due to drops in blood sugar. You might even find yourself dreaming of a juicy burger or cupcake!

Try enjoying a light snack before bed like a banana, nuts or peanut butter and crackers to counter this effect. Skip fatty and spicy foods which may lead to indigestion.

Take Dream-Enhancing Supplements

Taking your vitamins is a good thing for most people; however Vitamin B6 supplements have been linked to an increase in lucid dreams in several anecdotal accounts and in one study. Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source

Other studies found that the herb calea zacatechichi heightens dream vividness during non-REM sleep and increases chances of lucid dreams, but also decreases deep-slow wave sleep.

Other supplements like vinpocetine, galantamine, and choline have also been reported to induce more vivid and lucid dreams, and some people actually use them specifically to affect dreams.

Cutting back or stopping them altogether can reduce the effects if it bothers you. (Remember, always talk with your doc before taking new supplements.)

Sleep With Soothing Smells & Sounds

Dried lavender potpourri
Photo by BigStockPhoto

When you’re snoozing, strong smells like brewing coffee or breakfast may subconsciously creep into your dreams.

One study found that rose smells can induce positive dreams while sulphur smells induce negativity. Though you may not dream directly of flowers when smelling roses, your memory’s association with a scent can have an influence.

Sounds that are loud enough to hear but not too loud to wake you can also become part of your dreams. For example, have you ever found that the sounds on the TV were happening in your dreams, or incorporated your alarm clock into a snooze?

Hack your dreams by surrounding yourself with pleasant aromas like lavender or lilac, and with pleasant sounds like ocean waves. Since environmental cues can affect dreams, a comfortable mattress and cool temperatures may also help.

Eat Caffeine & Spicy Foods

Caffeine can overstimulate you and spicy foods can contribute to indigestion, both reducing how deeply you sleep and increasing the number of times you wake during the night.

A side effect of this is that they may also make you more likely to remember your dreams. Whether experiencing a nightmare or other dream state, if you wake up within a five minute window following it you are more likely to remember the dream.

Deal With Daytime Stress

Trying to avoid something or someone during the day, or to suppress a thought? This can lead to dreams that focus on that problem during the night, according to both Sigmund Freud and studies from Australian Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source and German universities. Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source

Whether it is a job deadline, concerns over physical appearance or relationship issues, attempts at suppressing the issue often make it front and center during sleep. Tackle your issues during the day or consider journaling at night to clear your mind.

Sleep is a science that we are just beginning to understanding, and not much is known yet about why or even how dreams exist. These discoveries indicate that we may be more in control of dreams than we once thought, and if you are plagued by bad or frightening dreams, there are some things you can do.

Perhaps the best way to hack your dreams is to practice healthy sleep habits and surround yourself with positive, happy thoughts before bed for sweeter sleep.

Have you discovered interesting ways to hack your dreams or habits that influence your sleep? Do you strive to be able to control and impact your dreams?

About the author

Rosie Osmun, a Certified Sleep Science Coach, brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the health and wellness industry. With a degree in Political Science and Government from Arizona State University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Rosie's academic achievements provide a solid foundation for her work in sleep and wellness. With over 13 years of experience in the beauty, health, sleep, and wellness industries, Rosie has developed a comprehensive understanding of the science of sleep and its influence on overall health and wellbeing. Her commitment to enhancing sleep quality is reflected in her practical, evidence-based advice and tips. As a regular contributor to the Amerisleep blog, Rosie specializes in reducing back pain while sleeping, optimizing dinners for better sleep, and improving productivity in the mornings. Her articles showcase her fascination with the science of sleep and her dedication to researching and writing about beds. Rosie's contributions to a variety of publications, including Forbes, Bustle, and Healthline, as well as her regular contributions to the Amerisleep blog, underscore her authority in her field. These platforms, recognizing her expertise, rely on her to provide accurate and pertinent information to their readers. Additionally, Rosie's work has been featured in reputable publications like Byrdie, Lifehacker, Men's Journal, EatingWell, and Medical Daily, further solidifying her expertise in the field.

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