And researchers are calling this national drought a public health hazard. Turns out, dreaming isn’t just when you show up naked to middle school PE class. It’s also a time when your brain and body consolidate memories, regulate negative emotions, and increase your overall well-being (that one where you’re in Harry Styles’ bedroom? #SelfCare). Which means that missing out on nighttime reveries can lead to physical and mental ails, according to a new study published in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.
Dreams—at least, the ones you remember in the a.m.— happen during rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep. This stage, when your limbs become temporarily paralyzed and your eyes dart around under your eyelids, follows the intense slumber during which your body heals tissue and cells. So if deep sleep ensures your literal survival, REM kinda makes life worth living by expanding your mind.
“REM has some biological functions, like replenishing neuro transmitters”—chemicals in the brain—“which are different from the type of repair that other sleep does but are still important,” says Deirdre Barrett, PhD, assistant professor ofâ€‹ psychology at Harvard Medical School and author of The Committee of Sleep. During REM, which should take up 20 percent to 25 percent of your total sleep time (so up to two hours, if you snooze eight), your brain is about