Just about everyone has had some experience with sleep disorders—you must have tossed and turned at night when you’ve been especially stressed out at work or at school. Many children experience sleep walking or sleep talking. And many overweight Americans suffer from sleep apnea. But, let’s take a moment and talk about how these sleep disorders may be affecting your dreaming. While there hasn’t been much research done on the topic, it is interesting to think about and examine all the same.
Let’s take it back to the beginning—sleep disorders impact the way in which people sleep—be it shortened cycles, difficulty falling or staying asleep, or sudden awakeness.
Insomnia is a very common sleep disorder among Americans. It is the difficulty falling or staying sleep that many people suffer from. While most forms of insomnia are mild, some people suffer from more severe forms that may impact their quality of life. Because people with insomnia are more likely to awake frequently in the night (and may be very light sleepers to begin with), they are more likely to recall their dreams and may be more likely to become lucid dreamers. Many lucid dreamers recall dreams that have to do with the current stressors of the day (often the same stressors that are causing them to have trouble sleeping in the first place)
Sleep Apnea is a very scary disorder for those sleeping in the same bed or room as a sufferer. It occurs when a person stops breathing for 20+ seconds at a time, jerking him or herself awake. This process can continue throughout the entire night meaning that the suffering rarely gets more than a few minutes of sleep at any given time. This also means that sleep is light and fitful—these sufferers, like insomniacs, may be more likely to recall their dreams. They may also suffer from inadequate sleep and can feel tired throughout the day. A recent study notes that they rarely have breathing-related dreams.
Narcolepsy suffers may spontaneously fall asleep without warning. While much comedy has been made from narcoleptics, it is a serious disorder that can affect the safety of suffers and those around him. When narcoleptics fall asleep they fall often fall quickly into REM sleep (called sleep-onset REM periods). This may mean that narcoleptics are more likely to have additional vivid dreams in a given night sleep.