Causes of Vivid Morning Dreams

REM sleep occurs towards morning with elaborate imaginings

woman asleep in bed

Adam Kuylenstierna / Getty Images

You may recall morning dreams more often than other dreams. What causes vivid morning dreams and why do you remember them more often? Are morning dreams more likely to come true? Learn about this phenomenon and how it relates to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep stages that occur towards morning.

The Basics of Sleep Stages and Dreaming

During the night, your brain goes through four to six cycles called sleep stages. In each cycle, there are periods of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep followed by brief intervals of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

Though fragmentary dreams, often simple ideas or images, can occur in NREM sleep, the most elaborate dream experiences occur during REM. It is during the REM sleep that your brain actively dreams. Most people experience it almost like a movie going through their minds. These dreams may be in color or black and white. There may be fantastical or even surreal elements. In dreams, anything becomes possible.

Each of the cycles of sleep last approximately 90 minutes. As morning approaches, the NREM periods become shorter and the REM becomes longer.

Most REM occurs in the last third of the night. As a result, many people will wake out of their last REM period and recall a dream first thing in the morning.

REM Sleep Towards Morning Contributes to Dream Recall

Given the patterns that exist, as you get closer to morning, your chance of experiencing dream sleep, or REM, increases. It is during interrupted REM that you are more likely to remember vivid dreams. Moreover, your sleep drive, or desire to sleep, lessen the longer you sleep. Therefore, you are more likely to be restless and awaken as the morning approaches, thus increasing the chance you will interrupt these increasingly prolonged REM periods.

It is also possible for sleep apnea to occur during REM sleep. This may be due to the muscle relaxation that occurs to prevent dreams from being acted out. The muscles of the airway may become relaxed and this may interrupt breathing and lead to an awakening.

As a result of each of these factors in combination, you are much more likely to remember your dreams right before you get up in the morning.

Do Vivid Morning Dreams Come True?

There is no evidence that vivid dreams are more likely to come true. This is called precognition and there is little support for its occurrence.

Many, many people do have dream experiences that they later feel have come true (often described as deja vu), but this may have to do with certain electrical patterns of the brain that cause this familiarity, rather than any ability to predict the future through dreaming.

If you have distressing dreams or nightmares, you can consider evaluation and may benefit from dream rehearsal therapy. If early morning awakenings plague your sleep, consider testing to rule out obstructive sleep apnea or other treatments to resolve insomnia.

Was this page helpful?