Vivid Dreaming and Eating Paleo

by Paleo Rob on 19/11/2010

I was following a post on the Marks Daily Apple Forums, on people who were having much more vivid dreams than usual after going paleo/primal. This echoed similar experiences I was having, of having much more vivid, long and relatively normal dreams, which measurably get more frequent as I go ‘more’ paleo. So I started thinking, could it be, that eating a paleo diet like our ancestors, we are somehow activating parts of our brain which are used for dreaming?

Antti Revonsuo hypothesised in his 2000 paper “The Reinterpretation of Dreams: An evolutionary hypothesis of the function of dreaming. Behavioral and Brain Sciences“ that humans evolved the ability to dream as way to rehears threats safely as we slept, so that when we are awake and put in a similar position, they could react in a ‘better’ way. For example, say you are a caveman and you had a dream of a huge woolly mammoth chasing you. In your dream you had the choice of trying to outrun the mammoth or 1083012_thinking_out_of_the_box_3scale the rocks. You chose to run and the mammoth beat the living hell out of you and you wake up panting in a pool of sweat. What a nightmare, but you realise you are ok, it was just a dream and go on with life. A few weeks later a wooly mammoth is pissed because you tried to take him down so you could feast on his flesh, you have the choice to run or scale the rocks. What would you do?

Of course we have many crazy dreams also that make no sense one way or another. That is why I assume we also evolved the ability to forget a lot of our dreams. However, ever since going paleo, my dreams are a lot more vivid, and more often than not reflect real world issues going on in my life, so they are a lot harder to forget. I also think just because we can’t remember the dreams, doesn’t mean our brain hasn’t stored the results somewhere in our subconscious, ready to be used in a quick reflex moment when adrenalin is high.

So is my brain being rewired by eating paleo? Eating paleo can reshape my body to a more hunter-gatherer composition, so why wouldn’t it also reshape the way I think? And if it can re-ignite my ability to dream like I was evolutionary supposed to, what other pre-historic traits can it unlock?

If you read Dr Emily Deans awesome blog, Evolutionary Psychiatry you will see how a evolutionary/paleo diet can help with a whole host of modern day mental health problems, such as depression and ADD, so the link is clearly there and interestingly I have read numerous threads on forums, where people eating paleo, especially men, find themselves a lot more aggressive, competitive and acting ‘alpha’. This is normally thought to be the weaning off the sugars and carbohydrates, and the improvement of testosterone levels, but could it be we are turning on parts of our brain that have not seen daylight since the agrarian revolution?

It’s interesting, and I will now more closely follow my mood and dreams.

Has anyone else started dreaming more or noticed any new habits since going paleo?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Robin November 19, 2010 at 6:57 am

Wow, that’s funny that I read this post today. I had the longest and most vivid dream last night, it felt like it lasted for hours and it was so realistic. I know it’s a sample of one, but I’d say your theory has some merit!

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beachrat November 19, 2010 at 9:49 pm

I can’t remember the last time I had dreams I remember before I went paleo. Now I regularly remember dreams, and often several per night. I’ve only been doing this a couple of months, so I will now be interested to see if or how this changes as time passes. (I’m also not 100% paleo/primal so as I get better at that, we’ll see if dreams get more vivid — I used to always have vivid dreams, in color, being able to read in dreams, etc., when I was younger, but not for decades.)

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BarbeyGirl November 20, 2010 at 1:17 am

I’ve had the same experience — remarkably vivid, lucid dreams. I suspect that it is related to the increased B-vitamin intake that is common when shifting to a paleo diet (more eggs, meat, greens, etc). I REALLY noticed the dreams as soon as I began supplementing with B-12. Every night is movie night in my head! I did a bit of reading and learned that some people take B-12 specifically to promote dreaming. Who knew?

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Paleo Rob November 20, 2010 at 11:50 am

Awesome its not just me!

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xtrocious November 22, 2010 at 9:59 am

Hmm…doesn’t having more vivid dreams leave us more tired the next morning?

From an unscientific perspective, I would imagine that having the brain still switched on instead of off should result in less time for us to recover…

Of course, the quality of sleep matters as well 🙂

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Paleo Rob November 22, 2010 at 10:11 am

Dreams actually only occur during REM sleep and last for a few seconds at the most.

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rob November 23, 2010 at 12:52 am

Wow … just happened upon this article, and just this morning I was wondering what the heck is going on with all the vivid dreams lately … definitely not just you.

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BarbeyGirl November 23, 2010 at 1:14 am

@xtrocious — Actually, research demonstrates that dreaming is healthful and necessary for proper brain function. If you let people sleep but prevent them from dreaming (by waking them during REM), they develop all kinds of memory and sensory issues.

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