- a succession of images, thoughts, or emotions passing through the mind during sleep.
We don’t really understand dreams, despite them being such a common and familiar occurrence to us all. They’ve long been the study of interest in psychological, philosophical and religious studies. You might have heard of people often try to interpret their dreams for hidden meaning. Dreams mainly occur during the REM (rapid-eye movement) cycle of sleep when brain activity is high. They vary in length and subject, though scientists suggest that we dream three to six times a night, with most forgotten by morning.
But dreams can also be extremely vivid. Vivid dreams sometime leave you waking up feeling tired, as if you haven’t even slept.
Vivid dreams, occurring in the REM cycle when our brain is still somewhat ‘awake’, are often the ones we remember more clearly. These dreams can be frightening, positive, realistic or fantastical, and for many, draining, so we wake up feeling tired.
What causes vivid dreams?
Little is known about dreams, but most scientists theorise that they are simply electrical brain impulses pulled from thoughts, images and memories. Which is why we often see familiar faces in our dreams.
So vivid dreams can be responses to everyday stress or anxiety. If you know you have to be up early, you might vividly dream about your alarm clock or your morning routine. From being worried about something happening the next day or embarrassed over something you’ve done in the past. They can also be caused by past traumatic events, in common association with PTSD.
Sleeping issues, such as insomnia or narcolepsy can also be a cause behind vivid dreaming. As can changes to sleep schedules, taking medication or substance abuse.
Vivid dreams have also been linked to other health problems including physical illness, such as heart disease, as well as mental health problems such as schizophrenia and depression.
Pregnant women often experience vivid dreams from the changes in hormones, emotions and sleep patterns. Women in general are more likely to remember their dreams than men, which I suppose is neither a good nor bad thing depending on how nice your dreams can be.
Dreams cannot hurt us, but they can leave us a bit bamboozled.
- Sleepiness: I wake up very tired from my dreams sometimes, leaving me hazy and dreary throughout the day. Being tired throughout the day, I think we all know, can be problematic for our concentration, problem solving and memory functions.
- Mood: Sometimes, our vivid dreams can be really draining, emotionally. They can trigger depressive or anxious symptoms that hang over us for the rest of the day.
- Insomnia: Fear of having vivid dreams that leave us emotionally exhausted, stressed, tired or anxious can mean that we avoid or put off going to sleep completely.
How to get rid of vivid dreaming
We can’t control what our brain does, so it’s hard to change the way that you dream. But there might be ways of managing them to avoid too much strain on your sleeping and emotions.
- Therapy: If you think your dreams might stem from emotional problems, past trauma or other mental health problems, rooting out the underlying cause and addressing the problem through counselling or therapy could help to reduce the number of vivid dreams you experience. By learning new techniques for coping with anxiety or tension, you can relieve some of the stress that might be affecting your dreams.
- Healthy: Eating well, establishing good sleep schedules and generally taking good care of yourself physically and mentally can help to keep vivid dreams at bay.
- Relax: Meditation, breathing exercises or any other task that helps you relax, either before bed or just at some point in the day can help to your keep stress and tension under control so that it doesn’t worm its way into your sleeping brain.
Vivid dreams are not the same as lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming is when a person has a level of consciousness whilst dreaming. In simple terms, they are aware that they are dreaming and have some level of control over the dreams.
Dreams are impartial, spontaneous products of the unconscious psyche, outside the control of the will. They are pure nature; they show us the unvarnished, natural truth, and are therefore fitted, as nothing else is, to give us back an attitude that accords with our basic human nature when our consciousness has strayed too far from its foundations and run into an impasse.” – Carl Jung