Depression and sleep problems are closely linked. Some people who are struggling with depression may feel exhausted and feel that they need to sleep more often and for longer periods. Others might struggle with lack of sleep and insomnia. But what about dreaming and depression?
Dreaming is a rich and natural part of our sleep cycle. Exploring our dreams through therapeutic interventions can provide us with valuable insight into our subconscious, helping us to develop greater self-awareness. Bringing your dreams to therapy can be an enlightening and energising experience.
However, when dreams become more vivid, frequent or emotional, this might be a sign of underlying mental health issues, such as depression. Here, we explore the complexities of dreaming and depression, and try to answer some frequently asked questions about this topic.
Is not dreaming a sign of depression?
Dreams can be elusive and allusive, inviting us to explore our inner worlds. The absence of dreams is not a sign of depression, as many people don’t remember their dreams. However, if a lack of dream recall is coupled with other symptoms of depression, such as persistent feelings of sadness, fatigue, or a loss of interest in activities that you previously enjoyed, it might be worth seeking a professional opinion.
Is crying in your sleep a sign of depression?
Crying during sleep is rare and typically not considered to be a symptom of depression; instead, it is often the result of other issues, such as stress or certain medications. However, if you notice that you are experiencing frequent crying spells during sleep, together with other symptoms of depression, this might suggest an underlying mental health condition.
Are vivid dreams a sign of mental illness?
Vivid dreams are a sign that your unconscious is at work. Everyone experiences vivid dreams from time-to-time, and it could be down to a number of things, such as stress or changes in your diet.
Sleep has an important restorative function in recharging the brain. While many people experience occasional poor sleep, medium to long-term lack of sleep may adversely affect your physical, emotional and mental health. Disrupted sleep could make your brain overwork, resulting in vivid and realistic dreams. Maintaining a regular and supportive sleep-wake cycle can help to improve your overall wellbeing, and help you get more quality sleep.
Do depressed people dream more?
Research suggests that some people suffering from depression might experience an increase in dreaming, particularly during a phase of sleep known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep is the stage that’s most associated with vivid and intense dreaming and people with depression often enter this phase quicker and spend a longer time in it, potentially resulting in more dreams and more dream recall.
Dreaming of suicide
In some cases, severe depression may lead to suicidal thoughts, which in turn might lead to emotionally destabilising dreams that include themes of death or suicide. Dreams, as reflections of our subconscious minds, can potentially incorporate these thoughts or feelings. Someone with depression may have more ‘bad dreams’ than those without depression, including themes of death and suicide.
However, if you dream of death or suicide and you are not feeling suicidal, then you might want to explore what your dream means to you symbolically or thematically, or what parts of yourself it is revealing to you. Are you experiencing any losses or endings in your life? Are you looking for a way out of a relationship or situation? Is a new beginning looming?
Steps to manage your sleep routine if you’re depressed
There are some actions you can take to help improve your sleep routine and overall wellbeing:
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule: try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends, to help regulate your body's internal clock
- Create a restful environment: keep your sleeping area dark, quiet and cool. Consider using earplugs, an eye mask, or a white noise machine. Sleep sprays can support feelings of wellbeing, as can putting essential oils on your pulse points
- Switch off all digital screens an hour before going to bed and banish all devices from your bedroom: the light emitted by phones, tablets, computers and TVs can interfere with your body's production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep
- Be mindful of what you eat and drink in the evening: avoid large meals, caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime
- Stay active: regular physical activity during the day can help you to fall asleep faster and enjoy deeper sleep
- Manage stress: activities such as meditation, deep breathing or yoga can help you to relax and manage stress, improving your sleep. A hot bath just before going to bed may also help you to sleep more easily
If you think that you might be depressed, it’s important that you reach out for professional help. You can do this by contacting your GP or contacting us directly.
There are many effective treatments for depression and we can help you get your life back on track.
For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding mental health and wellbeing, please call 0330 056 6020 or submit an online enquiry form here.