Most creatures on this planet tend to spend a sizeable portion of their time sleeping, and humans are no exception.
The recommended amount of sleep for an adult is between 7 to 9 hours a night.
There are many other factors to consider as well, ranging from quality of sleep to your sleeping position.
One of these factors is mental health.
Not only can your sleep affect your mental health, but your mental health can also affect your sleep.
This fact raises a question: Can mental health affect your dreams?
We spend about 6 years out of our lives dreaming, making it quite a substantial part of our lives.
Clearly, with our mental health affecting our sleep, it should affect dreams in some way, shape or form as well, right?
Having the occasional nightmare is not uncommon, and can be considered quite normal, but is there really nothing more to it?
As it turns out, the connection between depression and dreams runs far deeper than you may expect.
In fact, on the psychological level, mental health and mood are very much related to bad dreams and nightmares.
Are bad dreams a sign of depression?
The way that depression affects our dreams is not obvious.
According to the DSM-5, the highest authority for psychiatric diagnoses, bad dreams and nightmares are not strictly a symptom of depression.
That being said, there are sleep-related symptoms of depression.
As such, there is still a possibility that depression may cause bad dreams and even nightmares indirectly.
There are plenty of studies to suggest that this hypothesis is true.
One of these studies showed us that, compared to schizophrenics, who experience nightmares regularly, depression sufferers have far more frequent nightmares.
Another, less specific study, told us that more than 28% of people with recurring nightmares also exhibit severe symptoms of depression.
Based on these findings we can find out whether or not depression can cause nightmares.
Yes, yes it can.
How does depression affect your dreams?
After establishing the connection the next step is to find the reason behind it.
Why does our mental health affect our sleep? Or more specifically, why does depression cause nightmares?
These are all important questions that, quite frankly, prove to be at least somewhat difficult to answer.
The idea that our thoughts, emotions and actions affect our dreams is not a new one and has been around for many years.
Recent studies have confirmed that fact and these days there is evidence to suggest that dreams have a psychological meaning behind them.
In other words, depression sufferers are more prone to bad dreams because of their negative mentality rather than any particular symptom.
Aside from that, fatigue can contribute to nightmares.
In the case of depression sufferers, common causes for fatigue are low quality of sleep (restless sleep) and different sleeping disorders that are caused by depression.
Another possible cause is stress.
When put under stress, the brain releases certain hormones that trigger the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain.
These emotions and feelings, in turn, can trigger nightmares.
The fact that stress can cause depression makes it a possible culprit for nightmares as well.
What can you do about these nightmares?
Up to this point, we have established the connection between depression and sleep and the reasons for it.
It is important to find the causes of a problem in order to know how to deal with it.
As it turns out in this case, the cause is depression and the way that it shapes your behavior.
That is to say, your condition is the driving force, but your habits and way of life are the causes of this problem
Luckily for us, there are plenty of things that you can start doing right now in order to make your sleep more peaceful today.
1) Improve your quality of sleep
As we have established, the quality of your sleep affects your dreams, making it a priority to improve on it.
In this case, the biggest problem is about things that we already do rather than things that we don’t.
To put it simply, our actions are the driving force behind poor quality of sleep.
This is actually a good thing – It means that simple changes in your activities are all that we need to notice a major improvement in your condition (Given time, of course.)
Some good examples include:
- Avoiding electronics before bed – Generally speaking, you should avoid unnatural light before going to sleep if possible. Exposing yourself to light might fool your brain into thinking that itss daytime
- Have a proper schedule for sleep – Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day will set your internal clock to expect sleep at a certain time every night, something that makes falling asleep that much easier
- Avoid Caffeine, alcohol and the like – Caffeine gets the body going in the morning, but consuming it a few hours before bed can mess up your sleep entirely. Alcohol is noted to decrease the quality of sleep as well
- Avoid stressful situations – Stress causes a production of certain hormones, such as cortisol, in the body. These hormones, in turn, cause increased alertness and racing thoughts, making sleep a difficult endeavor
- Avoid heavy food – As a general rule of thumb, try to eat as little as possible during nighttime and even if you do feel hungry try eating a fruit or a snack, not a full meal.
These are a few practical examples.
Try them out for yourself and you are guaranteed to experience at least some improvement with your bad dreams.
2) Try to be more relaxed before going to sleep
Many medical experts agree that excessive stress is one of the worst things that can happen to you.
Many professional journals even choose to regard it as being dangerous and even downright lethal at times.
Stress can both cause certain conditions and escalate existing conditions as well, and this case is a great example of this fact.
Aside from contributing to a decrease in your quality of sleep, stress can also compel negative dreams through emotional arousal, essentially giving you nightmares as well as robbing you of your rest.
The best thing you can do to properly relax before bed is to have a routine.
Humans are creatures of habit, and by having the right habits we can make huge changes in our lives, and this case is no exception.
Aside from increasing your quality of sleep, I would recommend journaling as a relaxation method before going to bed.
Not only can journaling help you sort your thoughts out, it can also help you express them.
This, in turn, will make it less likely for you to ruminate as you are trying to fall asleep.
You could also try reading a book or meditating, both of which are relaxing activities that will help you sleep better.
In my personal experience, fictional books work best in this case.
More practical books actually made me want to get up and do something with myself, which was rather counterproductive.
3ׂ) Try to avoid negative influences
In this case, the word negative is quite abstract.
I am not referring to any particular form of negativity here, either.
This can range all the way from hanging out with negative people to catching up on social media.
Frankly, you would be surprised as to just how much these things affect us.
In one study, over 90% of participants could recall frightening moments from movies, TV shows and general forms of media, with over one-fourth of them experiencing residual anxiety from the experience.
This may seem obvious when explained, but certain events and the people around us shape the way that we think and feel.
Watching the news and hearing about a car crash, listening to your partner complain about their day at work, or even just getting into an argument with someone are all likely to influence you in a negative way.
If you want to experience the best sleep possible, or at the very least one that is not dominated by bad dreams, you need to cut as many of these influences out of your life as possible.
4) Overcome your depression
Ultimately, when all is said and done, the best way to get rid of your bad dreams for good is to overcome depression.
After all, depression is what causes these dreams in the first place, right?
From personal experience, I highly recommend checking out the “Destroy Depression System”
As far as I know, it is the best in the business when it comes to overcoming depression and it’s fully refundable so you should definitely check it out.
Before you, here’s a quick question for your – What have you been doing wrong thus far?
Write down what you are planning to change in the future.
After all, announcing your intentions makes them more real.
If you got any questions feel free to send me an email, I will do my best to get back to you!