While we are sleeping, our brain is actually quite active during sleep and therefore is dreaming. Dreams can be soothing or scary, realistic or fantastical and mysterious or helpful. Sometimes when we wake up, we have no idea that we have dreamed, whereas other times, we can closely recall our dreams because they were so intense. These are called vivid dreams.
Do Dreams Mean Anything?
We usually enjoy recalling our dreams the following day but you might want to know if there is any relevance in dream meanings. There are various different theories offering different views about dream interpretation and whether they mean anything.
A neurobiological theory of dreaming, proposed by Harvard University psychiatrists, John Allan Hobson and Robert McCarley is known as Activation-Synthesis Hypothesis. It tells that dreams don’t really mean anything. Rather they are entirely electrical brain impulses that draw random thoughts and imagination from our memories. The theory further says that people make dream stories after they wake up as they try to make sense of it all.
However, well known psychologist Sigmund Freud thought differently. He was of the opinion that dreams display unconsciously suppressed conflicts or wishes. According to him, dreams are the imagination of a wish or impulse from childhood that has since been suppressed. Therefore, according to Freud, your dreams show your suppressed wishes to you.
What Are Weird Dreams A Sign Of?
A lot occurs in your brain during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. This is the reason why dreams are usually so turbulent just before you wake up. Weird dreams are a normal part of healthy sleep, but they shouldn’t bother you during the day.
Strange dreams can be a sign of mental health conditions, such as depression and schizophrenia. Also, physical illnesses, like heart disease and cancer, have also been related with weird dreams lately.
What Causes Weird Dreams?
Scientists aren’t fully sure about what causes weird dreams, but they think the following factors may play a role.
1. Stress or anxiety
Difficulties in real life and in imagination can cause a person to experience stress and anxiety in their daily life. Issues with family, friends, school, or work can stimulate intense dreams.
Stressed caused by distressing events, such as sexual abuse, death of a loved one, or a car accident can also cause vivid dreams. Anxiety, specifically, is connected with an increased risk of traumatic and intense dreams.
2. Sleep disorders
Sleeping problems that are responsible for lack of sleep, such as insomnia and narcolepsy, can increase one’s risk of experiencing vivid dreams.
Changes to your sleep schedule, such as due to jet lag or getting less sleep than usual, can also raise this risk.
There are some medications that can cause vivid dreams. These medications include various antidepressants, blood pressure medications, beta blockers, Parkinson’s disease drugs, and drugs to stop smoking.
4. Substance abuse
Using alcohol in surplus, using pleasure-giving drugs, or stopping consumption of drugs can trigger vivid dreams, usually nightmares.
5. Early pregnancy
Pregnancy can stimulate changes in the body’s hormone levels, emotions and sleep patterns. Several pregnant women say they undergo vivid dreams, especially during the early days of their pregnancy.
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When to see a doctor?
If your vivid dreams are causing you emotional distress or physical problems, you might want to see a doctor for medical treatment or lifestyle modifications.
Schedule an appointment with your doctor to try to find out what treatments or lifestyle modifications are correct for you.
What Are The Downsides Of Having Weird Dreams?
Negative vivid dreams, especially if they continue for weeks or months, can be emotionally disturbing for you, disrupt your sleep and can cause health problems.
Some downside of vivid dreams include:
- Daytime sleepiness. This can cause concentration and memory issues that can affect your efficiency at school or work. It can even affect your ability to carry out even the smallest of everyday tasks, such as driving or taking a shower.
- Mood issues. Weird dreams can deeply affect your emotions, causing depression or anxiety symptoms. This can be really an issue if your vivid dreams last for a long time.
- Resisting sleep. It may happen that you consciously or subconsciously avoid going to sleep because you fear you may have another bad dream.
- Suicidal attempts or thinking. This is an extremely serious issue where some people have reported suicidal thoughts coming up due to strange dreams.
How Do You Stop Having Weird Dreams?
Here are some tips to help you stop having weird dreams.
1. Don’t dwell on dreams
If you wake up during an intense dream or nightmare, try to calm yourself down and don’t think about it. You can calm yourself by taking a relaxing bath, then going back to sleep. If this doesn’t work then get up and distract yourself with something else, such as a crossword puzzle or a book. Then go back to sleep when you feel calm.
2. Feed your brain positive images before you sleep
If the last images in your mind’s eye before you try to sleep are something negative or scary, such as related to Covid-19 then that is what you will most likely dream about.
Do something that is positive or makes you happy like take a few minutes to look at photos from your last vacation, or play a game. The visual images we see during the day, especially near bedtime, usually come up in our dreams.
3. Take care of your sleep
Since nightmares have a greater impact when sleep is disturbed, getting quality sleep is more important than ever. If your sleep is fragmented and you wake up a lot, you will probably remember what your dreams were about.
Having a consistent time to go to bed and get up in the morning, and a good routine to wind down at the end of the day will keep you away from having weird dreams. Most people require 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Extending your time in bed beyond this can lead to broken sleep.
4. Share your stress and anxiety
Instead of pushing aside your worries, consider talking about it with a loved one or therapist. The more you process these thoughts consciously, the less they might discomfort us at night. Talking to your therapist about cognitive and behavior techniques can help you lesen your anxious thoughts at night.
Vivid dreams are mostly a common and healthy part of your night’s sleep. You should be concerned about it if only it starts bothering you emotionally or physically. Consider having quality sleep and being positive to reduce stress and anxiety which will help you to stop having vivid dreams.