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Vivid dreams are almost the opposite of lucid dreams. In lucid dreams, the dreamer is aware that they’re in a dream, sometimes even they may have control of it. On the other hand, vivid dreams feel real, but the dreamer is not conscious as they have a lucid dream. Vivid dreams may occur either in the form of pleasant dreams or nightmares. Sadly, even though you feel fine in your vivid dream, there’s a high probability that you may be having slight—but sometimes severe—mental health issues. So, what are the possible circumstances that make you have vivid dreams, especially if you have them often?
What do vivid dreams tell about your mental health?
The psychology behind vivid dreams is complicated and mostly undiscovered since we know very little about the science of dreams and sleep compared to what we know about many other everyday routines, such as nutrition and exercise. Still, we’ve come a long way since the times when dreams are thought to be signs of prophecies, metaphysical entities, or similar esoteric connections.
Several scientific fields try to uncover the mysteries of sleep and dreams, and our knowledge expands day by day. For example, a study published in Scientific American examines how and why dreams are remembered, as well as their likelihood of serving a purpose. The article states that researchers found that vivid dreams are linked to parts of the amygdala, responsible for processing and memory of emotional reactions, and the hippocampus, involved in the unification of information from short-term to long-term memory.
So, it seems that dreams help us process emotions by organizing and assembling memories of them. Despite the fact that what we see and experience in our dreams is not real, the emotions attached to them indeed are. As we create a memory of a particular experience, our dream stories attempt to extract the emotion from it. The process allows the emotion to be no longer active. As a result of this mechanism, we become more worried and anxious when our feelings, especially negative ones, are not processed properly. As a matter of fact, depriving oneself of REM sleep is increasingly associated with mental illnesses. In short, if you often have vivid dreams, it might point out a mental problem, but don’t worry; vivid dreams are also a sign that your brain is trying to fix the errors.
Why do we have vivid dreams?
Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at UC Berkeley and the director of the Center for Human Sleep Science, collects the reasons for vivid dreams in five fundamental titles.
- Disruptions during sleep: Vivid dreams that linger with you or feel indistinguishable from real life may result from fragmented sleep. Waking during a period of REM sleep rather than at the end of a sleep cycle can cause you to remember your dreams more vividly.
- Physical and mental health issues: Parasomnia, narcolepsy, and schizophrenia can cause vivid dreams.
- Medicines: Beta-blockers, antidepressants, blood pressure medications, and some sleep medicines may be linked to having more vivid dreams.
- Stress, anxiety, and trauma: When you’re stressed, anxious, depressed, emotionally traumatized, or have post-traumatic stress disorder, you might have more vivid dreams.
- Abuse of drugs and alcohol: Drinking and taking drugs can lead to vivid dreams.
The list above may be disheartening, especially if you love your vivid dreams, but you don’t need to be upset because it means that you’re on the path to recovery. In addition, keeping a dream journal may contribute to your healing process; it might even help you remember your dreams when you’re healthy.