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You may not remember it, but you actually spend 2 hours dreaming every night. Usually, you wake up only recalling some bits and pieces. However, sometimes your dreams are so vivid, so detailed that you remember all—or at least most of them—after waking up. So what does it mean when your dreams are very intense? What may be causing these vivid, intense dreams?
Anxiety and Stress
Try to think back on the times you’ve experienced particularly intense dreams. Is there a correlation with stress? Research links higher anxiety levels with more intense dreams. If you’re in a stressful phase in your life, you may have intense dreams. Certain conditions like approaching exams, deadlines, and family or relationship issues may be triggering these dreams.
In her book “The Twenty-four Hour Mind,” sleep researcher Rosalind D. Cartwright notes that individuals with depression have longer REM stages, which is when the most vivid dreams occur. She argues that dreams function to counterbalance the negative feelings of depression. “One proposed purpose of dreaming, of what dreaming accomplishes is that dreaming modulates disturbances in emotion, regulating those that are troublesome…Studies show that negative mood is down-regulated overnight”, she writes. So it isn’t too hard to think that the worse your mood, the more intense your dreams will get.
Remember how the most intense dreams happen during REM sleep? That means that the longer you stay in the REM stage, the more chance you have of having intense dreams. If you’re sleep-deprived, your brain goes into REM rebound, meaning it tries to compensate for your lack of sleep by extending the REM stage. So, if you’ve had intense dreams after nights of not sleeping very much, this is likely why.
Studies have found certain medications to increase the intensity of dreams. One example of these drugs is antidepressants. Other drugs include beta-blockers and Parkinson’s disease medication.
Whether you want to experience more intense dreams or learn how to control your dreams, the best way is to keep a dream journal. The daily act of remembering and reflecting on your dreams helps you practice controlling them. Understand your dreams better with the help of Dreambook, an online dream journal app. You can use Dreambook to save, track, analyze and interpret your dreams without restrictions.