If you wake up with vivid dreams swirling around your head, it could be time for a wellbeing reset.
Dreaming vividly and remembering dreams is normal, but if you’re suddenly noticing you’re remembering them much more and perhaps they’re getting more stressful in nature, you shouldn’t ignore them.
Dr Katherine Hall, a sleep psychologist at Happy Beds, says there is a relationship between dreams and mental health.
‘There are many reasons why you’re likely to remember your vivid dreams when you’re stressed,’ she says.
‘Firstly, when your cortisol levels are high, your sleep is more likely to be broken throughout the night.
‘Combining this with the fact that these awakenings are more likely to happen during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) which is when vivid dreaming happens, so naturally, waking up in the middle of a dream is more likely to imprint it into your short-term memory.’
You might not be managing your stress levels well, if they’re being reflected back to you in your sleep.
Katherine continues: ‘What’s more, when your cortisol levels are higher, your emotions are also more likely to feel stronger and more intense.
‘As dreams often reflect your emotional state, your dreams are, therefore, more likely to feel intense, real or vivid.’
Many studies show that dreaming can actually act as a coping mechanism for dealing with the stress of everyday life, she explains.
So, if you feel like you’re having more vivid and intense dreams, this could be your brain’s healthy way of trying to process and understand the stressful events happening in your waking life.
Although, the relationship between stress and dream recall can vary from person to person.
‘Some people may feel that their dreams are more vivid when they’re stressed, whilst others may find their dreams more difficult to recall,’ Katherine says.
‘There are however some factors that can impact whether you can recall your dreams, like emotional wellbeing and coping mechanisms.’
If your brain is using vivid dreams to process stress, Katherine says the chances are your brain isn’t creating coping mechanisms in waking life.
She recommends meditating, journaling and self-affirmations, which can lead to less intense and vivid dreaming.
‘The type of dream you have can also be impacted by your psychological wellbeing,’ she adds.
‘If you’re experiencing higher levels of stress in your waking life, you’re more likely to experience vivid, disturbing and negative dreams at night. However, if you’re not stressed in real life, you’re more likely to experience positive dreams.
‘As with many aspects of psychology, understanding the link between dream recall and wellbeing requires considering multiple factors and taking a holistic view of the individual’s experiences and psychological state.’
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