Has your dreaming ramped up? It may be a result of your mental health.

While dreaming and the occasional nightmare are both common and normal responses to daily activities, increased REM sleep (the dream phase of our sleep) is indicative of depression. It has been shown that depression can cause someone to dream up to three times more than someone without depression.

Unsurprisingly, depressed people report an increase in dreams with more negative emotion and mood, but they may also experience more nightmares.1

Why do we dream?

It is widely believed that dreaming helps us to process and store important memories, daily learnings and thoughts and emotions. Some researchers believe that it is a way for people to confront the emotional drama in their lives and to deactivate it.

As depressed people are typically more stressed or worried than healthy people, it can cause an excess of REM sleep, and thus dreaming. This can also lead to excessive tiredness; the brain is extremely active during REM sleep and uses a great deal of energy. Increase REM sleep also results in decreased deep, or slow-wave, sleep, which is synonymous with restoration and recuperation.

So yes, depressed people do tend to dream more.

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1.  Hublin C, Kaprio J, Partinen M, Koskenvuo M. Nightmares: familial aggregation and association with psychiatric disorders in a nationwide twin cohort. American journal of medical genetics 1999;88:329-36.

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