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Depression and Dreaming

Have you ever noticed that when you're going through an episode of depression that you dream more? This extra dreaming, three times what a non-depressed person dreams, can have detrimental effects of its own. Research has shown that these pent up feelings of frustration and emotions with no outlet are very hard to deal with. They are one cause of depressive episodes. But at the same time these feelings go deeper and become the fodder for dreams.

To make it clearer think about what happens when something upsets you. Most people take an upsetting event and deal with the fallout. It's cause and effect; when you get upset you feel angry or something scares you and you back away from it. The problem is that those who have emotional issues often do nothing about it. It just sits there making them feel the anxiety of the moment, as they're unable to deal with it. But in the person's mind it remains and this is when more difficulties appear. Since these unfinished emotions are still there the brain must deal with them even when the person is sleeping. So the dreams start. The dream allows the completion of the unfinished emotional business and so frees the brain to rest. In the dream the emotional experience is played out in some way so the person resolves what's upset them that they were unable to deal with otherwise. In cases where the person can tidy this up in a dream it can be emotionally helpful, but in the case of a person who is in a depressive episode this is more difficult. They take so much emotional baggage to bed with them.

This causes more problems because the mind has so many emotional entanglements to deal with that the person must work hard to dream them out. This means that more of their sleep is the deep sleep of REM, Rapid Eye Movement instead of the preferred Slow Wave Sleep. Slow Wave Sleep allows the body to renew itself during the night and so is very important to one's health. It also affects a person's ability to be motivated. Without the orientation responses, which are what allows the mind to refocus off the bad and prepare for the next days activities in a positive way, depressives suffer each day with no improvement over the last. Those who have continuing problems with something that they're unable to clear up may notice a recurring dream as the mind tries to rid itself of the problem.

The act of dreaming is actually not restful but brings a person to an active state. The body treats the dream as real and puts out stress hormones and adrenaline to deal with the events of the dream. The body may try to diminish the number of hours they are in the dream state and the depressive may find they are waking up early because of this. This is being done to try to change the emotional state from one of depression.

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