Why dreaming could be key to your mental health

Written by Jane Watson

I have suffered with depression on and off for the most part of my adult life, I found that this also had an adverse knock on effect on my sleep quality, that and being the Mother of two young girls of course!

I went through a 2 month period at the beginning of last year when my sleep was particularly bad, and it wasn’t like motherhood was getting in the way at this point as both girls are now into their teenage years, however it did coincide with a period of high stress in my life due to a job change. So I started taking herbal sleeping remedies which really helped, and when things started to settle down I found myself sleeping much better at night.

 

From poor sleep to vivid dreams

Straight after this 2 month period of poor sleep, once my sleep had improved I noticed something peculiar, I was dreaming for what felt like long periods of time towards the end of a night’s sleep just before the alarm at 7, sometimes I would even slip back into sleep for 15 minutes after my alarm.

Whereas before falling asleep felt impossible, now drifting back off was completely natural and even hard to control, which felt like a luxury! I found during this time when I was dreaming a lot, that there was a marked improvement in my mood and energy levels during the day, and I started to wonder whether there might be a link between dreams and improved mental health.

 

Research highlights the importance of dreams

So I decided to a bit of research on the topic to see if there really was a link between the two, and it turns out that there is mounting research highlighting the importance of dreams, stating that dreaming could even be key to mental health. When it comes to sleep, many of us who struggle to get a good full night’s sleep would see dreaming as a luxury, reserved only for those that have no problems shutting off at night for an uninterrupted sleep. This is certainly how I felt when I was struggling with sleep, but as soon as my sleep improved and dreaming became a regular thing, I found that I felt much better in myself.

 

Dreaming is essential to a healthy mind

According to research, dreams are not only essential to a healthy mind, but the lack of dreams has been linked with several diseases. I also found that true to my experience, dreaming tends to happen when we are in the REM section of sleep, during the final phase of sleep when our brains are most active, which explains why I noticed I was dreaming so much in the morning before waking up.

 

Dreaming is an overnight therapy

Several studies have shown that REM sleep is important for brain development, and that those that spent more time in the REM phase were better able to deal with fear, worry and anxiety and therefore less likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder following a dramatic experience or period of high stress. This made perfect sense to me, as I found that I felt significantly less stressed and anxious during the day after a night where I had dreamt a lot, I also feel now that I am more resilient and equipped to deal with life’s mishaps and difficulties. I think of dreaming now as like an overnight therapy, the only problem at this stage is I find it more difficult to get up! Although I would much prefer that than having trouble falling asleep.

 

Image credit: cuncon

 

Jane Watson spent over a decade working in personal coaching and counselling, helping her clients using art. Now she’s taken a step back to spend more time with her growing family and writing about her favorite subjects.

To check out all of Jane’s guest posts on MHT, click here. 


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