You might think that stress is only affecting your social or personal life. But it can also influence your brain so much so that even when you’re asleep, your brain is hyperactive. Vivid dreams are a result of various stress factors affecting all age groups and genders equally.
Vivid dreams are such intense dreams that you find hard to forget about. Most of the time, we are not able to recall our dreams. And that is quite normal. But there are such instances when you wake up from your sleep and you cannot shake off the feeling you had while dreaming. You are not able to differentiate between your dream and reality. They can be pleasurable or distressing. Some people confuse vivid dreams with night terrors. But the latter is not necessarily terrifying. And most often, people forget night terror. But the feeling of vivid dreams lingers with people.
Have you ever felt that way? You most probably have. All of us may have vivid dreams once in a while. But if you’re experiencing them almost every other night, they might be due to an underlying issue. And that issue certainly needs to be addressed.
What causes Vivid dreams?
Basically, our sleep has two cycles. Rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM). We are deep asleep during NREM phase and are difficult to arouse. During this phase, our body tissues regenerate.
But during the REM phase, we experience dreams. REM occurs about 90 minutes after we fall asleep and the first cycle lasts for about 10 minutes. It prolongs with progressing time. During this phase, our brain is active and that is why a person is likely to have vivid dreams during REM.
Now there are certain factors that affect our brain’s activity. Thus prolonging or intensifying the REM phase and causing vivid dreams. Sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy and insomnia, stress or anxiety, substance abuse or medication such as anti-hypertensive or sleeping pills, trauma, pregnancy, mental disorders such as schizophrenia –these are the major factors that lead to vivid dreams.
Crazy Facts about Vivid Dreams
Maybe you’ve had a past experience with vivid dreams. Or maybe you had one for the first time now. And you’re probably curious to learn more about it. So I am going to state three crazy facts about vivid dreams, and I’ll keep the most interesting one in the last. I hope you enjoy reading these.
Sleep Deprivation Leads to Intense Dreaming
You may think that sleeping for long periods or only narcoleptic people are prone to have vivid dreams. But that isn’t the case. Someone who is too much under stress is not getting enough sleep, is sleeping for less than 4 hours at night, is more likely to have intense, wild dreams.
Some people have traumatic dreams during these periods. They feel like they are drowning in water and suddenly they wake up, but they still feel like they are underwater. It takes them a while to gather their senses and realize that it was only a dream.
But most often, they can still recall that feeling of being drowned months after. It feels like being on a drug –cocaine. Like an adrenaline rush.
Some people have also experienced vivid dreams when they doze off during their office hours because of sleep deprivation.
A neurologist, Mark Mahowald stated when someone is sleep-deprived, he or she sees greater sleep intensity, their REM is intensified and their dreams become more vivid.
Vivid Dreaming is Essential for Memory Consolidation
A research was conducted by Richard Boyce along with other team members which sheds light on REM cycles. They experimented on mice by shutting off their REM cycles. The next day, they saw that the mice had poor recognition of familiar objects. It means their memory had been affected.
Further studies showed that shutting off neurons outside the REM cycles did not affect memory at all.
So during the rapid eye movements, or in other words, vivid and intense dreams, and the ability to recall them is due to active neurons in the hippocampus (part of where essential for memory building).
People who experience vivid dreams more often are observed to have better memory and recall abilities.
Robert Stickgold, a psychiatry professor dedicated his learning towards the concept of sleep and its link to memory and learning.
Isn’t that amazing? Who knew we could build long-term memories while dreaming?
Now we all know that some people have more nightmares than others. Why is that? It could be due to childhood trauma, poor parenting, fear of punishment, anxiety, depression, suppressed emotions, or any subconscious distress.
Nightmares or night terrors also occur during REM. Sometimes, they are so intense that the person wakes up gasping for air. These people are also likely to suffer from sleep paralysis or sleep apnea.
When a person repeatedly has nightmares and is unable to take them off their mind, sleep becomes a tough task for them. They are afraid to go back to sleep. When they wake up from a bad vivid dream, they are unable to move for a while because the dream felt too real. And now their brain is unable to differentiate between what’s real and what’s not.
Night terrors that occur during vivid dreams are most likely to make a person stay awake all night.
How to Prevent Vivid Dreams?
The underlying root cause of vivid dreams surely needs to be identified to get it treated properly or to prevent it. Following are some of the methods to get rid of this medical condition.
Reducing stress, anxiety, and depression through medication or therapy would surely benefit in the long run. Some therapists recommend breathing and relaxation exercises, yoga, meditation, art therapy to decrease stress levels in such individuals. You need to have a perfect hormonal balance for your body to act normally. Endorphins and oxytocin are the happy healthy hormones that are released during exercise. Serotonin is another mood booster that is released during exercises.
A healthy lifestyle and dietary habits are also essential in the path of recovery. We are what we eat. Making a reasonable sleep schedule, getting enough sleep, and pre-planning your day will also help you to reduce anxiety. Before you go back to bed, you can try breathing exercises to calm down.
Imagery rehearsal therapy is another professional therapy in which the therapist makes a person visualize a better ending of their vivid dream, especially if it’s a nightmare. The therapy continues until the person stops having a bad dream. So it stops being threatening for the individual.
Some research has been done on the importance of vivid dreams and how they are formed, but still, there is a long way to go. Either way, it is an interesting topic to look into. Especially if you are someone who has intense dreams more often. Vivid dreams is an important topic. So, we would discuss more it in our upcoming articles.