What Does It Mean To Have Vivid Dreams?
Author: Jonathan Warren
When many of us wake up, whether bleary eyed and rubbing out some sleepy dust or feeling refreshed and ready for the day, it is often with no recollection of what’s been going on in our brains during the night. Sometimes, however, we can recall dreams so closely that it can feel like what happened when you were sleeping was actually happening in real life. These are known as vivid dreams because of how memorable and realistic they can be.
Here, we take a look at what vivid dreams are, what they mean and whether there is anything you can do to stop them in their tracks.
What are vivid dreams?
The adjective ‘vivid’ is defined as “producing powerful feelings or strong, clear images in the mind” and that’s exactly what vivid dreams are: dreams which are so clear and stick in our minds even when we wake up. They could be those nightmare dreams which cause us to wake up in cold sweats or equally they could be a very happy dream, as long as you can recall a dream that felt more like real life, that’s a vivid dream.
When will I have vivid dreams and what do they mean?
When we head to bed, our sleep goes through different stages which can, broadly speaking, be split into two categories: REM sleep and non-REM sleep. REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement and is the stage of sleep where your brain activity increases and becomes similar to the activity levels you experience when you are fully awake. It is the REM stage of sleep in which vivid dreams are more likely to occur as the brain is more active during this period.
That’s not to say you can’t have some sweet dreams in Non-REM sleep stages, but the REM stage is when you can expect more vivid dreams as your ability to remember dreams will increase as your brain activity surges.
As far as what vivid dreams mean, that is the million pound question and we have even devoted one of our separate blogs to the discussion on What Do Dreams Mean! Some theorists argue that dreams might not serve any real purpose as we forget most of our dreams, but others contend that dreams are more reflective of our inner consciousness. If you are trying to understand why you can recollect your brain’s night wanderings in great detail, then it may be worth considering the causes of your vivid dreaming which could shed light on the meaning behind your dreams.
What causes vivid dreams?
There are various things which might be causing you to have more vivid dreams.
A common cause of vivid dreaming is increasing stress levels. The higher the level of stress we experience in our day-to-day lives, means the higher chances of us having vivid dreams. For any anxiety sufferers out there, this can often translate into having memorable nightmares.
Another reason why you experience vivid dreams could be down to your current sleeping pattern. As vivid dreams occur mostly in the REM stage of sleep, when we are close to consciousness, suddenly waking up could mean it is more likely that you will remember what you were dreaming about in greater detail. As well as intermittent interruptions to REM sleep, sleep deprivation can lead to extended periods of REM sleep when we are playing catch up on some shut eye and this increased REM period can intensify your dreaming.
People who are taking antidepressants or medication to combat high blood pressure, might also experience their fair share of vivid dreams as a result of their medications. Those experiencing pregnancy as well as sufferers of sleep disorders, such as insomnia or narcolepsy, are also more likely to encounter vivid dreams.
How can you stop having vivid dreams?
There’s no problem in having vivid dreams, particularly if they are pleasant dreams. But, continued vivid dreams which are more on the nightmarish side will ultimately impact your quality of sleep which can lead to being sleepy during the day, decreased brain function and increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
To try and decrease the frequency of vivid dreams, you should consider what might be causing you to experience them in the first place. If you think the cause is that you are suffering from a sleep disorder or the vivid dreaming has started at the same time as you starting to take some new medications, then it’s best to go and speak with your GP to discuss your experiences.
If the key driver of your vivid dreaming is stress, anxiety or poor quality sleep in general, then there’s plenty of steps to take to try and get better quality shuteye. A focus on a more nutritious diet, introduction of exercise and implementing a calming sleep routine can help to lower stress levels can improve our chances at waking up feeling replenished and ready to carpe diem!
For more advice on bettering your bedtimes, check out our blog on How to Improve Sleep Quality.