D is for Dreams


Waking up completely exhausted is common among people with depression. I usually have more trouble getting up when I sleep during the night than when I am battling insomnia. It’s because I dream. I dream a lot. They aren’t good dreams either. I wouldn’t call them nightmares, but they are realistic and stressful. Sometimes they are repetitive dreams. I often think in the dream oh no, it isn’t a dream this time, it is happening for real! I often can’t tell that I am dreaming. Even upon waking, I am not sure what was real and what wasn’t. I wake up feeling like I’ve had a long stressful day at work and now, I have to get up and do it all again in waking life. Ugh.

Do you dream a lot? Do you have repetitive dreams? Have you ever had trouble telling the difference between your dream and reality?


It sucks, but I just accepted it. I figured everyone has these dreams. Most people do, but not every night, and not to the same intensity. Sleep studies have shown that people with depression dream up to three times more than the average person. Dreams contain more intense emotions and negative themes than average. Dream sleep occurs during the Rapid Eye Movements (REM) phase of the sleep cycle. It is often referred to as Paradoxical Sleep because although you are asleep, it is not the kind that leaves you rested and restored. During REM, all kind of stress hormones are released into your system. Dreams are usually thought of as good things. They tend to be exaggerations of the truth, but dreams tend to be metaphors for your life. Unaddressed concerns get played out in your dreams, leaving your brain free for dealing with the events of the next day. Too much of a good thing though, is always bad. Over-dreaming leaves you stressed and deprives you from the “deep sleep” that you really need. Waking too early is common among those with depression. This is actually the brain’s survival mechanism to prevent the stress from over-dreaming. Why do depressed people dream more? Apparently it is because we have more worries and emotional arousal that has to be worked through.

I don’t know if a completely dreamless sleep is possible, but you can at least find sleep where you don’t remember your dreams. I have come across a few tips I am going to try to see if I can mute these stressful dreams of mine.

  1. Don’t go to sleep stressed. Give yourself time to cool down
  2. Keep regular sleep times, even on weekends
  3. Don’t eat right before bed. Meats and cheeses can increase the likelihood of having nightmares
  4. Decrease alcohol and caffeine consumption
  5. Keep a dream journal or join a dream-sharing group in your community
  6. Research has shown that good smells can affect dreams positively…aromatic oils, lotion, flowers.
  7. Have some sort of moderate exercise during the day and not right before bed.
  8. Don’t sleep on your back. That can induce sleep paralysis which causes you to feel like you are awake and alert, but cannot move. People often complain of a heavy feeling on their chest.
  9. Read something not too thrilling, but not work or school related stuff either.
  10. Don’t stress about not being able to sleep. Worrying about it, will just make it less likely to happen.

Some of these I already do (#3, 4 and 7). Some, I’ll be honest, I’m just not going to do (#5). The others, I’ll give a try.

38 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. suesconsideredtrifles
    Apr 04, 2015 @ 13:47:57

    Are you following Arlee Bird’s A to Z? One of his blogs is about dreams. http://afarawayview.blogspot.co.uk/ Sue


  2. Anxious Mom
    Apr 04, 2015 @ 14:59:06

    I have very vivid dreams as well. Usually they aren’t nightmares (outside the past few weeks), but I definitely get that about not feeling rested at all. It sucks. Very informative post, I need to try to do some of those things myself.


    • somberscribbler
      Apr 04, 2015 @ 15:10:21

      Let me know if any of them work for you. I just bought a lavender scented Febreeze, I’m going to spray my bedding with it. Maybe it will help.


      • Anxious Mom
        Apr 04, 2015 @ 15:45:40

        Not that there’s a lot of time for bubble baths, but Johnson and Johnson makes a lavender-scented nighttime bath mix, which is nice. I never used it since it was for the kids, but may give that a try. Couldn’t hurt!

      • somberscribbler
        Apr 04, 2015 @ 16:07:40

        That sounds like a great idea! I am starting to wish we had a bath tub…..

  3. therabbitholez
    Apr 04, 2015 @ 15:09:39

    I wrote a post a recently about sleep paralysis, which for me was related to stress and onset depression, sometimes you feel as though you can sleep forever and other times the constant wakefulness arej ust living nightmares in some ways.

    The yearning for a good nights sleep can seem like an impossible task and finding the right technique that works takes time, so thank you for your list, it’s help to have some pointers to start with.


    • somberscribbler
      Apr 04, 2015 @ 15:12:05

      It really is hard to find a technique that helps. I’m hoping something from this list will work for me too. Some of them are really hard though….going to bed and getting up at the same time, even on weekends…ugh.


  4. NotAPunkRocker
    Apr 04, 2015 @ 15:36:58

    I tried to keep a dream journal. I could never remember my dreams, even in the moment, to write them down. :/


  5. mbarkersimpson
    Apr 04, 2015 @ 17:24:24

    Great advice to improve sleep patterns 🙂 Insomnia can be a killer, and reoccurring dreams have plagued me a time or two when I’m particularly stressed.


  6. Tizzy Brown
    Apr 04, 2015 @ 19:15:25

    I dream almost every night. Most of my dreams are pleasant, but I do occasionally get stressful or annoying dreams. The worst are when I dream that I’ve had a bad argument with my partner or someone in my family-those can leave me shaken for hours because they feel so vivid. When I used to work in a pharmacy I got those repetitive dreams all the time. I would dream I was dispensing prescriptions over and over and over again. It was incredibly boring and exhausting. Luckily I don’t get those very often any more since changing jobs. Unlike you I normally know that I’m dreaming and sometimes I can have lucid dreams where I’m able to control what happens. This has helped me greatly because now if I have a nightmare I can usually tell it’s not real and if I concentrate I can change the dream to avoid bad things happening. It took a lot of practice, but it was worth it to sleep easier!


    • somberscribbler
      Apr 04, 2015 @ 22:06:09

      The dreams that I realize are dreams always have some sort of fantasy element that I pick up on. One of my recurring dreams is my teeth falling out, or having loose teeth. Every time, I think that one is for real, haha.


  7. Deb
    Apr 04, 2015 @ 19:23:33

    Since Mike died, if I have dreamt, I do not remember them. My dreams used to be quite realistic and vivid! I have contacted the person I dreamt about to be sure they were alright and my dream was just that. They thought I was nuts! (I am). Recurring dreams often happened also..a lot! Then they stop and are gone for a while, only to return a few months later. Weird what our minds do even sleeping.


  8. marissoule
    Apr 04, 2015 @ 19:31:24

    I’ve dreamed all of my life. Usually I enjoy my dreams. I’ve only had one that scared me, that I remember, and that repeated itself. That was years ago. I think dream analysis is fascinating, but I can rarely remember a full dream more than a few minutes after I wake.


  9. Lorrie at www.shrinkrapped.com
    Apr 04, 2015 @ 20:14:55

    I find your blog very compelling–love the honesty, the informative posts, and your tagline (especially because it includes both “depressive” and “cake addict.”

    As for dreams, as a psychotherapist, I am always interested in my clients’ dreams, and also try to pay attention to what mine are helping me work through. A key dream I had led me to choose chemotherapy when I was trying to decide how to respond to a zero-stage but rare and aggressive cancer (for which there were no clear protocols since diagnosis at my stage was so uncommon).



    • somberscribbler
      Apr 04, 2015 @ 22:12:22

      Lol, thank you. I do love cake, too bad it isn’t good for depression. I think dreams in general are good things. They do help us sort through our lives. I just wish mine were more constructive.


  10. inspiretheworld2day
    Apr 04, 2015 @ 21:11:27

    I dream all the time. Several vivid dreams a night every single night! Between that and my overactive bladder I never feel like I get a good sleep and those dreams take a lot out of me. Like you, I feel like I’ve been up all night. I can totally identify and it’s a bum deal for sure 😦


  11. Elle @ Erratic Project Junkie
    Apr 04, 2015 @ 23:40:13

    This is my favorite of your posts so far. I’m a big time dreamer, at least now I know why I always have a story to tell and my husband can’t remember a darned thing. (He’s much more optimistic.) The dream journal would be really fun, but I agree…hard to keep going since I typically wake in the middle of the night and have no desire to turn on the light to write things down. I have definitely found that reading a novel before bedtime helps me fall asleep more quickly and soundly — total win-win! Elle @ Erratic Project Junkie


    • somberscribbler
      Apr 05, 2015 @ 09:49:41

      My husband is the same. If he does remember it is something completely bizarre that we can laugh about later. I’m glad you’ve found something that can help you get to sleep 🙂


  12. Susan Scott
    Apr 05, 2015 @ 06:08:40

    Interesting post and comments! Came to you via Arlee Bird. My theme for A-Z is on dreams which I believe are of value if we give them the attention they deserve.


  13. Scott Lawlor
    Apr 05, 2015 @ 09:38:53

    I enjoyed your post on dreams.


  14. Mental Mama
    Apr 06, 2015 @ 10:07:08

    I unplug from everything for an hour before bed. I try to do something relaxing like drawing, knitting, or reading a novel. Sometimes I’ll listen to the stereo.

    I have very vivid, but usually just odd, dreams these days. I went through a phase where I had night terrors on a regular basis, it was awful.


    • somberscribbler
      Apr 06, 2015 @ 10:11:17

      I’m going to try the unplugging thing. it is hard sometimes though. I work right until I am exhausted and don’t have the energy for anything else. That has to change though I guess.


      • Mental Mama
        Apr 06, 2015 @ 10:49:36

        It’s worth a shot. I find it makes a huge difference, plus it gives me time to devote to a project I might feel guilty about giving time to during the day.

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