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.
- Don’t go to sleep stressed. Give yourself time to cool down
- Keep regular sleep times, even on weekends
- Don’t eat right before bed. Meats and cheeses can increase the likelihood of having nightmares
- Decrease alcohol and caffeine consumption
- Keep a dream journal or join a dream-sharing group in your community
- Research has shown that good smells can affect dreams positively…aromatic oils, lotion, flowers.
- Have some sort of moderate exercise during the day and not right before bed.
- 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.
- Read something not too thrilling, but not work or school related stuff either.
- 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.