woman sitting in bed
The Short and Long-Term Effects of Anxiety On The Body
November 25, 2019
girl with mental illness
Guide to Parenting a Child With A Mental Illness
December 9, 2019

Depression and Dreams: How Mental Health Affects Your Dreams

From the outlandish claims of Sigmund Freud to modern-day dream interpretation, dreams have long been a mystery to many.

Some people tend to have scarier dreams. Others have dreams that simply don’t make sense. Still, other people have lucid dreams that they can control. Everybody is unique, but is there a connection between dreams and mental health?

The Connection Between Dreams and Mental Illness

As a Boca mental illness treatment center, we know that the brain is a fascinating and complex structure that may never be fully understood. When we fall asleep at night, our brains remain active and part of the result is dreaming. The brain is also responsible for our mental health when we are awake. Mental illness isn’t just troubling emotions from poor mental health; often mental illness is accompanied by changes in brain structure and chemistry as well. Depression specifically has shown evidence of these changes. Because there are differences between depressed brains and normal brains, are there differences in dreaming as well?

Do Depressed People Dream More?

The answer is yes. In fact, one study found that people who are depressed can dream up to three times more than people who are not depressed.1 Why is this? Dreams can help us regulate our emotions and process negative ones, and because depressed people often struggle with both, dreaming more frequently is a way to deal with these emotions.

Although dreaming more sounds pleasant enough, dreaming doesn’t actually help people feel restored. Although depressed people are dreaming more frequently, they are often left feeling more tired as well. People who are depressed may have a harder time falling asleep, but they enter REM sleep, the stage of sleep when dreaming occurs, earlier and stay in this stage longer. REM sleep sees brain waves that are almost as active as when someone is awake and also includes an increased heart rate and more heavy breathing. Because depressed people dream more frequently, it is no wonder that a common symptom of depression is fatigue.

Just because you dream doesn’t mean you will be able to recall it. If you are struggling with depression and dreams are something you never remember, you are also not alone. Depressed people may dream more than the average person, but they are also less likely to remember those dreams.2 Antidepressants can be the source of this problem, but for people who have yet to get treatment for depression, this can often still occur.

There is also a connection between depression and dreams that are more disturbing. Nightmares for people with depression are common.3 One study found that 28.4% of participants with severe depression reported frequent nightmares and that depression was one of the strongest indicators of frequent nightmares.4

Alcohol use and drug abuse may also be contributing factors to these sleep disturbances. Because many people who are depressed will turn to drugs or alcohol to cope, they may actually be making their sleep problems worse. It is important that these people receive dual diagnosis treatment to work on both problems.

Your dreams may be trying to tell you something. If you suspect that you or a loved one is struggling with depression or another mental illness, there is hope. At Banyan Mental Health, we want to help.

Call us today at 888-280-4763 so that you can finally wake up from this nightmare and move forward.


  1. Clinical-Depression.co.uk - Depression and dreaming
  2. Healthline - How Much Deep, Light, and REM Sleep Do You Need?
  3. Netflix - The Mind Explained
  4. American Academy of Sleep Medicine - Depression and insomnia are strongest risk factors for frequent nightmares

Alyssa is Banyan’s Director of Digital Marketing & Technology. After overcoming her own struggles with addiction, she began working in the treatment field in 2012. She graduated from Palm Beach State College in 2016 with additional education in Salesforce University programs. A part of the Banyan team since 2016, Alyssa brings over 5 years of experience in the addiction treatment field.

Comments are closed.