Dreams and Depression


According to Griffin (2004) dreaming and depression are connected. People who are depressed seem to dream more than “healthy” people and they also have more intense dreams. The reason for this is that a depressed person spends a lot of their time worrying and reflecting internally on the negative. According to Griffin’s expectation fulfilment theory only “unexpressed emotionally arousing concerns” from the previous day will appear in dreams (see http://www.insomnium.co.uk/dream-theory/how-to-interpret-dreams/) therefore all this negative introspection and worry that a depressed person engages in is never acted upon and will be emotionally arousing. This will therefore become the subject of their dreams and due to the amount of negative intropection they will dream excessively and their dreams will be more intense as the mind attempts to act out and deactivate the unexpressed emotions.

Griffin suggests that a depressed person also enters dream sleep (REM sleep) more quickly and will spend a lot more time dreaming throughout the night. This therefore means that they will not spend as much time as they should in slow wave sleep (see http://www.insomnium.co.uk/dream-theory/dreams-and-stages-of-sleep/). Slow wave sleep is an important part of the sleep process as this is where the body recuperates. Due to this a depressed person will wake up exhausted as the brain’s energy levels have been reduced due to the lack of slow wave sleep and also they have exhausted their brains further through excessive dreaming. This is why a depressed person will feel drained, miserable and unable to motivate themselves in the morning. It is also likely that they would wake up early due to the excessive dreaming so that the brain isnt drained any further.

Griffin believes that the reason antidepressants work in some cases is that they normalise the patients dream sleep. In addition, some older antidepressants however eliminate the need for dreaming (REM sleep) altogether as they prevent the patient from becoming emotional aroused throughout the day.

Griffin, J. & Tyrrell, I. (2004) “Dreaming Reality: How dreaming keeps us sane, or can drive us mad.” UK, HG Publishing. ISBN 1-899398-36-8