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Depression And The Role Of Dreaming

Apr 15, 2008
Many people who suffer depression often feel a loss of motivation and lethargy particularly first thing in the morning. This article will examine why this is so and can in itself be of some therapeutic value to a sufferer when they realize that it is not their fault that this type of impairment occurs.To many explaining this to them is like a light coming on for them.

To understand this particular aspect of depression we need to look at the subject of sleep. It appears according to new research that depressed people tend to get too much of, what is known as, REM sleep.

This is rapid eye movement sleep which as the reader probably knows is an indication that dreaming is occurring. We do need a certain amount of REM sleep per night and it is now thought that dreams are partly useful in bringing any important issues of the day or week to a close by integrating any stress or anxiety caused by these daily life events so we can be refreshed again the next day.

However, many depressed people simply obtain far more REM sleep than they need. Many years ago research was undertaken with depressed people. When they were woken up during periods of REM sleep their depressed mood was remarkably reduced for that day.

The effects did not last however because as soon as they went back to uninterrupted sleep patterns the depression returned. At that time no-one really understood why that would happen but it seemed that REM sleep had some connection to depression.

The key lies in dreaming and why we dream. New research from the European Therapeutic Studies Institute has shown that one of the main functions of dreaming is to discharge and deactivate unexpressed emotional arousal that we come into contact with during the day.

Its not that we dream about everything that has occurred during our day but that we tend to dream only about issues that we haven't acted upon or expressed fully.In other words we dream about emotionally arousing expectations, which unconsciously, our emotional brain is still anticipating.

The REM state acts as an internal theater of the mind where we can harmlessly fulfill our expectations and de-arouse them so our nervous system isn't crammed with continual stress and we can operate as normal.

Now depressed people will dream more than well people because in the course of a day they will worry and therefore ruminate about things constantly or they wouldn't be depressed. So when they go to sleep they have much much more to discharge emotionally than the average person.

Heres the interesting part. REM sleep and the dream state actually use up a lot of energy, actually quite incredible amounts of energy. By this I also mean emotional energy as well.

Therefore because REM sleep is so much more prolific for depressed people they use up and deplete emotional energy which in a normal healthy person actually gets replenished rather than depleted because they have a correct amount of REM sleep. Excessive dreaming drains us of energy and we feel extremely lethargic and exhausted come the morning.

The above scenario where you wake up exhausted rather than replenished is the exact state that many depressed patients or clients talk about.

In a nutshell then - too much worry during the day leads to too much dreaming which is only trying to discharge the de-aroused emotion but backfires by using up too much emotional energy which leaves the patient exhausted and lethargic the next day.

If you or a loved one are in just this sort of situation take heart because the next article in this series will explore new ways to lift depression quickly and efficiently.
About the Author
Lee Heather is a psychotherapist and the webmaster of
http://www.growthjunction.com - a large and ever expanding repository of personal development information ranging from public speaking skills to meditation and work/career information.
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