Depression, dreams and exhaustion

Tiredness is a well-known symptom of depression. It’s one of the things doctors ask about when considering if someone is presenting with depression. For many years it was unclear why but a discovery by Joseph Griffin of the  European Therapy Studies Institute has shown that people with depression dream up to three times as much as non-depressed person.

The purpose of dreaming is not fully understood. The best guess is that it is a way for our brain to regulate, organise and remember recent experiences. They should help us to process both good and bad experiences and move on from them in a healthy way and they  form part of the sleep cycle, which you may be familiar with. If not, for a health person, it should work like this:

The REM or Rapid Eye Movement stage is when we dream. This should then be followed by a period of deep, restful sleep known as Slow Wave Sleep before we return to lighter sleep and the cycle begins again. With depression, however, we stay in the REM phase for longer, having more dreams.  This means that our brain remains active for longer, demonstrating almost identical brain waves as when we are awake. We also remain emotionally roused which causes the production of adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol at a time that our bodies should be resting and replenishing itself.

As someone who is aware of multiple dreams most nights, it’s not surprising that I am permanently tired!


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