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Whether dreams have meanings or not is something science has yet to settle. But different types of dreams can indicate important aspects of your mental health, physical health and sleep quality. Here are five different types of dreams and what they indicate.
1. Standard/Regular Dreams
If you have regular dreams, that’s a sign that your sleep quality and overall health are generally fine. But what exactly makes dreams regular or standard? Here are a few signs.
- You have mostly pleasant dreams, with a few occasional strange ones thrown in.
- Your dreams are highly visual with a major focus on imagery rather than touch or smell.
- You usually vaguely remember your dreams and often you might completely forget what you dreamt about.
- While your dreams can be interesting or weird, they are not too intense to the point of waking you up or leaving you stressed.
Having standard dreams indicates you are likely sleeping well and you are not overly stressed or anxious.
2. Recurring Dreams
We all sometimes have repeat dreams. But if you keep dreaming the same thing night after night, it might be a sign you are stressed or anxious.
Most recurring dreams are not pleasant. Common themes include being chased, falling, or being attacked. These dreams can be caused by trauma, grief, a stressful relationship or during transition to a new job or location.
In severe cases, recurring dreams can turn into recurring nightmares, which can worsen your stress and sleep quality.
The best solution is to try and figure out what’s causing the recurring dreams. You may need to talk to your therapist to help you manage your stress or anxiety. Talking to a friend, your partner or spiritual leader can also help you deal with whatever’s causing recurring dreams.
Nightmares are the worst kinds of dreams you can have and not just because they are scary. Frequent nightmares can affect your sleep quality, which in turn makes your nightmares worse and more frequent. Insomnia and sleep deprivation are strongly linked to nightmares.
Nightmares can also affect your mental health.
Occasional nightmares are typically not serious. You probably watched, listened to or read something scary, you have not been sleeping well or the medication you are taking could be causing the nightmares.
But frequent nightmares are associated with high levels of stress, anxiety and other mental health disorders. For instance, a majority of people with PTSD have frequent nightmares.
If it gets to the point that you are having frequent nightmares that disrupt your sleep, you might have a nightmare disorder, which may require medical intervention.
As with recurring dreams, the best way to deal with nightmares is to figure out what’s causing them and try to deal with it.
If your mental health is fine, other possible triggers of nightmares include alcohol, medication, substance abuse, a sleep disorder like sleep apnea, fatigue and jet lag.
4. Night Terrors
Nightmares are different from night terrors. For one, night terrors are more common in children though they do also occur in adults.
Secondly, night terrors are sorta not dreams. With a nightmare, you can remember the scary thing you were dreaming about while asleep. With night terrors, you don't remember anything. In fact, most people don't realize they have night terrors unless their partner tells them.
A night terror is a partial awakening from sleep where you shout, scream, kick, thrash about or even get out of bed without realizing it.
While night terrors and nightmares are different, they both have similar root causes. Night terrors are more likely to occur if you have a mental health disorder like stress, depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder.
Night terrors can also be caused by alcohol and substance abuse, jetlag, sleep deprivation and other sleep disorders like restless leg syndrome.
5. Lucid Dreams
Other than regular dreams, lucid dreams are the only other kind of dreams that people deliberately try to experience.
Lucid dreaming is when you are aware you are in a dream. Kinda like inception but without the ability to dream within a dream.
In addition to knowing you are dreaming, you may also be able to control what happens in the dreams. This is why people try to lucid dream; it’s touted as a way to safely deal with your anxieties, traumas and other psychological issues.
But lucid dreams can have some downsides. Some researchers say that lucid dreaming can interfere with sleep quality, since it prevents deep restful sleep. There are also concerns that lucid dreams can worsen mental health, especially for people with psychosis.
Other Types of Dreams
Other types of dreams include daydreams where you are fully awake but zoned out, false awakenings where you wake up in a dream but you think you’ve actually woken up, and vivid dreams filled with intense imagery like flying, falling or sex.
There’s only one thing you need to think about when it comes to assessing your dreams: how do they affect your sleep quality and mental health?
If your dreams are boring and you barely remember them, then your dreams are not an issue. Don't worry if you have an occasional strange dream or nightmare; that’s normal.
If your dreams awaken you or leave you more stressed, that’s when you should be worried. In most cases, your mental health is behind these disruptive dreams. Find a way to improve your mental health and your dreams will get boring again.
Getting better sleep, having a healthy nighttime routine and reducing alcohol intake especially close to bedtime can also help prevent disruptive dreams.