When I was in my last big bout of depression I noticed something that I hadn’t noticed before. I found that when I slept, all my dreams would be horrible. Not nightmares per se, but scenarios that would induce feelings of anger and sadness and they’d make me tense, agitated and very very emotional.
If I couldn’t remember what happened in the dream I’d know it was bad because I’d have this horrible, slightly heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach when I woke. When I could remember them, the dreams would stay with me the whole day as I relived everything that happened. Most dreams involved me arguing with people, getting into fights both physically and verbally, making stupid mistakes or decisions that were easily avoidable or, the worst ones, finding out that someone I love had died.
I’m not saying that having a bad dream definitely leads to a worse mood mentally, but when it’s multiple bad dreams one after the other, night after night, it does have an effect on you. It’s tiring, emotionally draining and feels like you don’t get the “emotional rest” that you need and should get when you sleep.
I haven’t yet worked out whether my mood starts to get low first and then the dreams begin or the dreams trigger the mood, but they do seem to be linked. The problem I find is, unlike other triggers, dreams are out of my control and there’s not much I can do about them.
So what am I to do when I start to notice that my dreams are turning bad and my mood is getting effected by them? That bit I haven’t figured out yet. Maybe recognising that they are only dreams might help, but when your mood gets low things tend to effect you more. Saying to yourself “it’s just a dream” provides very little comfort.