Dreams and Nightmares when Stressed or Depressed

Dreams and Nightmares

People dream both in a big grandiose way… and as they sleep. It’s used for inspiration and sometimes a source of pure horror. Women seem to remember more than men. We know that much, but we don’t seem to agree on much else. That’s not much to go on.

Some look at it as random chemistry.

Some seem to dream true things, but how could they possibly know those things?

Some find answers to things they think of in everyday life, which goes hand in hand with those who look at it as some mishmash of what we’ve experienced during the day. At some level, they keep problem-solving in their sleep. Some research points to the fact that what we’ve practiced during the day repeats at night-time to imprint memories better. The neurons fire together to then wire together; to make that even better, the brain keeps practicing even at night. 

Some don’t care but find them fascinating and amusing.

Some see dreams as something magical and a portal or as visions of what’ll happen in the future.

Some think they’re absolute truths, use dream therapy, and reason that dreams mean significant things. Dream interpretation has been an important part of how some psychologists work, even those with the highest reputation.

Jung is one of them. In his Collected Works Volume 10, paragraph 317, he wrote that “Dreams are impartial, spontaneous products of the unconscious psyche, outside the control of the will. They are pure nature; they show us the unvarnished, natural truth, and are therefore fitted, as nothing else is, to give us back an attitude that accords with our basic human nature when our consciousness has strayed too far from its foundations and run into an impasse.”

Jungian Confrerie, trying to reason as Jung did, tells us that “In dreams, there is no manipulation of the experience to conform with what the individual wants it to be, and the Jungian Analyst interprets these dreams without adding any of what he or she assumes or believes to be true.

In Jung’s own words, he saw dreams as “a spontaneous self-portrayal in symbolic form of the actual situation in the unconscious.” As such, the dream itself is the source of new information and greater understanding. Dreams are created as a manifestation of a specific archetype, allowing for the content of the dream to become the focus of the analysis.”

Marcus West writes that “Jung saw dreams as the psyche’s attempt to communicate important things to the individual, and he valued them highly, perhaps above all else, as a way of knowing what was really going on. Dreams are also an important part of the development of the personality – a process that he called individuation.”

As I previously mentioned when talking about the sleep stages, the rational parts of your brain sleep when you’re sleeping. Not entirely, but it’s disproportionately inactive compared to the emotional parts – those that tend to things like vision and hearing as well as memories.

That’s why I think that if your dreams are irrational and crazy, that’s alright. Perhaps not alright as in comfortable and pleasant, but understandable. It’s because your brain is far more ludicrous when you sleep. Even if you’re the most cold-blooded and rational analyst when you’re awake, your brain can very much turn into a creative madman when you sleep.

Perhaps you could “tell yourself something” as you sleep by removing the rational parts. That’s often a faint glimmer of a clue for most, but if it’s possible to deduce something out of it without using too far-fetched stories or guesses, that’s not necessarily bad.

With that said, however, the emotion you’ve got in the dream doesn’t have to be because of your dream, and the dream itself doesn’t necessarily have to come with an incredibly profound meaning. The emotion could rather be what you fall asleep with or what’s bubbling up to the surface when you suppress those other parts of the brain that might keep you from living out said emotion.

Crazy dreams are normal and benign. Dreams could be recurring, and dreams could be both just lovely and horrific. They are rarely a problem when they’re the good kind, however.

Nightmares, sleep terrors, and night terrors.

Sleep terrors and night terrors are the same, but they differ from nightmares, where the dreamer of a nightmare wakes up from the dream and may remember details, but those with sleep terrors remain asleep.

The terrors are highly common among children and seem to be more common among those with mental disorders, children, and grown-ups alike. That could, of course, be a result of the mechanism mentioned above. You get rid of the rational parts. If that’s gone and you’re bothered by depression or anxiety, those can roam free.

The problem is generally not a cause for concern, even though you might think so if you wake up screaming or see someone shivering with fear as they sleep. They could be a cause for concern if they keep you from getting enough sleep or if you become a risk to yourself or others as a result of them.

The sleep and the nightmares in and of themselves are often not the main problems. The emotional state, in general, is – including when they’re awake. The nightmares are often just another symptom.

Common behaviors from these things are:

  • Frightened screams or shouts
  • Sitting up in bed and appearing frightened
  • Staring wide-eyed
  • Being asleep but agitated, sweating, breathing heavily, and having a racing pulse, flushed face and dilated pupils.
  • Kicking and thrashing

In rarer cases people are:

  • Hard to wake up and confused if you succeed in waking them.
  • Completely inconsolable as they awake.
  • Get out of bed and do things, like running around or behaving aggressively.

The solution is generally to manage the underlying emotional troubles. [Check out more blog posts about Depression] You wouldn’t be the first to eliminate your nightly fear by getting rid of the misery you feel in the daytime, regardless of whether it’s related to stress, depression, or anxiety. Those are the ones I meet most often, and it’s not too uncommon to see fear at night as a part of the symptoms. That’s another symptom that goes away as you then get better.

It’s generally far easier to manage life as you’re awake, even though I’ve heard of those who’ve battled nightmares through lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming is a learned skill where you learn to be aware that you’re dreaming and might be able to control yourself in the dream as if you were awake. Amusing to some, but not the solution I tend to use since it’s not particularly reliable.

Sleep paralysis

Sleep paralysis is not to be confused with nightmares or night terrors.

In this case, you’re practically cognitively awake, but your body doesn’t work as intended. You cannot move, and you’re unable to speak.

This often comes with nightmares, a sense of fear, foreboding and presentiment of coming evil, a feeling of being unable to breathe, or chest pressure.

The even scarier part is that it’s often combined with sleep paralysis hallucinations. Those hallucinations often include the mentioned foreboding. It’s often that of someone being in your room, and with that, the sensation of that someone or something pressing on your chest or choking you.

What you see is often some monster, witch, or demon. Is it a succubus or a mare? Whatever it is, it’s generally not a pleasant figure!

Wikipedia tells us that:

A succubus is a demon or supernatural entity in folklore, in female form, that appears in dreams to seduce men, usually through sexual activity. According to religious tradition, a succubus needs male semen to survive; repeated sexual activity with a succubus will result in a bond being formed between the succubus and the man; a succubus cannot drain or harm the man with whom she is having intercourse. In modern representations, a succubus is often depicted as a beautiful seductress or enchantress, rather than as demonic or frightening.

A mare (Old English: mære, Old Dutch: mare, Proto-Slavic *mara; mara in Old High German, Old Norse, and Swedish) is a malicious entity in Germanic and Slavic folklore that rides on people’s chests while they sleep, bringing on nightmares.

It’s still quite unclear why or how the hallucinations occur. Back to the top. Dreams are used for inspiration and sometimes a source of pure horror. Watching helplessly as someone or something slowly chokes you to death sure counts as pure horror. Some see dreams as something magical and a portal or as visions of what’ll happen in the future, and some look at it as random chemistry. How can these possibly be random if they’re seen by so many? Some numbers say that ten percent or so of people suffer from sleep paralysis at some point in life.

An episode of sleep paralysis can last for a few seconds to a few minutes, which could feel long if you can’t breathe (though you usually do get enough air!). They are harmless but often very uncomfortable.

There is no “proven way” to safely wake up from an episode of sleep paralysis, so the best advice I can come up with is to remain calm and focus on your breathing until the episode ends. As with the night terrors, the biggest reasons to get these are because of mental health conditions or disrupted sleep in some way, where a changed schedule, sleep deprivation, or stress could be reasons.

… unless you’re bothered by that succubus, that is.

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