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Vivid Dreams Explained: 3 Reasons Your Dreams Feel Different

Blog Sleep & Wellness
Vivid Dreams Explained: 3 Reasons Your Dreams Feel Different

According to a recent report by the National Sleep Foundation, the average person has four to six dreams a night. Though most people forget 95% of these as soon as they wake up, a small percentage of dreams can have a more lasting impact - these are known as vivid dreams.

When you’re having a vivid dream, anything goes. You might find yourself being chased down a forest by a three-legged bear, or back in the office, having a one-on-one meeting with your favorite colleague. Ranging from the fantastical to the just plain weird, vivid dreams are totally normal, but they can be disruptive to your sleep.


How Do I Know If I’ve Had A Vivid Dream?

Puffy - How Do I Know If I’ve Had A Vivid Dream?

Vivid dreams are marked by extreme emotions, a strong memory of being present in the dream, and can often cause you to wake up from sleep. Though experiencing the occasional vivid dream is perfectly normal, you might find yourself having them often, or experiencing them in debilitating amounts.

Vivid dreams can be positive, like having a dinner date with your celebrity crush (sign us up!), or negative, such as being chased or hiding from something ominous. Though they aren’t harmful themselves, vivid dreams can disrupt your sleep cycle, which can, in turn, have negative impacts on your well-being.

Some symptoms of chronic vivid dreams include sleepiness during the day, difficulty regulating your mood, and sleep anxiety. If you struggle with one or all of these symptoms, the good news is a healthy sleep hygiene practice can reverse a lot of the damage caused by vivid dreams.

So why do so many people experience vivid dreams, and what exactly can be done about them?

The Most Common Causes Of Vivid Dreams

Puffy - The Most Common Causes Of Vivid Dreams

If you’re struggling to figure out the source of all your crazy dreams and you’re just not sure where to get started, we’ve gathered three of the main reasons you might be feeling a difference in your dreaming off-late, along with some suggestions for how you can deal with each one of them.

#1 Excess Stress

One of the main reasons your dreams might feel different than they usually do comes down to stress. In 2018, researchers from Sweden found that mental well-being is closely tied to the types of dreams experienced in sleep. Respondents who fell on the anxious side of the well-being spectrum were particularly susceptible to vivid dreams.

Whether it’s pressure from work or conflict within personal relationships, spikes of stress can seep into your subconscious, making it easier for your dreams to get a lot stranger or troubling than you’re used to.

#2 Medications

Certain kinds of prescribed medication might have vivid dreams as a side effect. In one study conducted by researchers at Harvard University, participants taking SSRIs experienced less recall overall for their dreams, as well as higher rates of vivid dreams.

These can include anti-depressants, beta-blockers used for the treatment of high blood pressure, and certain kinds of medicine prescribed for neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.

#3 Poor Sleep Hygiene

The average person needs at least seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night to function properly. If you struggle to get a good night’s rest and spend a lot more time tossing and turning than you’d like, it’s possible your sleep hygiene may be the reason you’re experiencing vivid dreams.

Poor sleep hygiene can be helped with the most comfortable mattress for your rest, a bedtime routine, and a set bedtime that doesn’t change on the weekends.

How Do I Prevent Vivid Dreams?

Puffy - How Do I Prevent Vivid Dreams?

While vivid dreams aren’t always bad, if you’re experiencing nightmares more often than positive dreams, there are a few different ways you can troubleshoot the problem.

For starters, investing in a hybrid mattress that works for your body can make a bigger difference than you think when it comes to the quality of your sleep. Getting cozy and comfortable quickly can expel any unnecessary fears or dread you might experience in the lead-up to sleep, so be sure to try and find the right mattress for the job.

If you are on any specific medication, try speaking to your physician or doctor about the side effects you’re experiencing. They might have specific suggestions tailored to you, or even switch up your dosage so that you’re less likely to have your sleep cycle interrupted.

Finally, a good night’s sleep is easier when you have healthy sleep hygiene habits. These include:

  • Switching off all devices at least two hours before bedtime. The blue light present in phones and other devices can actually disrupt the production of melatonin in the body, which is vital for a good night’s sleep.
  • Avoiding all caffeinated beverages after twelve. Caffeine can stay in your body for as long as eight hours after you’ve last consumed it, which is why it’s important to stay away from it when you’re having trouble sleeping. Switch up your bedtime beverage and have a herbal tea instead for a calming touch.
  • Take a warm shower before tucking yourself in. Hot showers can actually bring down your internal body temperature, triggering your body’s wind-down mode. Your body sleeps best between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit, making it vital to keep your room and bed as cool as you can for proper rest.
  • Find calming techniques for sleep anxiety. Figuring out what works best to calm yourself down when you experience anxiety is important, not just for a good night’s sleep, but also for your well-being overall. Meditation techniques, consistent exercise, and deep breathing are all examples of activities that can have a really positive impact on your sleep cycle overall.

Remember, a vivid dream or two is nothing to be alarmed by, and on some occasions, they can even be enjoyable!


Keeping your sleep hygiene practices consistent and developing calming techniques that help you manage stress more effectively can go a long way in ensuring you’re catching up on the sleep you deserve.



Your Turn...

Do you experience vivid dreams? Share your thoughts in the comments. 


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Disclaimer. We love sleep and we want you to get the best sleep possible. But we do not provide medical advice. This blog is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical info, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our blog.

Certified Sleep Science Coach

Written by Teresa Francis, Certified Sleep Science Coach

Teresa Francis is a Certified Sleep Science Coach and full-time writer focused on well-being and sleep health. She’s written on a variety of topics, from what’s trending in bedroom decor to the way lifestyle influences sleep. Some of the subject areas she covers for Puffy include the best foods for better sleep, how new parents can catch up on rest, and the best way to become a morning person. Teresa has a Master’s Degree in Literature, and has always believed in the power of a good bedtime story.


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