Having Exceptionally Vivid Dreams On The Reg Might Actually Be A Problem

Remember that time you were on your way to work when your car turned into a rice cooker and your dog was waiting for you at the bus stop? Okay, so that probably never happened, but you've likely experienced similarly strange scenarios in your dreams. Vivid dreams, according to Healthline, are intense dreams that are easy to remember after waking and can often seem real. They may feel pleasant, scary, confusing, or even mundane (like dreaming of driving to work, but without the rice cooker car or dog at the bus stop).

Your dreams can be a window into your imagination and inner world, which is why some people use techniques to try to trigger vivid lucid dreaming. However, intense dreams can sometimes disrupt sleep, causing drowsiness, mood changes, disturbing thoughts, and a fear of falling asleep. And if you regularly experience vivid dreams, it may be a warning sign that something's amiss with your physical or mental health. Here's how to know if your vivid dreams warrant a trip to the doctor.

Your quality of sleep may be lacking

Deep, vivid dreams typically form during REM sleep, the stage of slumber that occurs in cycles starting about 90 minutes after you fall asleep (per WebMD). This may make vivid dreams seem like a sign of high-quality rest, but remembering these dreams regularly could actually indicate sleep issues. According to the Sleep Foundation, you may be more likely to remember your dreams in detail if you wake up throughout the night. Intense dreams are also more common in people who suffer from sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy.

If vivid dreams are the norm for you, sleep apnea could also be to blame. "Sleep apnea is a medical disorder in which the airway collapses in on itself, and it may close partially or completely during sleep," Dr. Indira Gurubhagavatula, a sleep expert, told Well+Good. "Each time the airway collapses, the amount of oxygen that can get through decreases. When the oxygen in the blood drops low enough, the brain signals the body to release the stress hormone adrenaline that causes a brief arousal from sleep." This adrenaline can be enough to wake you while you're dreaming, when those images are still fresh in your mind.

Your vivid dreams may suggest an underlying health issue if you struggle to sleep on a regular schedule, routinely feel sluggish during the day, or feel uncomfortable while asleep or trying to fall asleep (per Mayo Clinic). If you notice these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor.

Strange dreams may be a signal to pay attention to your mental health

Vivid dreams, especially ones that feel upsetting, could also point to mental health issues. If stress from the day isn't keeping you awake at night, it may still seep into your sleepytime fantasies, causing intense, wake-you-from-your-slumber nightmares. Besides stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions are also linked to frequent vivid dreams, according to Healthline.

Emotional and mental struggles don't have to follow you to bed — but in fact, a lack of peaceful rest can exacerbate mental health symptoms, according to the mental health organization Mind. "If your dreams are intense and upsetting, I always suggest paying attention to them, as they are clearly trying to get your attention," Dr. Leslie Ellis, a therapist and dream expert, shared with MindBodyGreen. Take note of what's happening in your life when you have vivid dreams and any other changes in your thoughts, habits, or mood. Struggling to cope with daily life — or sleep through the night — means it's time to find support from a therapist or counselor.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.