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What Does It Mean When Your Dreams Feel so Real?

Find out how to make sense out of your most vivid, emotional dreams
What does it mean when your dreams feel so real

Have you ever had a dream so real that you woke up disoriented? Do your dreams ever cause strong feelings that make you think there must be something to them? If so, this information may help you make sense of those dreams.

What are dreams made of?

Dreams are a series of images, ideas, and feelings you experience when you sleep. Everyone dreams, but may not remember it the next day. Some dreams last only a few seconds, and others can last up to 30 minutes.

Experts are still not sure why we dream. It may help our brain form permanent memories or process the day's events. Others believe that dreams reflect hidden desires, fears, or beliefs. Still others believe that dreams are simply idle brain activity, with no specific purpose.

What makes some dreams feel so vivid?

When you have a detailed, vivid dream that sticks with you through the day, it's natural to wonder how and why it happened.

Most memorable dreams occur during the rapid-eye movement (REM) stage of sleep, which occurs several times in one night. In REM, your brain is more active and your eyes are continually moving, as though looking at physical objects.

You're more likely to remember a vivid dream if you wake up in the middle of REM. If your alarm goes off, for example, and you are in REM sleep, the dream may feel more real because it was more recent.

Vivid dreams may also occur with sleep difficulties, such as insomnia, narcolepsy, or jet lag. Many physical health conditions, such as pregnancy or taking certain medications, can also cause vivid dreaming.

What do vivid dreams mean?

When vivid dreams create strong emotions, it's natural to wonder if they have a deeper meaning for our lives. Figuring out that meaning, however, can be tricky.

Research shows that most dreams involve details based on our real lives. Based on that knowledge, Swansea University sleep scientist Professor Mark Blagrove believes that dreams provide a sort of "simulation" to help solve real-life problems. In New Statesman, Blagrove points out that dreams feel real because, to our brains, they are real. He suggests that dreaming evolved as a way to practice confronting the different threats we may face in the world.

The next time you experience a vivid dream and want to know what it means, try journaling about it:

  • Describe what happened, who was there, and what it reminded you of.

  • Focus most on how the dream made you feel, since dreams are more symbolic and less literal.

  • Don't pass judgment on yourself for your dreams, even if they involve details that make you uncomfortable.

Even without an obvious meaning, your dreams may still tell you something about your emotional state. "Because most of us occasionally get out of touch with how we're feeling, this is a useful insight." writes David B Feldman, Ph.D., professor at Santa Clara University. "In other words, if you're experiencing a stream of bad dreams, it might be worth checking in with yourself about how you've been feeling, and perhaps consider whether there's some action you could take to help improve your mood."

Sometimes dreams may indicate underlying issues, such as anxiety or [PTSD](https://www.7cups.comersistent, unpleasant dreams continue to bother you, consider speaking with a qualified health provider about your concerns.

For more support, join our empathetic community, chat with a free, trained listener, or start affordable online therapy today.

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Posted: 01 August 2019
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Emily Jacobs

Emily Jacobs is a freelance healthcare writer based in Toledo, Ohio.

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