Some common causes of vivid dreams include sleep deprivation, alcohol consumption, and substance use. Practicing good sleep hygiene may help prevent them. Learn more about the causes of vivid dreams here.
Everyone dreams but not everyone remembers doing so. People tend to spend about 2 hours each night dreaming. Sleep and dreams are complex and remain a mystery to scientists.
What we do know is that quality sleep is essential for many brain functions. Sleep affects how nerve cells communicate with each other. Researchers now also believe that sleeping can help remove toxins that build up in the brain during waking hours.
Sleep affects almost every type of tissue and system in the body, from the brain and heart to the immune system and mood.
A person may have vivid dreams for any number of reasons, depending on individual situations.
People often find that thoughts from the day invade their dreams. They usually experience the most vivid dreams during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which we cover in more detail below.
Causes of vivid dreams include:
Sleep deprivation can lead to more intense dreaming.
Alcohol consumption can suppress REM sleep. When a person stops drinking, it can lead to unusually vivid and intense dreams.
Using certain substances — such as marijuana, cocaine, and ketamine — can contribute to vivid or unpleasant dreams.
People who are recovering from addiction may find that they have vivid dreams about using the drug they are recovering from.
This is relatively common. Experts think that these dreams are part of the impact that drug addiction has on the brain.
Drug side effects
All medicines have potential side effects. For some people, these side effects can include bad or vivid dreams.
Examples of medications that may contribute to vivid dreams or nightmares include:
- antidepressants, including tricyclic monoamine oxidase inhibitors and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
- centrally acting antihypertensives, such as beta-blockers, rauwolfia alkaloids, and alpha agonists
- medications for conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, including levodopa (Larodopa) and selegiline (Eldepryl)
All drugs will have potential side effects listed on the packaging.
Stress and traumatic events can lead to vivid dreams. Researchers believe that this is due to the role that dreaming plays in memory and processing emotions.
People who experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are more likely to have bad vivid dreams than people who do not.