How Sleeping Pills Can Alter Your Dreams

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How Sleeping Pills Can Alter Your Dreams

Many people taking melatonin, a released hormone sold as an over-the-counter supplement, report vivid bad dreams as a side effect, which is worrying. Certain sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea and the use of medications such as beta blockers and antihistamines can also cause an increase in vivid dreams and nightmares.

Drugs that affect dreams are associated with REM sleep (rapid eye movement sleep). Antidepressants have the ability to change the way you dream, and they can affect your REM sleep.

The effects of antidepressants on sleep patterns are well documented. Prescription sleeping pills take time to get used to and have many side effects, some of which are undesirable. It is important to understand how they work and what side effects are expected.
During sleep, melatonin releases vasotocin, a protein that regulates REM sleep, a sleep cycle known to trigger vivid dreams, she added. Studies have shown that melatonin increases REM sleep.

Melatonin levels can drop if factors such as stress, smoking and shift work interfere with your sleep patterns. HIV-infected people also have reduced levels, so supplementation with melatonin can improve sleep. If you have vivid or bad dreams, take melatonin because that is your body's natural response to deep, restful sleep.

The effects of antidepressants on dream recollection sleep disorders and complaints about dreams and nightmares are more common in depressed individuals, regardless if they are receiving treatment or not (25), however, few studies have tested the effects of antidepressants on dream recollection at an experimental level (see the 26 reviews suggested in the table below) and they have tested the effects on dreams in both depressed and healthy individuals.

In a report in Sleep Medicine Reviews published in 2013, Gotthard-Tribl and his research team systematically investigated the influence of antidepressants on dream content in depressed and non-depressed individuals. The study compared the range of different antidepressants, including SSRIs and tricyclics, the oldest class of drugs used today. Getthards-T tribl and her research team investigated the effects of antidepressants on dream content of depressed and non-depressed people in a 2013 report published in Sleep Medicine Reviews systematically.

Antidepressants in the class of SSRIs such as Sertraline, fluoxetine, citalopram and Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) were found to intensify dreams and to reinforce reports of nightmares in humans.

Patients reported that dreams experienced during REM sleep tended to be bizarre, with detailed storylines, actions, and associations. They also reported that the content of their dreams varied depending on the stage of sleep at which they woke up. Accordingly, patients tended to report that their sleep was significantly better with antidepressants.

Antidepressants that treat depression can also affect your dreams by affecting the part of your sleep associated with rapid eye movement, known as REM sleep, where dreams occur. In conjunction with changes in this sleep state, people with depression report having more negative (bad) dreams.

In addition to trauma-related changes, antidepressants can affect sleep in a variety of ways, for better or worse. If you take medication for depression, your sleeping habits may change.

Different people respond differently to the same drug, but there are some basic rules about how different antidepressants affect your sleep. Medications affect the brain chemicals that transport you through various phases of sleep which can cause bad dreams and nightmares. If you start treading on your medication and get Wack-a-Doo dreams, it could be the culprit.

Dr. David Neubauer, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins Medicine, tells Bustle that vivid dreams and nightmares are a common side effect for people taking antidepressants, but there is very little authoritative research to explain why. It is known that drug abuse has many side effects, so it is not surprising that drugs can affect dreams. But your doctor is unlikely to tell you that it is a strange way to stop an antidepressant from affecting your dreams.

Short-term substance abuse can lead to changes in consciousness, and years of active addiction can affect your dreams. Prescription medications that treat mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder can also affect user "dreams". Other mind-altering drugs, such as hallucinogens, are known for the psychedelic effects they can produce in sleep.

Some medications, including certain antidepressants, blood pressure medications, beta blockers and medications used to treat Parkinson's disease and help quit smoking, can cause nightmares. But continued substance abuse and abuse can affect more than just dreams.

Frequent nightmares can lead to sleep apnea, restless sleep and daytime sleepiness. Other sleep disorders that interfere with adequate sleep can also be associated with nightmares. The frequency of nightmares and other vivid dreams can rise after a cancer diagnosis or during cancer treatment.

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Discover The Meaning of These Other Dreams


May represent someone or something that feels dangerous or unhealthy.


A globe in your dream symbolizes travel and control. Whether it is to take a trip in your own life and look at things from different views or simply try to experience new things because you never know whats out there for you. You seem to be in control of your life unless the globe does not stop spinning no matter how hard you try to stop it.


May symbolize a transitional period or time of change.


May represent the pursuit of goals or ideals.

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