What Your Dreams Say About Your Mental Health

After treatment for depression or anxiety, people’s dreams often improve in tone.

After treatment for depression or anxiety, people’s dreams often improve in tone.

People whose dreams are more positive have better mental health, research finds.

However, those who have more negative dreams tend to experience more anxiety while they are awake as well.

Indeed, after treatment for depression or anxiety, people’s dreams often improve in tone.

It may be because people who can regulate their emotions better while awake can also keep their emotions more positive while they sleep.

For the study, 44 people kept a dream diary for three weeks, recording what they remembered each morning.

They also rated the emotions they experienced with the dreams.

The results showed that people who experienced more positive dreams generally had greater peace of mind while awake as well.

Ms Pilleriin Sikka, the study’s first author, said:

“These findings show that if we want to understand how dream content is related to waking well-being, it is not enough to measure only the symptoms of mental ill-being but we should measure well-being in its own right.

Surprisingly, those aspects that are typically considered and measured as ‘well-being’ were not related to dream content.

So there seems to be something unique about peace of mind and anxiety.”

Anxiety while waking was linked to negative dreams, the authors explain:

“…individuals with more symptoms of anxiety expressed more negative affect in subsequent dream reports and rated their dreams to contain more negative affect.”

Previous studies have linked depression and anxiety to worse dreams:

“People with different mental health disorders (e.g., anxiety, depression), sleep disorders, and health behavior problems report more nightmares and negatively toned dreams in general.

Interestingly, the reduction of depressive symptoms as a result of antidepressant treatment has been shown to accompany a corresponding change in dream affect.”


The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports (Sikka et al., 2018).

Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.

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