Tired of feeling low: exploring the link between insomnia and depression

If you’ve ever had a bad night’s sleep, you’ll know how grotty you feel the next day.

It’s common for people not to sleep well during times of worry or change, but as long as that period doesn’t last too long, you can usually move forward without much harm done.  For most people, a couple of days without sleep will be more annoying than anything else, you may notice subtle changes in your mood or concentration (people may describe you as grumpy or forgetful) but once you’ve recouped your sleep, you’ll probably feel fine.

When it comes to poor mental health, insomnia (essentially trouble falling asleep or staying asleep) is not just a common symptom; it may even be the cause. You may have had problems sleeping for years but this has gone without treatment or attention; you may have only just started to recognise that periods of insomnia run parallel to your low mood.  Lack of sleep can also affect our memory and our immune system; both can have an impact on your mental health, especially if you’re always feeling run down or persistently coming down with coughs and colds.

Animated TED Talk on Sleep Deprivation

Lack of sleep can be caused by a number of things:

  • A bereavement or loss of something important like a job or relationship;
  • Financial pressures
  • Poor sleep environment or routine;
  • Physical illness or injury;
  • Medication
  • Poor diet including too much caffeine
  • Trauma, something that happened to you or someone close;
  • A belief  that sleep is “bad”, a sign of laziness or something to control;

and much more.

I talk about this and more in my book Answers in the Dark: Grief, Sleep and How Dreams Can Help You Heal. The book aims to join the dots between our sleep, dreams and our mental health, specifically how grief shows up, even if no one has died. I explore some of the big myths of sleep, offer a Sleep Cycle Repair Kit including mindfulness activities as well as some top tips to help you decode your dreams. 

You can find out more in the video below or order on Amazon.

Available on Amazon

Dream question: why am I dreaming about toilets?


L asks: I had a dream last night that I needed the toilet at someone’s house and there was no door on the loo? What does this mean?

Delphi replies:

Whenever we need the toilet in a dream, the interpretation may depend on whether or not you needed the loo in “real” life. 

Sometimes dreams can be influenced by things “outside” the dream (like being thirsty or busting to go) and this filters in.  It’s a bit like hearing the door bell in your dream, then realising when you wake up someone did call at the door in “real” life.  So if you found you needed the toilet when you woke up, this may have influenced your dream content.

There are other meanings though, especially as in your case the door was missing. This is a common theme: for some people both doors and walls can disappear, leaving them feeling exposed and everyone’s watching them “go”. This can be interpreted that at the time of the dream you may have put something “out in the open”, said something which embarrassed you perhaps, or put yourself in a situation where you were open to the scrutiny of others.

Toilet dreams can also suggest that you are finding it difficult to get any privacy; it may be in waking life, there is no peace, with you being disturbed or interrupted even when you want to spend a penny. 

What you are doing in the dream can also be important. If you’re “going” on the toilet, this can symbolise a need to get rid of things which, if you hold on to, have the potential to make you ill. 

One last thing that interested me about this dream: it was at someone else’s house. Houses in dreams are very personal to the dreamer so if you can remember who the person was, consider why it was that individual. It may be that you spend more time out of the house than in your own, or that this person is seeing a side of you no one else normally does.  You may have also revealed a secret to them and are wondering what will happen next. 

Remember to keep a dream diary as this can give you clues as to why you have certain dreams when you do.  You can access a free guide on how to do this when you subscribe to my newsletter.

Interested in Mental Health? More interesting stuff at Helping you Sparkle™.

Please read the important information at the bottom of this page before you leave a comment or question. Thank you. 

Dream question: Why am I dreaming of tidal waves?

D ream question: why have I suddenly started dreaming about tidal waves?

Delphi’s reply:

In recent years, public awareness of tidal waves and tsunamis has grown, along with knowledge of the devastating consequences these events can create.  With continued awareness of environmental impact, it’s fair to say that you may have a tsunami dream if you are consciously active in terms of our responsibilities to the planet and see this as a sign to take an active interest in a ‘greener’ lifestyle and promote this in a positive way.  With increasing numbers of storms affecting our coast lines, it also makes sense that if you’ve suddenly started dreaming about tidal waves, that what’s happening in the news can be an influencing factor.  However, it’s also likely that there’s a deeper, symbolic connection. 

Waves have traditionally symbolised emotions so when we talk about them washing over us in a dream, this can represent powerful feelings which have arrived unexpectedly – like tidal waves.

It may be that when you have a ‘waves’ dream, you have been going through a difficult time and your emotions sneak up on you with occasional outbursts . This dream can acknowledge that it’s time to stop suppressing those feelings and acknowledge the powerful impact of events which have taken their toll. 

The severity of the waves (especially in the case of a tsunami) will often suggest the need for these feelings to be brought out in the open – because, like a force of nature,  there’s no stopping them.  With the help of a friend or a professional, you may be able to find a way to control them before they get the better of you – before another outburst, which you would much rather have avoided or controlled. Like a tsunami, recent events (or your actions as a result) may have been catastrophic in some way.

If you describe the sea as stormy, this may possibly relate to a relationship which has been unpredictable of late. If the tide is washing something or someone away, this can represent a fear of losing those things which are important to you; the dream most likely representing the fear (rather than the reality) of it happening. 

Gentle waves is often a good sign in dreams that all is – or will be – well. The calmness, serenity and stillness of the sea can reflect that life has been or will be about to calm down and become more comfortable.

Water in general can also mean time for cleansing and purification, although this is for another post. Click here for dreams about water.

Keeping a dream diary is a great way of spotting patterns in your dreaming. 

Interested in Mental Health? Take a look at Helping You Sparkle™.

Please read the important information at the bottom of this page before leaving a comment or question. Thank you. 

Dream question: why won’t they speak to me? Dreams after bereavement

L asked her dream question:“Why, when I dream of friends and relatives who have died, do they snub me?”

Delphi’s reply:

Dreaming about people who have passed away can be unsettling, even more so when the person who has died behaves in a way which is unkind or unexpected in the dream.  I have worked with dreams following bereavement for many years, particularly those bereaved by murder and suicide and it’s not uncommon for people to describe what you have. 

It can be useful to explore the relationship you had with these people and consider if there is any “unfinished business” or unresolved thoughts and feelings, perhaps a conversation you wish you’d had. It may be that you feel guilty about things which were said or done prior to their passing or you may wish you had done more to prevent their death happening, however impossible or unlikely this may have been. You may also wish they had done more to be with you. These types of dreams are common after someone takes their own life. 

You mention in your dreams that your friends and relatives ‘snub’ you – this seems like a very deliberate act on their part but in essence may represent your acknowledgement they are no longer here. It may be, on some level, you have processed them dying as them no longer wanting or choosing to spend time with you. This naturally feels painful and personal to you, both in the dream and in your waking life.

Some people believe that dreams are a way to communicate with the deceased and it’s fair to say that many cultures consider this a way of receiving helpful messages from the other side. However, it’s important to emphasise that these types of communications are always received as enlightening in some way – the content is never unkind or hurtful- but instead provide valuable information for the dreamer to take positive action in some area of their life. People who have pleasant dreams of people that have passed away often wake up feeling as if something very special has just happened.  For this reason, dreams where deceased loved ones appear in a way which hurts you are more likely reflecting a worry or issue you have about their passing.  Some people don’t dream about their dead relatives or friends at all, and this can equally be painful. 

Bereavement is rarely straightforward and dream content during the grieving process can seem cruel, even years after the person has died. Dreams after a bereavement is a huge topic and one I can only cover briefly here, but discuss more in my book (hopefully out 2021). But it is important to allow yourself time to understand your relationships with the people who have passed away, how you’re dealing with their death and consider how this may be having an impact in your waking life. Talking things through with a close friend or a professional can be a helpful way of understanding your loss.

Don’t forget to keep a dream diary to see if there are patterns developing with your dreams. You may find that you dream of those who have passed away around the time of anniversaries such as their birth or death. If you recognise a pattern developing, this can also help you understand your dream’s hidden message.  

Interested in Mental Health? There are more insights at Helping You Sparkle™ 

Please read the important information at the bottom of this page before leaving a comment or question. Thank you. 

Why do we dream and what do they mean? A look at Dream Theory

Why do we dream and what do dreams mean?  It’s a debate we’ve had for thousands of years and I talk about this more in my book Answers in the Dark.

We know this, because over 3000 years ago, people were writing about them.  The Chester Beatty Papyrus #3 was dated to 1220 BC, and contained a manuscript of dream theory and interpretation.  In fact, it’s where the theory of opposites came from – that if you dream of death (for example) it means there is a birth on the horizon.

A Greek gentleman called Artemidorus (who lived around the second century AD), created the Oneirocritica, the next large piece of work which attempted to understand, explore and explain fully what dreams meant.

After that, the most influential work came from Sigmund Freud in the early 19th century, although even his work was influenced by his mentors and peers before him.  He was then followed by his student Carl Jung, who approached his theory from a different angle than those that Freud became famous for.  But there were many more, less famous theorists like Alfred Adler, John Kappas and Nerys Dee, all who approached dreams and their meanings differently.  Joe Griffin, a 21st century dream theorist approaches his work from the Human Givens theory.  All of these people have played an important part in understanding what dreams mean and why we have them.

Culturally, dreams play an important part in the lives of people around the world.  There are many different approaches to dreams and interpretation amongst native american, aboriginal and african tribes for example.  Shamanic and Alchera beliefs are just two examples of how cultures involve dreaming in their traditions and way of life.  In some Buddhist traditions there is a focus on lucid dreaming (article coming soon).

What is important, is to remember that scientifically we’ve only really been scratching the surface of dreams and sleep during the last century.  We are still a long way from knowing for sure where dreams come from, why we have them and what they mean.  We know for certain that we need to sleep and we need to dream.  Various studies including this one (reported on the BBC website and originally published in Science Magazine) have concluded that without dreams and sleep, we become ill and our memory is affected.

If you’re starting the process of exploring your dreams you may find the articles and services here useful as a resource to start your journey – but remember you are unique and so are your dreams; only you can decide ultimately what they mean. 

I talk about common and recurring dreams in my book Answers in the Dark: Grief, Sleep and How Dreams Can Help You Heal. The book aims to join the dots between our sleep, dreams and our mental health, specifically how grief shows up, even if no one has died. I explore some of the big myths of sleep, offer a Sleep Cycle Repair Kit including mindfulness activities as well as some top tips to help you decode your dreams.

You can find out more in the video below or order on Amazon.

Available on Amazon

Please read the “important stuff” about this website before leaving a comment or question. Thank you.