What your dreams are saying about the type of depression you have?

First things first… nothing contained on this web site should be construed nor is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider. Ya da ya da ya da…

There are two main neurotransmitters involved in all types of depression and we can learn which one we are more than likely to be experiencing based on the way we dream. And the cool thing is that once we understand which type of neurological imbalance we have, there is potential to eliminate the need for pharmaceuticals and find a healthier and safer alternative by naturally providing the brain and body with the appropriate precursors necessary to function properly while in a dream state and ultimately lead to a happier and healthier life. 

The way this works is important to understand because due to the subjective nature of dreams, the scientific community struggles to analyze the topic objectively due to the fact that dreaming is such a subjective experience. Yet our dreams carry meaning beyond the realm of spiritual premonitions. They also tells us a lot about our bodies and brains. 

Once you understand how this works, the only thing you'll need to figure out which type of depression you are most prone to - is a dream journal. Once you understand the way the dreaming brain behaves in this respect under the influence of these two neurotransmitters, it becomes very apparent which part of your brain chemistry is struggling to keep up… because the patterns in your dream content indicates which of these neurotransmitters are likely to be out of balance. 

The first one is serotonin and the second is dopamine. And what’s important to realize about these two neurotransmitters is that they have a reciprocal relationship with one another while in a dream state. The reason why is because the levels of these neurotransmitters actually determine which stage of sleep we are in. As we move through each sleep stage in our cycle, these neurotransmitters are constantly adjusting up and down. 

And they tend to teeter totter in order to regulate our need for both deep sleep and REM sleep. High dopamine levels usually act as an indication of lower than usual serotonin levels. 

The Serotonergic System

Serotonin is a chemical that nerve cells produce. It sends signals between your nerve cells. It is found mostly in the digestive system, although it's also in blood platelets and throughout the central nervous system. Serotonin is made from the essential amino acid tryptophan.

Serotonin in the brain is thought to regulate anxiety, happiness, and mood. Low levels of the chemical have been associated with depression, and increased serotonin levels brought on by medication are thought to decrease arousal.

The thing about serotonin...

Neurons which produce serotonin originate in the brain stem in several areas which make up the raphe nuclei. These neurons extend along many different pathways that can be categorized as ascending or descending

Ascending pathways project to higher brain regions, such as the cortex, limbic system, and hypothalamus. They regulate perception, cognition, memory, and mood.

Descending pathways project to the brain stem, cerebellum, and spinal cord. They regulate movement, body temperature, and pain.

The emotional symptoms of low levels of serotonin is most often -  feelings of panic and anxiety. Because serotonin is a stabilizing neurotransmitter when it comes to regulating your mood.

This is why the chillest person most people know is often a pot smoker. Am I right or am I right or am I right? That’s cannabis actually increases the activation of serotonin. That’s why cannabis can be highly useful to people who deal with anxiety and certain types of depression.

The effects of cannabis is also why the chillest person you know is often less easily excited. Because it corresponds with lower dopamine and dopamine is what gives you pizzaz!

Since serotonin and dopamine have a reciprocal effect on one another and also since we know how these two neurotransmitters affect our brain, we can learn a lot about the types of imbalances we have from our dreams. 

There are strong links between the serotonin and dopamine systems, both structurally and in function. In some cases, serotonin appears to inhibit dopamine production , which means that low levels of serotonin can lead to an overproduction of dopamine

Here is a list of foods that increase serotonin, which might be helpful for you to add if you and that your dreams are overly boring and less lively.

Foods that help with low serotonin:

  1. Salmon
  1. Poultry
  1. Eggs
  1. Spinach
  1. Seeds
  1. Milk
  1. Soy products
  1. Nuts

Herbs that help with low serotonin:

If your dreams are often frightening and you feel low desire and very little motivation then it’s possible your dopamine levels are a little too high and your serotonin is a little low. If that’s the case you can try taking small amounts of 5 HTP. 5 HTP also crosses the blood to brain barrier and is a precursor to serotonin.

The thing about dopamine:

Dopamine (DA, a contraction of 3,4-dihydroxyphenethylamine) is an organic chemical of the catecholamine and phenethylamine families. It functions both as a hormone and a neurotransmitter, and plays several important roles in the brain and body.

Dopamine is often seen as the main chemical of pleasure, but the current opinion in pharmacology is that dopamine instead confers motivational salience.

Motivational salience is a cognitive process and a form of attention that motivates or propels an individual's behavior towards or away from a particular object, perceived event or outcome. Motivational salience regulates the intensity of behaviors that facilitate the attainment of a particular goal, the amount of time and energy that an individual is willing to expend to attain a particular goal, and the amount of risk that an individual is willing to accept while working to attain a particular goal.

So here’s how you figure out which type of imbalance you have (if any). If you pay attention to the nature of your dreams you can better adjust your diet and supplementation to find balance and emotional well-being. 

Simply put, high dopamine results in highly excited dreams - often involving a lot of action. If your dopamine levels are too high you’ll even experience nightmares. If this is a regular occurrence it is more than likely that this means that your dopamine levels are high. 

High dopamine dreams, although intense, are some of my favorite dreams because you often wake up from them feeling like you just accomplished something amazing. This results in feeling alive and like you can tackle the world. It’s like the morning after great sex. 

The problem is that neither high serotonin nor dopamine demonstrates better dream recall so if you are sure whether your dreams are indicating high dopamine (highly intense and action oriented dreams) or serotonin dreams (peaceful dreams that feel very light and pleasant) then you might need some help strengthening your dream recall. 

If you do not remember your dreams, the first and best thing to do is start dream journaling. Exercising your dream retention first thing in the morning is like building a muscle so the more you practice the more you will begin to remember. 

Some people need dietary in order to remember their dreams so if for whatever reason the function of your dreams is not operating correctly it’s possible that you have some deficiencies in your diet. 

For that reason, I actually created a dietary supplement called dream leaf that helps to accelerate dream sleep and improve dream recall. It even promotes lucid dreaming so you can have those flying dreams we all love. Check it out here!

Foods that help for low dopamine:

  • Cheese and yogurt.
  • Unprocessed meats such as beef, chicken and turkey.
  • Omega-3 rich fish such as salmon and mackerel.
  • Eggs
  • Fruit and vegetables, in particular bananas.
  • Nuts such as almonds and walnuts.
  • Dark chocolate.

Herbs that help for low dopamine:

Mucana pruriens

If your dreams are dull and boring, Mucana pruriens can be taken to naturally increase dopamine activity. This is the most immediate precursor to dopamine that you can ingest naturally through diet. It actually is one of the few dietary aids you can take for this that successfully cross the blood to brain barrier.

Herbs that help with low serotonin:

If your dreams are often frightening and you feel low desire and very little motivation then it’s possible your dopamine levels are a little too high and your serotonin is a little low. If that’s the case you can try taking small amounts of 5 HTP. 5 HTP also crosses the blood to brain barrier and is a precursor to serotonin. 


“An experimental study of normal volunteers showed that, although SSRI treatment decreased dream recall frequency, several subject-rated dream-intensity measures were greater during steady-state drug administration compared with pre-drug baseline and early drug treatment. Additionally, such subject-rated dream intensity as well as dream report length and judge-rated bizarreness were greater during acute discontinuation than during pre-drug baseline and drug administration periods.”

“The bulk of pharmacological evidence suggests that drugs that enhance serotonergic neurotransmission lighten sleep.”


If you're interested in diving deeper into the subconscious mind through lucid dreaming, be sure to check out Dream Leaf -An Advanced Lucid Dreaming Supplement.


Pace-Schott E.F. (2008) Serotonin and dreaming. In: Monti J.M., Pandi-Perumal S.R., Jacobs B.L., Nutt D.J. (eds) Serotonin and Sleep: Molecular, Functional and Clinical Aspects. Birkhäuser Basel

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