Unraveling the Mystery of Sleep Crying: What It Reveals About Mental Health

Understanding the Signs and Symptoms of Emotional Turmoil During Sleep

Attention India
8 Min Read

18th October 2023, Mumbai: Experts say crying in sleep can indicate unresolved trauma, anxiety or depression. This may also happen to a person who habitually suppresses emotions. “I woke up howling, but couldn’t remember why. It was distressing for me and scary for my partner.” Many people just can’t get to the bottom of this mystery that unfolds during sleep. Sleep crying can affect many people and while they have the residual feeling of sadness, emptiness or fear, it is not always possible to recall what transpired in their dream. One may have bad dreams or nightmares occasionally, but waking up crying frequently isn’t a good sign for mental health, say experts. Waking up in tears can drain one of energy and the feeling of distress can affect the normal course of life. Experts say crying in sleep can indicate unresolved trauma, anxiety or depression. This may also happen to a person who habitually suppresses emotions. Mood disorders can also lead to sleep crying. “The unsettling experience of waking up in tears can leave people feeling confused and emotionally spent. Although this phenomenon may occasionally result from nightmares or vivid dreams, waking up sobbing frequently may be a sign of underlying mental health problems,” says Dr. Chandni Tugnait, M.D. (Alternative Medicines), Psychotherapist, Life Coach, Business Coach, NLP Expert, Healer, Founder, and Director of Gateway of Healing. Dr. Chandni shares some reasons why people wake up crying and what it says about their mental health.

Sleepless Nights and Unsettling Dreams

A frequent reason for waking up in tears is nightmares. These upsetting dreams frequently feature traumatic, anxious, or fear-related elements. Numerous nightmares may be a precursor to increased emotional stress and mental health issues.

Unresolved Trauma

People who have recently or in the past undergone trauma may wake up crying as a sign of repressed emotions. These tears may indicate the need for expert therapeutic help.

Loss and Grief

Dreams that reflect the loss of a loved one can cause waking up in tears. Grieving is a difficult process that has a big effect on mental health.

Anxiety and Depression

Chronic anxiety or persistent melancholy can invade dreams, creating emotional distress while you sleep. Crying when you first wake up may be a sign of persistent mental health issues.

Suppression of Emotions

Some people repress their sentiments throughout the day, and these sensations may come to the surface at night. The tears you experience as you wake up could indicate that you are holding back feelings when you need to express and deal with them.


High levels of stress and demanding duties can cause disrupted sleep patterns. Because of stress’s emotional toll on people, they may wake up crying.

Medications and Drug Usage

Some drugs and medications can cause sleep-related emotional problems. It’s critical to be knowledgeable about any medication’s adverse effects.

Disorders of the Mood

Extreme mood fluctuations, especially deep melancholy, can be a symptom of illnesses such as bipolar disorder. Both in dreams and when you wake up, you might experience these emotional swings.

Sleep Issues

Sleep apnea, insomnia, and restless legs syndrome are a few examples of sleep disorders that can disturb the sleep cycle and cause mental anguish when you wake up.

Adaptive Strategies

Sometimes, sobbing when you wake up might be a coping strategy you’re not even aware of. It can mean that people are using their dreams as a way to process and let go of emotional burdens.

Frequently experiencing sobbing fits upon waking up can be a sign of mental health issues. It implies that worries, concerns, and unresolved difficulties are hurting one’s overall mental health and sleep quality by permeating the subconscious. When experiencing this phenomenon frequently, seeking expert assistance, such as therapy or counseling, is critical. It provides a chance to deal with underlying mental health problems and move toward emotional recovery. With the right assistance and coaching, people can try to achieve greater mental and emotional balance, ensuring that their mornings are tear-free, and their nights are restful, concludes Dr. Chandni.

Waking up in tears can be a distressing experience, and it often serves as an emotional alarm bell that something might be amiss with our mental well-being. It’s important to pay attention to these signs and seek professional help when needed to ensure that we can find emotional healing and peace in our sleep.

1. Is waking up crying frequently during sleep a cause for concern?

Yes, frequent episodes of waking up in tears can be indicative of underlying mental health issues that may need professional attention. It’s essential to address these emotional disturbances to ensure overall well-being.

2. Can sleep crying be a result of temporary stress or emotional strain?

Yes, high levels of stress or emotional strain can sometimes manifest as sleep crying. However, if this becomes a recurring occurrence, it may suggest deeper psychological issues that require intervention.

3. How can one differentiate between normal crying during sleep and potential mental health concerns?

The frequency and intensity of the crying episodes can be a differentiating factor. If someone is consistently waking up in tears and experiencing distressing emotions without clear triggers, it’s advisable to seek professional guidance to assess any underlying mental health issues.

4. Can lifestyle changes and stress management techniques help reduce the occurrence of sleep crying?

Yes, adopting healthy lifestyle habits and effective stress management techniques can play a crucial role in reducing the frequency of sleep crying. Techniques such as mindfulness, relaxation exercises, and maintaining a balanced routine can contribute to improved sleep quality and emotional well-being.

5. What steps can one take if they suspect that their sleep crying is linked to unresolved trauma or deeper emotional issues?

Seeking professional help from a therapist, counselor, or mental health specialist is highly recommended. They can provide the necessary guidance and support to address any underlying trauma or emotional struggles, facilitating the journey towards emotional healing and improved mental well-being.

-by Kashvi Gala

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