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wellness / mental health

Is Daydreaming Healthy?

by BetterSleep
Jun 27 • 4 min read

You’re not alone if you find your mind wandering while awake, taking you to different times and places. According to researchers, we spend 30% to 50% of our waking time daydreaming. There are benefits, but too much daydreaming is detrimental.

What is Daydreaming?

Daydreaming is your imagination at work while you are awake. It is a diversion from your present situation, a reverie. This is normal. Everyone lets their mind drift in certain situations. You might do it intentionally, but it’s often something you do subconsciously without trying.

Benefits of Daydreaming

Daydreaming has long been considered a lazy habit, something you do when you should be doing something productive. But researchers find that there are some benefits to this habit that we all share:

  • Daydreaming can reduce stress and anxiety by acting as a coping mechanism that lets you distract from stressful situations.
  • Daydreaming can be a creative way to problem solve. When you let your mind wander, it can come up with unique solutions.
  • Even when not solving problems, daydreaming helps expand your creative mind.
  • Daydreaming might even make you more productive, acting like mini-breaks that refresh your mind and allow you to get back to tasks with greater productivity.

Think of daydreaming as a reasonable form of escape and detachment, and it can be a good thing. It serves as an effective coping mechanism for many situations.

What is Maladaptive Daydreaming?

As with nearly everything, you can have too much of a good thing. While daydreaming can help you cope and problem-solve, it’s also possible to overdo it and get lost in a rabbit hole of detachment from the real world.

Maladaptive daydreaming is long and structured, an extensive fantasy that can interfere with normal activities and interactions with other people. It isn’t a recognized mental health condition, but it shares a lot of characteristics with behavioral addictions. Signs include:

  • Vivid, detailed daydreams
  • Daydreams triggered by occurrences in your day
  • An urge to keep daydreaming, even when it is inappropriate to do so
  • Whispering, talking or moving while daydreaming
  • Difficulty completing normal activities
  • Difficulty sleeping

It may occur more frequently in certain populations, for instance, maladaptive daydreaming and ADHD often co-occur. A study from 2017 found that nearly 77% of people with ADHD also engage in maladaptive daydreaming. It could be one explanation for why ADHD makes it difficult to focus on tasks and be productive.

If you feel as if daydreaming interferes with your daily life, talk to your doctor or mental health professional. There is a maladaptive daydreaming test you can take to give you a better idea of whether this is an issue for you that needs treatment. Therapy is useful in helping you gain control over maladaptive daydreaming.

Daydreaming is a natural behavior that can also be a useful tool. But if you let yourself get carried away, it can be detrimental to daily life, social interactions, sleep, and more. Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about your daydreaming habits.

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