Maladaptive Daydreaming: where wild minds come to rest
Alvi, increase in theta brainwaves would be just a symptom. Million different conditions give you excessive theta.
First comment by Alice Bassett nailed it. Daydreaming doesn't cause cognitive decline or tiredness or lack of concentration. It's depression/exhaustion of adrenal system that causes all of them, daydreaming included.
Its just a theory but I find that a lot of people who daydream do complain of tiredness and lack of concentration. Its the first negative on the list of cons on this site. One of my main problems with the amount I daydream is I can't concentrate for long so I'd argue that daydreaming does cause problems with concentration and memory etc. It's impossible to be fully focused on a task if your brain has spaced out into a daydream. Theta waves do impair your ability to concentrate and remember things so if a daydream is causing excessive amounts than mental fatigue would be present. Not saying this is the case for everyone, a lot of people may have the cognitive problems from other things besides the daydreaming but I know I feel mentally slower etc when coming out of a long daydream.
I understand perfectly what you're saying and I agree 100% that there's a relationship between these issues but I can't agree with what you say is a cause and consequence.
Theta waves don't impair the ability to concentrate. It's inability to concentrate that creates excessive alpha or theta waves and this further fuels daydreaming. It's also improbable that daydreaming causes unhealthy amounts of theta since our brains would be stuck in excessive alpha/theta regardless of whether we daydream or not. It's the other way round: being in excessive theta, which is usually a direct result of depression and similar issues, makes it extremely easy to slip in a daydream. The question is what promotes excessive theta. It's usually neurotransmitter imbalance or brain damage that causes excessive lower frequency brainwaves which then makes you spacey and distracted which in turn makes it easier for you to daydream in order to get a fix, since in these causes, MD acts as a stimulant.
The likely reason behind tiredness and impaired concentration is messed up HPA axis. In layman's terms, it's what you call a burnout. Its hallmarks are physical tiredness, depression, brain fog, impaired concentration and attention, procrastination, too much daydreaming and stimulant cravings.
I'm not saying its a cause and consequence. Theta waves are linked to poor concentration and focus for example in cases of ADD and for me there is a direct link to excessive daydreaming and tiredness etc.
You can increase Theta waves just via meditation and daydream which means that you can learn how to change your brain waves by doing certain activities. There are lots of people who try to increase their Theta waves with meditation and visualization for positive reasons like increased creativity.
I understand that many medical conditions cause changes to brain waves but I'm not talking about that. I'm looking at it the otherway round and saying that people who daydream or meditate are the ones changing the brain waves and not a pre existing medical condition. As the brains of people with depression have been found that they are producing too much theta activity and with theta waves linked to low levels of arousal and feelings of depression just by increasing theta with daydream or meditation it could possibly causes some of the same feelings as depression as opposed to depression causing theta.
So if daydreaming can increase theta waves then surely the daydreaming itself can cause an increase in depressive symptoms such as brain fog, tiredness, low mood.
I'm not saying theta is the cause of MD just that for those of us that struggle with negative side effects from daydreaming maybe some of that is the increase theta activity we create during our daydreams.
Even I have the same problem. Being a mathematics student, excessive daydreaming affects my studies a lot. I used to be one of the toppers in class. But now I can't focus well.
I know exactly what you're talking about. I feel like my working memory isn't what it should be, and is worse after a period of daydreaming. I also feel like daydreaming takes up all my mental energy so when it comes time to actually focus and work on something, I feel drained and just want to go to sleep. I find it very hard to focus on any one thing and find myself jumping from one thing to another every few minutes. I feel scatter-brained.
Yes to all of the above. It's alarming.
As to the sleepiness, here is what I think. A) I daydream at night and lose sleep. Therefore I am sleepier during the day. B) I like to daydream in the morning as I wake up, and hitting the snoozer over and over again makes everyone groggy. Therefore I am sleepier during the day. C) Because I've been daydreaming at night and early in the morning, I associate daydreaming with being in bed and being in a comfortable detached state. So when I do it during the day out and about (say, while driving or walking around) then I feel sleepy because it's something I mentally associate with sleep. Like how babies can get sleepy while being driven in a car because they associate it with rocking, etc. D) The daydream is like a drug, dulls the senses, detaches me from reality and requires a huge investment of focused thought. All of this makes me sleepy.
As to feeling slow and dull, yes for sure. But I don't think it is damaging our minds. I think it is teaching us to be lazy, to procrastinate and to be distracted. Directing your focus and attention on something for a long period of time is hard- you have to learn to do it. The mind is like a muscle and you have to exercise it. So when you fall into the habit of just slipping off into daydream land rather than engaging in real thought, your mind gets weaker. This is my theory.