The current coronavirus pandemic is causing everyone to have vivid dreams. Here, a psychologist explains why this is happening and what your dreams mean.
If your dreams are unusually vivid and bizarre these days, you’re not alone. The internet is going bonkers with everyone sharing their ‘lockdown dreams’.
On Twitter, #pandemicdreams is trending with people either expressing amazement at the strangeness of their dreams or are troubled by the dark plots of their dreams that centre around death and fear.
“We had a lion chained in the house. My sister was its caretaker but it escaped and started terrorizing everyone,” Ade Laoye Tweeted.
Rayenella Quilala wrote: “My recent #pandemicdreams which is also a walking dead dream. I was doing my thesis and my mom barged in and dragged whole family into a white van that we dont even have. We drove to SM Marikina mall where the evac area is. The whole place is packed but we were… Able to find some relatives. Now, me and my uncle went out and see if we could hijack a car or something. We found a bus instead. Like that big yellow school bus. So my uncle drove it while I ran alongside, fighting off walkers. In reality this would be hella impossible.”
John Johnson wrote in a Tweet: “I dreamed that I encountered a duck hanging out in deep snow. “I asked the duck ‘if I were your chickie would you take care of me?’ and the duck replied ‘yes.’ It was very reassuring. #pandemic dreams”.
Why are we having #pandemicdreams?
So, what’s the go? Why is this happening to us?
“Often our dreams are our brain’s way of processing the events happening in our lives – for example, if there are things making us anxious that we’re avoiding facing during our waking hours, or if there are big changes happening in our lives, often our sleep is disrupted and our dreams can reflect this,” psychologist Briony Leo tells body+soul.
“Our dreams are totally involuntary and our brain’s way of working through all the material we’ve been exposed to that day – sorting things out and what gets stored and what gets forgotten – so they can be quite unusual.”
Your sleep hygiene can also affect your dreams.
“In addition, if we’re spending a lot of time on screens and eating and drinking late at night before bed, that is also going to affect the quality of our sleep, and our dreams.”
What do your #pandemicdreams mean?
Having such vivid dreams can be concerning, but Leo assures us that these strange dreams don’t actually mean anything.
“Our dreams don’t really mean anything, but are more a by-product of the process our brains go through each night as we sleep – deciding which memories get stored and which don’t,” she adds.
“That said, if you notice a pattern or theme to your dreams (eg. losing things, running away from things), this could reflect anxiety in your day to day life, which is being expressed in the general content of your dreams. We do tend to dream more and more vividly during times of upheaval and change, since our brains and minds are trying to incorporate this new experience and world view into our frame of consciousness.”
How to combat your #pandemicdreams
On a good note, you won’t have to endure these vivid dreams until the coronavirus pandemic is finally over and we resume back to normality. Leo shares her top tips on how to combat these unusual dreams so you can resume back to happier and peaceful ones.
1. Good sleep hygiene
This means having a bedtime ritual where you don’t have caffeine after 3pm, avoid screens for 2 hrs before bed, try and limit exposure to light (eg. turn off most lights in your room except soft lamp) and do something relaxing before bed.
Even doing some relaxation or meditation before bed can be useful in putting you into a calm and relaxed state of mind as you go off to sleep.
Additionally, trying to avoid rich or sugary foods late in the evening is also going to help with your sleep quality.
2. Keep a journal
It might be useful to keep a journal or write a few pages on your computer each day as a stream of consciousness, just to get out whatever is going through your head. If we go with the assumption that dreams are those unconscious concerns and thoughts circling around our brain, putting them out onto paper can be a release, and can help us to articulate what is going on.
3. Talk to someone
Perhaps having a conversation with a friend or loved one about what is happening at the moment, your fears and the things that occupy your thoughts.
4. If verbally expressing it is too difficult…
Even doing something creative like painting or making music can help you to express some of those emotions that might be bubbling under the surface. Often if we have an outlet we find ourselves much calmer and aware of what is going on for us emotionally, and can cope with uncertainty. This can be in the form of exercise, creativity, writing or talking.
5. Seek help from a psychologist
There is a field of psychology called ‘nightmare rescripting’ where people can work on recurring dreams and nightmares to make them less frightening and have different endings. This is generally done with the help of a psychologist and can be useful for traumatic dreams which have flashbacks.
More essential coronavirus reading:
Read up on what the government lockdown means for you, understand why Aussie doctors are up arms, be aware of the ‘hidden symptom’ of COVID-19 carriers, prepare yourself for the long-term mental health effects of the pandemic, get your sweat on at home with these free online workouts before reviving your over-washed hands with this DIY balm, and then console yourself with these unexpected joys.