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Why am I having weird dreams in lockdown?

18th June 2020

Since the coronavirus pandemic sent most cities around the world into lockdown, people have been experiencing life in new and strange ways. As well as adjusting to social distancing measures, wearing face masks and queuing for supermarkets, many people have complained of strange or vivid dreams. But is there any science to that?

Why am I having weird dreams in lockdown?

There are almost 3 prongs to working out why people are having these strange dreams during lockdown. The vividness of them, the content of them and whether or not you remember them.

Some people may claim that they don’t dream but everyone does - you may just not often remember. In fact, people have multiple dreams per night, but they may slip back into your subconscious by the time you wake up.

The reason that people may be remembering their dreams more during lockdown is possibly due to the fact that people are sleeping for longer and waking up naturally without an alarm. Also, if you have less on your mind in terms of work tasks or everyday chores, then your mind is more relaxed and has more room to remember what you dreamt about.

Explaining the vividness of dreams is less straightforward. Psychotherapist Philippa Perry told The Guardian, “Normally our dreams are processing ancient memories, or things that have just happened. We have so much more to process right now in terms of experience and feelings.” So it could be that the heightened version of our dreams that many are experiencing is a mirror for the heightened sense of emotion that lockdown has caused.

The content of dreams is very specific to each individual and it really does depend what you’re dreaming about. Perry added “The Gestalt method [suggests] every aspect in your dream represents a part of you because you dreamt them.” So anything that really sticks out or repeats may be worth looking into as it could help you to explore feelings and emotions you’ve been dealing with through this pandemic.

Another primary factor in our dreams is our emotions; stress, in particular. Financial worries, being separated from loved ones and a fear for yours or your family’s health are all factors that are causing stress across the country. This could explain why a lot of people’s weird dreams are more like nightmares, as the negative emotion can manifest itself as negative dream content (even if you don’t directly dream about the thing causing the stress).

Why do we dream?

When you go to sleep, you go through a sleep cycle made up of various stages: awake, REM, stage 1 (drifting off), stage 2 (light sleep), stage 3 (deep sleep), and stage 4 (very deep sleep). You have multiple sleep cycles per night and dreams occur mainly in the REM sleep stage (although they do occur in the other stages too but you’re less likely to remember those ones).

The actual science of why we dream is much explored but nothing has been definitively worked out. The leading theory is that dreams are a side effect of our brain processing our memories. Other theories include that dreams are us altering our levels of emotions, or planning for the future by virtual reality type of practice. And some people say that there’s no function to it all!

How can I improve my sleep?

If you’ve been having weird, worrying or scarily realistic dreams then you may not wake up feeling well-rested. Something that may help you sleep a little more peacefully is Nytol tablets or Nytol Herbal. These remedies induce drowsiness and help to ensure your sleep is undisturbed.

If it’s stress that’s keeping you awake at night then sometimes addressing that is better than trying to address the disturbed sleep. Passionflower is traditionally used for mild anxiety and stress to alleviate symptoms.