Are you having really weird dreams during lockdown? It could all be down to how your body processes stress.
It’s not unusual to have the odd dream where you wake up with a sudden start, but since the spread of coronavirus, many people have been reporting experiencing vivid nightmares, night after night.
Global searches for the term ‘vivid dreams’ have shot up over the past few weeks, and people have been taking to social media in their droves to complain about the frequency of their realistic and unsettling dreams.
Most of us are familiar with this kind of disruptive sleep hallucination. Vivid dreams feature all kinds of fantastical themes, but they’re usually characterised by a sequence of illogical events that are seemingly disconnected.
Frustratingly, they can often be recalled immediately after waking but soon fade from memory, leaving the dreamer feeling disorientated for the first part of the day.
So what’s the reason behind this new phenomenon?
“It’s not necessarily that our dreams are more vivid right now. It’s more likely to be down to the fact that we’re remembering them more than usual,” says sleep consultant, Dr Neil Stanley.
“The fact of the matter is that you can only remember a dream if you wake up during it. Usually, a person will naturally have four or five dreams a night, but if you’re a good sleeper, you may only remember one of them.” This is usually the dream you’re having just before you wake up in the morning.
“If your sleep is disturbed, because you’re stressed or anxious though, then you may wake more often during the night,” explains Stanley.
“In these instances you’re actually more likely to wake during REM sleep and you’ll probably remember more of your dreams, which is why they can feel more vivid.”
REM, or rapid eye movement sleep, begins about 90 minutes after you fall asleep and recurs every 90 minutes.
Often referred to as ‘dreaming’ sleep, REM is the sleep stage where you’re most likely to experience dreams. This is because although the body is paralysed, the brain acts like it’s awake, firing signals with the same intensity as it would if you were going about your waking life.
“Further, your dreams can feature anything you know or can imagine and so while some dreams are very mundane others can be more exciting,” says Stanley.
“The more dreams you wake up from, the more likely it is that some of them will be particularly odd, bizarre, frightening or emotionally charged,” he adds. “These dreams are liable to be described as being ‘vivid’, but in fact, they are simply more memorable than others.”
Why are people experiencing dreams with the same scenarios?
Stanley says that although social media users might be finding similarities in the dreams they’re having, it’s not possible to say what a particular individual will report as being ‘vivid’.
“Most dreams that are related to anxiety involve the dreamer being in a situation that they would find stressful in their waking life, for some that may be public speaking, for others it could be being late for an appointment or meeting.”
In this case, it’s not that we’re all being brainwashed by some kind of lockdown dream genie, but more that we share the same fears and anxieties as a species.
Have you noticed you are having more vivid dreams or even weird dreams during lockdown? Is there a particular theme that is being repeated each night?
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