Why Stressful Situations May Be Causing Unusual Dreams
If you’ve been having unusual dreams, you’re not alone. People all around the world report increased frequency of dreams, and increased recall of the events in those dreams, during stressful or uncertain times, including during the coronavirus pandemic. If we can learn anything from anecdotal reports, those dreams are a little weirder than normal, too.
No one knows exactly what purpose dreams serve, but we do know that they help people process thoughts, feelings, and memories. Of course, sometimes our mind-movies can be a little vague in their imagery, hence why art from the likes of Salvador Dali and David Lynch has been called “surrealism,” or a style that mimics the dream world.
But this doesn’t tell us why dreams increase in frequency during a stressful period. As with all things related to dreams, we don’t have a conclusive answer for this one either. But there have been some promising hypotheses. Here are our best guesses.
Dreams Increase When Stimulation Decreases
If you’ve been stuck inside your house for weeks, you probably haven’t been enjoying a thrilling social life, or going on your usual out-in-the-world adventures. This results in a mental state that’s lacking in social and environmental stimulation. We’re living like shut-ins, and our brains are getting a little – for lack of a better word – bored.
This is where your subconscious kicks into gear. Some theorize that to keep us interested in life, our minds start to throw little shows when we’re asleep. When external waking stimuli is at its lowest, it’s up to our dream-world theater troupe to step up the production value!
This leads to dreams that are more vivid and wacky than normal. What’s more, our entertainment-starved brains pay closer attention to the imagery, which makes the dream more memorable. Furthermore, because today is so like yesterday, the zany plots of our dreams may be more interesting than our home life. So we latch onto those dreams more intensely than any other times of our lives. Now non-quarantine life is more stimulating. Thus, our brains seek to create more new dreams each night.
Dreams Increase When We’re Stressed
One thing we know for sure is that dreams increase in frequency and intensity when we’re stressed. It has been shown that after natural disasters, like earthquakes, dreams increase the closer an individual was to a stressful event. It’s most probable that our brains are helping us deal with stressful feelings, which we may not be able to handle during waking hours.
For help with stress, see our stress guide here!
So right now, many of us are dealing with many new feelings. Few of us have experienced the kind of “slow burn” stressor that comes from a pandemic and its subsequent quarantine. While most of us are not ill, we must alter our routines and live with such steady anxiety that stress mounts in ways that affect our dream worlds.
So what do we do about it? Well, if you have experienced no change in your dreams, don’t worry about it. If you enjoy your new Technicolor mind trips, let the show go on. But if you’re disturbed by troubling dreams or nightmares, there may be something you can do about it.
The herbal blend found in HonoPure from ecoNugenics may support the restfulness of your nightly slumber. When combined with meditation, yoga, or other stress-relieving practices, your dreams may wind up being less problematic.
As for changes you can make to prepare your mind for sleep, simply pay close attention to your dreams. When you wake up, write down what happened in detail. Repeat this process every morning or if you wake up in the middle of your sleep.
Eventually, you will find that you begin “paying attention” to your dreams, as they happen. In this state, you will become conscious that you are dreaming, often without waking up. In this state, you can change the course of your dream, or at least realize that the images on display are nothing to be feared. This state is what is referred to by the term “lucid dreaming,” and it’s a skill that anyone can develop with practice.
Whether or not our quarantine days end anytime soon, we hope your dreams are refreshing, not disturbing. Even if they are unwanted in their intensity, imagery, or frequency, the good news is, there’s something you can do about them.