Here’s What Some Of Your Pandemic Dreams Are Telling You
The world has become a strange place since the onset of the coronavirus even when we close our eyes at night.
My relationship with my duvet has changed considerably during lockdown. I find myself spending far too much time under it. Taking lunchtime naps, or seeking some sort of childish comfort and reassurance after yet another PM update.
The world feels too complicated to deal with right now, and my duvet provides a warm, dozy wall between me and everything else. I’ve heard similar experiences from friends, once sharply dressed professionals now slouched over their laptops in pyjamas and dressing gowns.
It’s perhaps no wonder that I, and so many other home workers, have been having strange – and sometimes quite disturbing – dreams over the course of the pandemic. Our sleepy indoors existence jarring wildly with the confusing reality beyond our makeshift desks, our solitary cups of tea.
I’ve written before for UNILAD about the night terrors I suffered as a young girl, filled with figures which loomed over me as I lay, frozen and petrified.
I thought such terrors were long behind me, but then – twice over the course of lockdown – I’ve found myself pinned between that shadowy place between sleep and wakefulness, unable to move or cry out.
It’s not just these horrifying dreams which have returned. I’ve also seen certain stress dreams mutate and become even more vivid, and it takes a beat or two upon waking to realise I’m actually not late for a plane or walking around naked in public.
Of course, I’m far from the only one. A study of 20 UK cities from MattressNextDay found that nightmares have increased by 21% over the course of the past year, with ghost dreams showing the biggest increase.
Nightmares about ‘being bald’ saw the biggest increase in the cities of Bristol, Oxford and Newcastle Upon Tyne, while ‘being late’ dreams have increased more significantly in York, Aberdeen and Chester
I spoke with Lee Chambers, an environmental psychologist who specialises in sleep environments and how environments affect a person’s dreams.
He explained that there is a lot of ‘conjecture’ about dreams. While some believe dreams are simply ‘remnants’ of our past, others believe they can be a way of looking at emotional problems within our waking lives.
Considering why so many of us are having such vivid dreams over the course of the pandemic, Chambers said:
Firstly, the majority of dreams that we have, we never think about them and they are incredibly mundane.
But what happens is we are more likely to be able to recall dreams that are bizarre, dreams that are emotionally charged.
That’s especially the case if we’re disturbed. So if we get to the peak of our REM stage of sleep and fall into wakefulness and become conscious. They are the dreams we tend to remember.
Also, at the minute, what’s happened for a lot of people is that their socially defined wake-up time that they had before lockdown, which they probably had to wake up by alarm, and what that will do is it will shorten your REM stage of sleep, meaning that we’re less likely to remember the dream.
Although key workers have sped up during lockdown, many others have slowed down, suddenly given a chance to take ‘a big picture view of things outside the dynamism of your everyday busy life’.
This may be any ongoing emotional challenges, or potentially positive things opportunities or options on the horizon.
When people slow down, reflect and start to consider their future and start to unpack some of the things that they’ve possibly suppressed because they’ve been busy and they’ve been living. They have a tendency to come out in dreams in a number of different ways.
We discussed some of the stranger dreams we and others have been experiencing over lockdown, hoping to figure out what our sleepy selves could be telling us.
1. Dreams where we argue with our friends, loved ones and partners.
With many of us spending more time cooped up with family members, flatmates and significant others at a difficult time, it’s perhaps unsurprising that we would dream about disagreements.
One woman I spoke to, named Lucy, recalled multiple dreams which revolved around falling out with those around her.
In one dream, she argued with her boyfriend because he proposed to her with ‘two bright pink and blue engagement rings’, justifying this by explaining, ‘well I knew they were sh*t that’s why I bought two’.
In another dream, she fell out with a work friend who – after being put in charge of buying her wedding shoes – informed her that ‘she’d only spent £7 on them’.
Chambers explained many people are ‘suddenly much more interdependent on those around them’, with many people working or educating from home. In such environments, communication challenges may arise and boundaries can be overstepped.
In general, Chambers added, such dreams often highlight ‘what’s being triggered inside of you, rather than the relevancy to another person’, meaning you aren’t necessarily harbouring a grudge against your colleague.
According to Chambers:
The important thing with dreams is to remember that they are not objective but they may confer some level of objectivity and meaning.
Maybe your sexual needs are not being met by your partner, and that could potentially manifest itself in dreams, about you cheating, your partner cheating. Having arguments.
Dreams can be used as ‘what if scenarios’. ‘What if I have an argument? What’s going to happen?’ ‘Maybe I’m going to test my desires and see what happens if I put myself out there’.
Chambers advised considering how you react within such situations, whether you end up being assertive or going back into your shell, remarking, ‘quite often how you react in a dream can tell you more than the dream itself’.
2. Meeting a celebrity within your dream.
It’s surprised me how many of us are meeting the rich and famous in the land of dreams, despite this being fairly rare in real life.
One of my esteemed UNILAD colleagues informed me he had recently dreamt of touring ‘an Egyptian history museum with Kyle MacLachlan’, while Twitter user Chris Marsh revealed one of his friends had dreamt of meeting the legendary Neil Young.
Another Twitter user, Jordan Barrett, told me:
I dreamt a few weeks back that myself and Gary Lineker were two captains of rival fast food chain football teams. As the match kicked off, Gary Lineker purposefully struck the ball with his hand. Free Kick.
And a yellow card for Gary. When I asked him why he did that, he replied ‘To see what it felt like’. Then I woke up mystified.
Chambers noted that, with digital consumption going up more than ever, our increased screentime has further immersed us in the world of celebrities. However, these sorts of dreams are also ‘almost a little bit nostalgic’.
It’s almost a pining for times gone by, and often, it’s not someone who has currently been in the news.
It’s someone they’ve followed for a long time, and they almost pine for that time when they went to the festival and they were there 12 years ago.
In my experience, it’s more often than not a pining for a more settled, more. certain time. But also kind of exploring again certain ‘what if’s’.
Again, Chambers encouraged dreamers to look at the ‘wider perspective’ of the dream, figuring out whether they feel ‘star struck’ or ‘disappointed’, negatively or positively.
3. Dreaming about babies.
According to a poll by Luxury Bed Co., baby dreams are the fifth most commonly had dream, with an average of 40,500 global monthly searches on the topic. And some of these are rather unusual.
Another UNILAD colleague dreamt she and her boyfriend had a baby and – being unsure what to do with it – ended up flushing it down the loo.
According to Chambers, ‘feelings of inadequacy as a parent’ can feed into baby dreams, with many parents currently struggling to juggle work and home educating. However, such dreams can also highlight ‘a new spring, a new positive responsibility in life’.
If you’ve been having trouble conceiving and you have that dream, it’s a real dream of hope and optimism.
But for some people, especially given it’s an insecure time at the moment, it might incite you to fear. It might be a sign that you don’t feel that your life is stable at the moment.
4. Flouting lockdown rules.
I know I’m not the only one who has had panicked dreams about myself or those around me breaking lockdown rules. In a time of stricter rules about what we can do, it’s perhaps unsurprising that we become rule breakers inside our dreams.
Chambers explained that, as human beings, we ‘crave conformity’, noting that it wasn’t too long ago that confirming to our tribe was vital from an evolutionary perspective.
According to Chambers, dreams can offer the ‘perfect simulation ground to break conformity’, where dreamers test their boundaries within ‘a safe world’.
It really is interesting when you ask people how it feels when they broke those rules. Were you scared? Did you feel free? Were you embarrassed? Did you feel like an imposter?
You’re starting to get an anchor into how they felt when they decided to step outside of the box that had been assigned to them.
Dreaming gives you quite an interesting idea into why they wanted to break these rules, what in their lives is causing them to feel like they need to break rank, and to not follow advice and to become the renegade, the disrupter.
5. Waking up and being unclear what day it is.
One Twitter user told me: ‘Most recently I woke up believing it was my birthday, took a few moments for me to realise it actually wasn’t!’
This is something I can completely relate to. Over lockdown, I’ve regularly woken up completely convinced I’m late for work or Christmas dinner.
According to Chambers:
The big thing with that is, we’ve all become conditioned to having things that anchor us into our lives.
So it might be for one person, they take their kids to swimming on a Monday, football on a Tuesday, hockey on a Friday. […]
What that does is that routine, it almost brands itself onto us so we’re like ‘ah right yeah, I’ll go and do this’.
Chambers believes this sort of ‘shortcutting’ is helpful, bringing an ‘autopilot aspect’ to our morning routine.
However, this has changed considerably during lockdown, with many of waking up fully refreshed following a full sleep cycle, with absolutely no idea as to what to do next.
Pointing to the example of the ‘Friday night drink’, Chambers noted that, under normal circumstances, we would usually have different ‘answering points across the week’:
We all anchor into things that we enjoy doing in the week, and almost count down to them as anticipation fuels us through the things that we struggle with.
With those gone, it’s literally the case where you could wake up, right at the end of the sleep cycle, and honestly still believe you’re in your dream.
[…] People are just waking up, and everything has merged into one. Because what happens is, quite often when you wake up naturally like that, you don’t have that shocking end dream, you just get a very gentle, kind of compounding waking into consciousness and there isn’t actually a big impact moment.
6. Sleep paralysis, night terrors and dark presences.
As previously stated, I’ve been experiencing sleep paralysis and night terrors again for the first time in many years, something I hoped I’d long put behind me.
I’ve also been disturbed by some of the creepier nightmares people have been recalling.
Writer Lowri Llewelyn told me: ‘I always dreamed there was a dark presence stood next to my bed! I would literally wake up screaming.’
Chambers didn’t appear surprised by such eerie occurrences, explaining that ‘we’re a little bit more stressed and anxious’, leading to these ‘more lucid moments’ which can be driven by ’emotive elements’.
Commenting on the ‘dark presence’ experienced by Lowri, Chambers said:
I think it probably taps into suppressed emotions, quite likely. It’s again, what are you avoiding? Because something is now coming to visit. Is it desires that you’re avoiding or fears that you’re avoiding?
And the shadowy presence, if you close your eyes and get a bit of clarity, do you know who it might be?
7. Teeth falling out
Copy editor Claire Snook told me that she keeps having ‘dreams that my teeth are falling out or crumbling’, and – as one of the most common dreams – it’s perhaps not all that unsurprising that many of us are dreaming about tooth damage at this anxious time.
Chambers explained that losing your teeth can often represent feeling a loss of power, and is a dream often reported by menopausal women. He noted that teeth are often viewed as a signifier for overall wellbeing, being one of ‘the places where – if you’re not looking after yourself – it shows’.
I think that – given the health challenges at the moment and the pandemic, and worrying about viruses and illnesses – now you’ve got all these environmental triggers for infection: masks, shields, barriers, sanitising stations.
Lots and lots of things that you generally think about people in hospital using. What that means is, we’re almost subconsciously equating that we’re all in hospital. We’re all ill, with the surgeons in masks about to chop us into pieces.
The truth is that because we have those medical attachments to things like visors and masks and sanitisation stations and spacing stickers, and they’re just everywhere now. As you go about your daily life, you keep being triggered.
Here’s wishing you all pleasant dreams this weekend, populated by all your favourite celebs and without a ghost or a loose tooth in sight.
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