I have been having incredibly vivid dreams that have storylines so detailed and creative that they sounded like a blockbuster movie.
And I am not the only one.
Why are we having vivid dreams?
As many as five research teams have set out to answer this question because enough people are reporting that they are having very detailed and bizarre dreams.
I came across this article posted on April 15, 2020, that provided great insight into why my brain was coming up with these storylines and why I was remembering them.
“We normally use REM sleep and dreams to handle intense emotions, particularly negative emotions,” says Patrick McNamara, an associate professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine who is an expert in dreams. “Obviously, this pandemic is producing a lot of stress and anxiety.”
The pandemic has left us with feelings of isolation, anxiety, and in the broadest of terms, negative emotions. The list of emotions the pandemic has churned up is immense and very different for all of us; however, one way in which we are coping with these emotions is subconsciously through our dreams. They pile up and then release in the subliminal part of our mind while we are asleep. It’s like the feelings get trapped inside our heads and since we are so isolated, unable to release the burden by being social, they morph into bizarre pandemic brain creations.
Stress is sending our brains on a nightly trip
Much like psychedelic drugs, stress can have the same effect on our brains as drugs, particularly when it is not dealt with or compounded by isolation. “The neurobiological signals and reactions that produce dreams are similar to those triggered by psychedelic drugs, according to McNamara” (mentioned above).
Basically, the emotions we compile during the day, whether we are aware of them or not, flood our brains at night causing us to trip as if we were on drugs. Thanks for the drug-free ride?
It is not typical that we would remember our dreams as often as many of us are in the pandemic. This can be attributed to a lack of quality of sleep or restlessness. We are tossing and turning more, i.e. we are awake more, a term called parasomnias, which means we remember our dreams more. We’re waking up closer to when our dreams are actually occurring and therefore they are imprinting on our memories. Thanks, pandemic, I guess we could use a little entertainment while stuck at home?
If I wasn’t helping you feel better this certainly will not either, “According to an ongoing study the Lyon Neuroscience Research Center in France initiated in March, the coronavirus pandemic has caused a 35 percent increase in dream recall among participants, with respondents reporting 15 percent more negative dreams than usual. A different study promoted by Associazione Italiana di Medicina del Sonno (the Italian Association of Sleep Medicine) is analyzing the dreams of Italians confined during the outbreak. Many of the subjects are experiencing nightmares and parasomnias in line with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Will the nightmares stop?
“It may seem obvious, but Finnish researchers have scientifically backed up the notion that peace of mind leads to a “positive dream affect,” wherein dreamers feel good about what is happening in their dreams. Anxiety, by contrast, is related to “negative dream affect,” the data show, which results in dreams that are frightening or otherwise upsetting.”
But can you actually control your dreams? Research says yes!
Research has pointed to the fact that if you plan and actually write down the way you would like the dream to go before heading to sleep, you may be able to control the plot. Giving yourself peace of mind or a feeling of control over your thoughts.
The article did not cover preventing vivid bad dreams by getting control on what is causing the bad dreams. If we know that anxiety, isolation, stress from the virus is causing the unwanted film features in our heads, can we do something to make those aspects of our lives better? I noticed when I went for walks, explored historic outdoor monuments or even went hiking on an abandoned pig farm owned by the state, my dreams got better. At least I stopped remembering them and wanting to call up Netflix to see if they would pay for my script.
Exercise, Zoom meeting or safely and distantly getting together with people can help. If isolation caused some of this then we know we need people to help us get through. Reach out to your resources or those provided to you, even consider a telemed appointment with a doctor. Try not to keep losing sleep and take care of yourself.