Why am I Having Strange Dreams?

Why am I Having Strange Dreams?

Grace McClung, Journalist

If you’re like most people during this strange time, then you’ve probably wondered why you’re having so many strange dreams. Why are they so vivid and unusual? Why are they so easy to remember in the morning? And is it happening to everyone? The answer to that is yes. People all over the world have reported having strange “quarandreams” with bizarre imagery and unique symbolism. Helena Humphrey from NBC News reports that “Nighttime visions of bugs, natural disasters and difficulties breathing are just a few of the recurring themes.” Psychologists, dream analysts, and scientists have all come up with a few plausible explanations for this phenomenon. 

The first reason is that there are a lot of things for our subconscious mind to worry about right now. From stress from jobs, relationships, being stuck at home for weeks, and a different way of living, our brains have gone into overdrive as our subconscious fears take over. Dream analyst Lauri Lowenbergy says that a common dream she sees is “about hands. They fall off, skin comes off them, they don’t work. It’s a vision with a simple explanation. We’re afraid to touch anything. If you touch something, you could kill someone.” But not all dreams can be translated so precisely. Many people have reported having dreams that aren’t even remotely close to what they’ve dreamed about before. The reasoning behind this is that people are scared of change and living a life far from normal. News reporters, businesses, commercials, and social media can’t seem to remind us enough that life is “uncertain.” This repetition makes people anxious, which is thus reflected in their dreams. As a psychologist at Harvard, Dr. Deirdre Barrett collects dream case studies since quarantine began. She notes that she is “seeing very similar patterns now” to the dreams she collected during 9/11. She also says that doctors, nurses, and other people working on the front lines “look like a group of people who are in an acute trauma situation.” The dreams of these people reveal the mental struggles they are going through. Dr. Barrett estimates that “up to 30 percent could develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, with nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety and difficulty sleeping,” according to NBC News. 

But humanity’s collective dream experience isn’t just a reflection of our subconscious fears. According to a New York Times article, “As the new coronavirus’s grip strengthens to a chokehold, waking life itself for many has taken on an odd, dreamlike air…The surreal reality of American cities and towns also mirrors the half-remembered, half-empty approximations explored in sleep, ordered by the same pliable, foggy logic.” So just the difference in way of life in general could be causing your strange dreams. Many people watch the news at night and become more alert with the alarming statistics they hear about. This makes it harder to fall asleep and can lead to more intense dreams. In many ways, our brains are trying to combat the strangeness of life with the strangeness of dreams leaving us with longer, more memorable dreams.There’s another reason why people report having strange dreams, and it has nothing to do with fears or a new situation. It could just be that we’re paying more attention to our dreams like everyone around us. If somebody tells you they’ve been having strange dreams, you probably think hard about your dreams and instantly agree with them, even if you had never realized it before. Dreaming happens even when there isn’t a pandemic to worry about. “Many people have been paying attention to their dreams more during the global coronavirus crisis,” explains Sophie Weiner in a Time article. Maybe we’re just equating the bizarreness of our dreams to COVID-19 and the bizarreness that surrounds it. And maybe we just want to feel more connected during this time of isolation, and saying that we’re all having strange dreams is one way to do it. 

Whatever the reason behind our strange dreams are, it is important to remember that you can change your dreams. Focus on sticking to a sleep schedule and getting a good night’s sleep. Avoid screens right before bed, especially now. And make sure you are eating healthy and focusing on your mental health during the day. It is also important to remember that we are all navigating this time together and are all experiencing very similar things, and dreams are just one way of showing it.