Dreams make you afraid

Strange Dreams: How the Corona Crisis Affects Your Sleep

Photographed by Michael Beckert.
Serena's strange dreams only began when the term "social distancing" was already on everyone's lips. The longer the 24-year-old was home alone and the more time she spent worrying about the threat of COVID-19, the more intense and weird her dreams became. And they all had roughly the same pattern: she was in a safe place, but for some reason she got the virus anyway. And then the people around her got angry and forced her to leave. I certainly don't need to tell you that these kinds of dreams scare you as hell.
But Serena isn't the only one complaining about her bad dreams - many of us are feeling the same right now. The dreams mostly happen when we are particularly anxious or feel stressed, confirms the psychologist Dr. Lisa Harrison. As part of a study, she and her colleagues collect people's dream data and try to find out how our dreams are influenced by global chaos and the fears that result from it.
One reason for the switch in our dreams is due to our sleep rhythm. "We are programmed to stay awake in dangerous situations," says Professor Dr. Jennifer Martin in an interview for CNBC Make It. In stressful situations, you are also on the alert at night, which disrupts your sleep rhythm.
Most intense dreams happen during the REM phase of sleep. But if your sleep is constantly interrupted by stress or you sleep a lot more in self-isolation than usual, you automatically spend more time in this REM phase - which consequently leads to an increase in these strange dreams.
This fact has already been observed in the past, because it is not the first time that people in the middle of a collective trauma perceive a change in their dream life. One of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center The study conducted followed the dreams of college students before and after the 9/11 attacks. The finding: After September 11th, the probability that the participants had negative and disturbing dreams was twice as high - especially if they followed a lot of news about the event.
"For many people, the dreams indicate how much suffering they feel and how well or badly they can deal with it," said sleep researcher Dr. Robert Stickgold, opposite ScienceDaily.
The experts I spoke to agree: Our psyche tries to communicate with us through our dreams. “The dream has to do with you personally. How do you cope with everything How does this world event affect your personal life? ”Says the dream analyst Layne Dalfen.
“Each of us comes to terms with the situation we are in differently. But we all dream about the same damn thing, ”adds Dalfen. “I help the dreaming to understand what they can learn through their dreams. If the whole thing with Corona is difficult for you, it could be reflected in your dreams. Maybe you are suppressing some feelings. And whatever you suppress, your dreams try to make you aware of it. "
In his study, Stickgold said that one can deduce from one's dreams how well one processes a traumatic event. "If you are still seeing certain traumatic images in your dreams, it means you have not processed these stressful events adequately," he explained. In other words, if Serena dreams that she is developing symptoms of COVID-19 and becoming marginalized as a result, it is a sign of persistent stress. “On the other hand, if you see strange events in your dreams, your brain tries to make sense of the trauma. And that could be a sign that you're dealing with it successfully, ”he adds. For example, if Serena falls ill with something other than COVID-19 in her dreams or ends up in a hospital but is not sick herself, it means that her healing is making progress.
Just knowing that this is a normal phenomenon and that many of us suffer from it can have a calming effect on you. Nevertheless, Dr. Harrison to keep a dream journal. Because that's the fastest way to find out what your brain is trying to tell you.
“One of the difficult parts of dreams is that they don't speak our language,” she explains. Writing down your dreams and even sketching the pictures you see can help you understand better how to deal with a situation. It can also help you think about what you can do to reduce the stress and anxiety you may be feeling. Yes, even during a global pandemic.