“I was with Dua Lipa at her concert in Madrid, and I decided to explain to her what a propane cylinder was. Then I asked her for a photo, but she said no, I was too ugly,” told Spanish YouTuber, Ibai, in his twitter account last week. A truly bizarre dream.
However, he is not the only one who is having strange dreams. Many people from all over the world state that they are dreaming more during quarantine or, at least, remembering their dreams more frequently.
Remembering vivid dreams during isolation
Experts say that it is normal for us to recall our dreams during this period of isolation. Deirdre Barrett, professor at Harvard University and dream specialist, says that this can happen because our emotions during the day are highly related to our dreams, “and now our emotions are more intense”. But she also states that many people now don’t wake up with an alarm or have the possibility to sleep during the day, and that also helps with dreaming.
Barrett says that everyone dreams. However, it is difficult to remember a dream if we do not finish an entire cycle (and reach what we know as the REM phase). Therefore, the fact that many of us are sleeping more helps us to remember our dreams better.
Professor Luigi De Gennaro, specialised in the study of sleep, agrees with this and states that also, “more vivid and emotional dreams are actually better recalled”.
We are having more nightmares
However, we do not just have pleasant dreams. Professor De Gennaro said that “in a study of more than 800 people, apart from huge (and different) changes in sleep habits, we are observing many reports of nightmares during the current period.”
But why are we having more nightmares? According to Dr Emily Anhalt, a clinical psychologist and co-founder of Coa,
“we dream at night what we can’t think or feel during the day, and there is a lot of unthinkable stuff happening right now. Add to that the guilt we feel for complaining while people are dying, and our emotions have nowhere to go. So they present themselves in our dreams.”
Living in an unprecedented situation causes our stress levels to rise, and this causes our nightmares to increase. To avoid them, experts advise trying to work on stress during the day, reading, meditating, or doing other calming activities, especially before going to sleep. George Oliva, a dream expert from DreamDoctor.com, says that if we focus on pleasurable activities a few hours before going to sleep, stress levels will decrease.
Lucid dreaming and how to improve our dreams
On the other hand, experts such as De Gennaro, Barrett or Oliva, agree that another way to try to control these dreams is through lucid dreaming. This technique allows us to be conscious while we are dreaming, which makes us able to control our dreams from within and change them in our opinion.
We have spoken with Bill Fish, certified sleep science coach of the Sleep Foundation, who has told us some simple steps to try to train our minds for Lucid dreaming:
First of all, set your bedroom as a sleep sanctuary; our minds hate clutter. It is also recommended to make use of a white noise machine to mask any ambient sounds. The next step would be to create a dream journal.
It is also key to perform reality checks to confirm whether you are awake or asleep. One way to do this is to look at a clock or a page in a book. Then quickly look away and look back. In a dream, the odds are that the text or the time will change, whereas of course if you are wake, it will stay the same.
If you do wake up, write down your dreams in your journal and then immediately close your eyes and start focusing on your last dream. Run through the dream and imagine that you are dreaming.
With some dedicated practice, you could achieve what only one in five people are able to do.
Dreams, the only universal language
“We can describe dreaming as a peculiar form of mental activity that occurs during sleep. It is a very fascinating phenomenon, universally experienced by humans,” says Serena Scarpelli, specialised in the study of dreams.
Many experts have been studying dreams for years, and yet they are still hard to understand. “Dreams are extraordinary; dreams are manifested to us through symbols. All of us, in all parts of the world, dream. Regardless of our language. It is the only universal language of humanity,” says Cathy Pagano, psychotherapist.
If you are having more dreams lately, if you remember them more, if they are more intense, or have even become nightmares, know that you are not the only one. We hope that these tips can help you or, at least, answered some of your questions about it.