The ongoing pandemic and resultant lockdown have affected the way we eat, work, sleep and communicate.
Additionally, they have also affected the way we dream – around the world, men and women are reporting an unprecedented spike in the number of unusually vivid and often confusing dreams. The phenomenon even has its own moniker on social media, namely ‘quarandreams’.
What’s causing it? Psychotherapist and holistic medical doctor, Dr Rashmi Menon explains, “Dreaming is an outcome of our mind processing what has happened during that day. The brain stores the fears and beliefs that it already resonates with – this happens during the middle of night.
Towards the morning, it lets go of those thoughts or beliefs that are no longer valid or those that have been altered. One reason why our dreams are becoming more vivid during the lockdown is because we are not interacting with others in the way we are used to.
In the absence of other people who reflect our thoughts and fears, each of us is becoming more aware of these mental processes in the form of our dreams.” Psychologist Priyanka Bajaria adds that while dreams can occur in all stages of sleep, they are the most vivid in the REM state.
“We cycle through the stages of sleep several times, but the deeper REM stages occur towards the end of the sleep cycle. With so much extra time to snooze, our brains can complete an extra cycle or two of REM sleep.
On regular days when we did not have the luxury of extra time, our schedules would compel us to ‘switch off the TV in our minds’ (by waking up) before the most interesting parts of the show (vivid dreams) started,” she says. Further, many of these dreams may be triggered by the elevated stress caused by adjusting to these unprecedented times, says Arti Shroff, a clinical psychologist.
“Changes in schedule and lifestyle, facing difficult relationship dynamics and coming to terms with an altered work routine can be difficult and even people with no underlying concerns are reporting increased anxiety,” she explains.
Making sense of your lockdown dreams Amrita Chawla, a 30-year-old communications professional, recollects dreaming about leaving the air conditioning running in her car when I parked it. “I returned to my car about 6-7 hours later, only to realise that the fuel had run nearly out.
I had to spend hours driving very slowly as I searched for a fuel pump in the wee hours of the morning,” she recollects. Dreams about scarcity reflect your fears about death (of yourself or your loved ones) or your insecurities about being able to provide or care for yourself and your family, says Dr Menon.
“One of my patients dreamt that they were trying to make their bed, but the sheet was not long enough – no matter how many times they tried, the sheet simply wouldn’t fit. Similarly, dreams where the ground is slipping from under your feet or those in which you are falling are indicative of your insecurity about the future.
For 28-year-old marketing professional Mitali Ahuja, vivid dreams have become a mainstay of her lockdown experience. “In the early part of the lockdown, I would dream extensively about my father, who died 25 years ago. More recently, my dreams are marked by a complete loss of control.
For instance, a few nights ago, I dreamt that I was in the middle of a war. People were fighting for food and water. I was aghast to see people eating human beings, especially children, to survive. I remember waking up terrified by the thought that something similar could actually happen,” she says.
Dreams about war and terror attacks are, in fact, manifestations of the terror inspired by the Coronavirus, says Dr Menon. “We know that the virus is fatal, but it doesn’t have a face. We are giving this fear a face based on what our mind already knows,” she adds.
Dreams that leave you confused or ‘inception dreams’ where one dream melds into another can represent the fact that we have no clarity about the situation at hand and trying to make sense of it. Further, many people are reporting dreaming about strangers or people they haven’t met for many years. Dr Menon says that this stems from not being able to socialise.
“Although we are making use of phone calls and social media, our interactions are not complete. Strangers in your dreams can represent people you have imagined you will meet in the future,” she says