Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Pigeons, trains and Beyoncé: the phenomena of strange dreams

Since lockdown began, my dreams have been very vivid and obscure. After having a group call with friends, I realised I wasn’t the only one. The more we discussed, the weirder the dreams became.

Stories ranged from resuscitating a pigeon, turning into a donkey, Beyoncé forcing them to introduce ex-boyfriends to a giant crowd and being in the hospital where the nurses were old school friends. Surely it wasn’t just my friends having such odd experiences? I turned to social media to find out.

Having posted a poll on my twitter and Instagram, I found out that around 75% of people were having weirder dreams while in lockdown. Many who contacted me after posting the poll, said they are contemplating their dreams more and using websites such as DreamMoods to try to discover their meaning. In fact, googling “weird dreams in quarantine” now yields around 4,480,000 results and due to this surge in interest, a website entitled ‘I dream of COVID’ has been created to submit dreams to be analysed by a specialist.

Vivid dreams have become more prevalent as the virus has spread globally

After realising this commonality, I began to research why this might be. Without getting too bogged down with the technicalities, dreams are proven to become more vivid when experiencing significant life changes. This makes sense as lockdown was, and still is, a shock to us all. A recent Harvard survey confirmed that vivid dreams have become more prevalent as the virus has spread globally. This was well precedented as dreams around the time of 9/11 had a similar effect – they tended to be more intense and feel more realistic.

One theme which many of the people I spoke to, and myself, shared was entrapment and anxiety. Given the current circumstances, this is highly expected and probably quite common for those isolating around the world.

A friend of mine said, “I dreamt that I was stuck on a train full of scary-looking people and couldn’t get out unless I paid £5 million”.

We are under more stress than normal

Another recited “I had a dream that my sister and I were younger, and my mum had to get us a babysitter because she had to go to work but the babysitter fell asleep, so we started panicking, then suddenly a cat appeared wearing a hat”.

Researchers have also suggested that we are under more stress than normal, so stress hormones such as cortisol may be causing us to have more unusual dreams.

With many of us feeling overwhelmed at the moment, it is important to spend some time winding down before you go to sleep. This is commonly known as the ‘buffer zone’ which is recommended to be an hour before you plan on sleeping. This time may help decrease your stressful dreams, which leaves you plenty of time to have more weird and wacky ones that you can discuss and analyse with friends.

I was surprised at how much it has improved my sleep

Sometimes, I use the Headspace app, which has short meditation-like activities that make me feel relaxed again. This is a great way of rewinding before bed to ensure that you’re not having stressful and crazy dreams. I was sceptical at first, since meditation isn’t usually my thing, but I was surprised at how much it has improved my sleep.

Don’t worry if you’ve been experiencing strange dreams while we’ve been under lockdown. These are scary and uncertain times for all of us and you’re not the only one who has been having weird night-time visions. If, like me, you dream about resuscitating a pigeon – try not to worry and think about why you’ve been struggling to unwind and de-stress before bed.

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