Since the UK was sent into coronavirus lockdown, many of us have been having some pretty vivid dreams.
Google searches for “weird dreams” have doubled since this time last year, and WhatsApp is awash with wacky dream shares and people asking “you too, eh?”
But what’s causing this spate of funky feels?
“We are dreaming so vividly and frequently during the lockdown because our sleep schedule has either been interrupted or we are having more sleep than usual,” explains Theresa Cheung, author of The A to Z Dream Dictionary (Harper Collins) and The Dream Decoder (Laurence King).
“Both sleep disruption and longer sleep time increase the likelihood of having more REM (rapid eye movement) which is the sleep stage where most dreaming happens.”
Cheung says it’s possible the slower pace of life in lockdown could mean you’re recalling your dreams more readily.
“As soon as you wake up dream images fade quickly from memory unless you make a conscious effort to recall them,” she explains.
“In pre-virus times you likely had to get up quickly for study, work or your normal routine so there wasn't time to mull over the meaning of your dreams. But during the lockdown our mornings are slower giving dreams a chance to take centre stage.”
On top of this our dreams are a way to help us process and make sense of our waking lives.
“With so many unprecedented changes in our daily lives and routines right now our dreaming mind has a lot of new material and emotions to process and help us make sense of - hence lots more vivid and highly emotional dreams.”
We shouldn’t stress about these wackier than usual dreams, however. Cheung says this increased dream activity during the lockdown is actually a very healthy thing as your dreaming mind acts like an internal therapist during the night helping you face your fears and cope better with your feelings during the day.
But we can’t help but wonder what our crazy corona dreams really mean. Cheung has outlined some of the most common lockdown dreams she’s been asked to decode.
Is the coronavirus lockdown linked to the bizarre dreams you have been having recently?
Death of loved ones and pets
This is linked to our waking knowledge that many people right now are dying or have died, but it is not a prediction that you or your loved ones are going to die. “The virus is simply making us all contemplate our mortality,” Cheung explains.
“If you have lost a loved one your dreaming mind may also be pulling you back to that pain but if you have not suffered a bereavement death dreams wake you up to the fact that none of us lives forever.
“Dream deaths suggest endings but with every ending there is always a new beginning so this dream could also indicate the death of our old way of life – and your unconscious acceptance of that - because we all sense that our pre-virus and post virus life is going to be very different.
“In short, these dreams are all about the huge lifestyle changes your body and mind and emotions need to process right now,” Cheung adds.
According to Cheung under normal circumstances dreaming about sex, having an affair, or similar doesn't actually mean cheating or fancying someone. “Instead it suggests that there is some aspect of the person's life or personality you are having sex with in your dreams that you need to develop within yourself.
“However, during the lockdown sex dreams simply express your longing for more adventure or variety to break out of the restrictions the virus is forcing on your freedom,” she adds.
Work, job, house melting or gone
These kind of dream metaphors symbolise anxiety that your old routines and way of life may never return.
“Similarly if you dream of being stuck somewhere and not being able to leave or that you are late, or missing important calls or meetings or your phone or laptop are malfunctioning these dreams highlight your anxieties about how well you are adjusting to the lock down or how the people you care about are adjusting to it,” Cheung says.
Meeting up with old friends you have not seen for a long while in your dreams symbolises your nostalgia for life before the virus struck. “It may also express your regret, perhaps that you didn't appreciate what you had until it was gone,” Cheung explains. “This dream is focussing your mind on what truly matters in your life.”
Super-detailed dreams with real plots and story lines
Cheung says the dreaming mind may sometimes try to offer you relief from the constant waking anxiety caused by the virus by entertaining you with wonderfully bizarre dream scenarios or plots not for any reason but to help take your mind off the pressure for a while.
Feeling ill and waking up gasping for air
This a clearly a symbolic representation of fear of contracting the virus, says Cheung. “The dream illness can feel so real that you wake up experiencing symptoms.”
But you don’t need to worry that this is a premonition. “Remember dreams are not real. They simply represent your emotions or feelings,” she explains.
Being naked or using the toilet in public
Being exposed or humiliated in public in a lock down dream is related to fear of being exposed to the virus if you leave your house when you are indeed at an increased risk of exposure.
Wading in mud, being suffocated, being chased or feeling that something is dragging you down are also dream metaphors for fear of being contaminated by the virus and your desire to protect or cleanse yourself from that contamination.
Dreaming you or your loved ones have superpowers
Cheung says having these kind of dreams express your hope that loved ones, especially those who are not living with you right now, will be able to protect themselves and stay safe during these tough times.
“If you are a superhero it suggests that you need to be bold, you are stronger than you think,” she says. “Flying dreams are encouraging you to rise above and see the bigger picture in that this lockdown is to save lives and it will one day pass.”
Cheung adds that dreaming of falling can be both liberating and alarming. “Liberating in that you may be relieved that your life is on pause right now due to the lock down and your loved ones are safe. Alarming in that you may be feeling unsupported by others and uncertain about your future.”
Disaster dreams, whether the disaster is natural or man-made, symbolise the feeling that your life is out of control and there is no way to avoid facing that. So pretty much how all of us are feeling right now then?!
“Dreaming of car or plane accidents or any kind of accident suggests the need to be extra vigilant or cautious in waking life, as all of us are required to do right now,” Cheung explains. “If you are in an out of control car, plane or vehicle this suggests that you feel you have no control over the current situation.”
She says it is important to remember that although we have no control over the lock down we do have control over how we choose to react to it.
“It’s time for you to get in the driver’s seat of your life, or if you are the driver and not a passenger in your dream car, to drive more skilfully and take charge of your thoughts, feelings and reaction to the lockdown.”
Cheung says water in dreams is a potent symbol of your feelings so if you are drowning this suggests you are letting your emotions rather than your logic make decisions for you right now.
“You are letting yourself be submerged by fear or anxiety about the virus when there are ways to keep your head above water if you follow the guidelines and take care of yourself and others,” she says.
“If you dream of a tidal wave this suggests your anxiety may be overwhelming you,” she adds. “Flooding suggests that stress is rising and you need to get a sense of perspective and ground yourself.”