As the UK gradually opens up, a sleep expert has warned Britons should expect some fairly bizarre dreams while we adjust to a “new normal”.
Boris Johnson introduced a nationwide lockdown on 23 March, forcing restaurants to close, borders to shut and socialising to be temporarily off the table.
After months of “hibernation”, playgrounds will open, cinemas will play and hairdressers will finally get cutting from 4 July in England.
While this will undoubtedly be welcome news for many, bizarre – and sometimes embarrassing – dreams may be an unexpected side effect of lockdown ending.
‘We can’t hide from our deepest fears in our sleep’
“We dream for different reasons – to process the information of the day; to make sense of emotional upsets, trauma and stress; and to process our creativity,” said Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert at Silentnight.
“The dreaming process helps us to organise memories, consolidate learning and make sense of life.
“Yet the way many of us have been living since lockdown and all the changes to our routines is hugely affecting how we sleep, as we sleep well when our life is well.
“We can’t hide from our deepest fears and anxieties in our sleep as the ‘shadow side’ is awakened in our dreams and this is heightened during unsettled times.
“When we get more REM sleep – the rapid eye movement phase where we sleep lightly and with consciousness – and not enough deep sleep, the dreams become more vivid.”
Three dreams to expect as lockdown eases
Google searches for bizarre dreams have reportedly doubled since this time in 2019, suggesting people feel unsettled as their day to day life changes yet again.
As we learn to adapt to a new pace, don’t be surprised if you suddenly dream your house has a basement.
“This is a dream about your living space being different and you discover a room, basement or maybe even an entire wing of your house that you never knew existed,” said Dr Ramlakhan.
“We all have aspects of ourselves that we’re yet to learn about and this dream helps us meet those parts of ourselves that we’ve denied or never explored.
“Lockdown has been a time to be more introspective and enquire more about yourself, so maybe you’ve been thinking about a new career path or making some lasting lifestyle changes.
“Although this one can be disconcerting, it’s actually a really exciting dream and is a sign you are getting ready to embrace change and explore hidden parts of yourself.
“Previously closed doors are opening up.”
Our dreams may also become distressing, with Dr Ramlakhan warning people might envision themselves losing control of a car.
“Dreams about driving a car mean we’re reflecting on a path we are taking through life,” she said.
“When you then lose control during your dream, this indicates there is a situation in your life that isn’t in hand and you feel powerless.
“You’re worried that things are changing and moving too fast and you don’t know if you can keep up. You feel out of control.”
This may be a sign you are feeling anxious about getting back out into the world or perhaps returning to work.
“Try not to be overwhelmed by this dream,” said Dr Ramlakhan. “Control what you can and be open-minded and positive about what you can’t.”
Some may also experience what is perhaps the most embarrassing dream of all – you look down and your clothes have vanished.
“Lockdown has allowed us to spend time in the place we feel the safest, our home,” said Dr Ramlakhan.
“Suddenly we now need to get back out into the world and this can be daunting.
“Nudity dreams indicate that we feel exposed and vulnerable, which is to be expected as change is put upon us.”
While you may wake in a cold sweat, Dr Ramlakhan stressed we should not fear our dreams.
“Instead, keep a journal of them and try to understand what they mean,” she said.
“Everything we do during the day impacts our sleep and ultimately our dreams.
“It’s important that we look after ourselves and don’t expect too much, life isn’t going to return to normal straight away.
“Instead, adopt a healthy positive attitude and mindset allowing you to thrive post lockdown.”
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