by Katelyn To
Graphic by Christy Knudson
Ever since lockdown began, I’ve noticed that I have been experiencing very vivid dreams that I can actually remember. Before that, I never used to remember my dreams, so it stuck out to me when I could, for many consecutive days. I soon realized that odd and vivid dreams were being experienced by many other people as well since quarantine. But why exactly has quarantining during a pandemic caused such weird, yet collective dream experiences?
It turns out, the answer isn’t that complicated. First, we have to understand the stages of sleep. There are two types of sleep–NREM sleep, or non-rapid eye movement sleep, and REM sleep. Dreams usually occur during the REM stage of sleep, which takes place closer to the end of your sleep cycle. Since many people have been sleeping a lot more during quarantine, more sleep means more time spent in the REM stage. That consequently leads to more dreams, and more dreams make you more likely to remember those dreams.
On the other hand, there are those who have had trouble staying asleep during this time, likely due to stress. This disruption in the sleep cycle would also allow one to become more aware of their dreams. When you wake up in the middle of REM sleep, or while dreaming, you are more likely to remember that dream, versus waking up in the middle of a different stage. A combination of sleeping for a longer period of time plus waking up more often leads to an even larger increase in being able to remember your dreams. That translates to you thinking that you are having more vivid dreams.
Another reason could simply be because of stress and anxiety. This pandemic has caused huge amounts of it for many people, and that could result in dreams containing stressful or negative situations, which many have also experienced. With limited stimulation due to lockdowns, most people have been sourcing it from the media, typically television and social media, which contributes to stress even more. Additionally, stress will likely cause disruption in the sleep cycle, which can influence dreaming as mentioned above.
All in all, reports of weird and vivid dreams are completely normal and expected during a time like this. Similar experiences have occured in concurrence with other large, anxiety-provoking events, such as 9/11, and probably isn’t to be worried about.