Here's why everyone's been having very vivid dreams during quarantine
It's dark and I'm sitting at the dressing table in a hotel bedroom doing my makeup.
Behind me, around 15 people are standing around the room talking to one another and laughing. I can hear them but they don't seem to know I'm there. I try to speak but I can't. Suddenly, I'm surrounded by a group of small children looking at my reflection. I feel scared but still can't make any noise when I open my mouth.
No, this is not a scene from an eerie new Netflix series (somehow I don't think I'd make it as a screenwriter) but my latest bizarre dream.
It may be a cliche that no-one wants to hear what someone else dreams about, but I only mention it because the internet has led to me understand that I'm not the only one having oddly vivid dreams lately.
Twitter users are sharing the upsetting, confusing and just plain weird experiences they've been having in their sleep during the pandemic.
We had a lion chained in the house. My sister was it’s caretaker but it escaped and started terrorizing everyone. #PandemicDreams
— Ade Laoye (@adelaoye) April 15, 2020
I had a dream an old lady attacked me for trying to buy a bottle of hand sanitizer made for babies (there were other bottles) #pandemicdreams
— Kyle (@PositivelyKyle) April 10, 2020
It was probably a simple one & I don't remember a thing, but my wife told me that two nights ago I woke up at 3am & just shout "everybody is dying" & went back to sleep.#pandemicdreams
— ᴮᴱLarah⁷ ⟭⟬ 🐋 Billboard hot 100 N° 1 fan (@namoonoona) April 11, 2020
But why is it that so many of us are having disturbing dreams right now?
It turns out that this may be another thing we can blame the virus for.
Research has linked stress and anxiety, which many of us have been experiencing in spades, with nightmares. Dreams have long been understood as a way of sorting information and filing away new memories - our brain processing the day we had - and it stands to reason that the heightened emotions that many are feeling are impacting us while we sleep.
Another possibility is that our brains are attempting to figure out how we'll handle what's to come with strange dreams.
"There's the evolutionary theory that says we use dreams to try out different scenarios in a safe environment," Professor Jason Ellis, director of the Northumbria Centre for Sleep Research, told CNN.
The global situation appears to be affecting how vivid or our dreams feel too - an ongoing study in France has seen a 35 per cent increase in participants' ability to recall what they dreamt since the start of the pandemic.
Feeling anxious can mean that we remember our nightmares more clearly because this disrupts our sleep and wakes us during or just after a dream, making what we dreamt feel more real. It's also been suggested that we're remembering our dreams better because many people have more time to wake up in the morning thanks to working from home.
Avoiding anxiety may seem like a tall order at the minute but attempting to prevent nightmares is just another reason to try to find some calm in our days.