COVID isolation is playing with our subconscious
been having the most vivid complex dreams every single night of quarantine
— Hannah (@hannahg11) April 5, 2020
I’m the worst sleeper. I think it’s from my younger years when I spent a couple years doing overnight radio and then later, a flyer monkey for a Toronto concert company. But I don’t get unusual dreams – till COVID happened.
See, our brains process stress, anxiety and other feelings we have when we’re awake. “If every day you’re watching the news, and it’s making you scared or uncomfortable or worried about your relatives or yourself, and this goes on ad nauseam for months, it will impact your dreams,” registered psychotherapist, Jupiter Vaughan told Global News.
It’s like if COVID is running wild in our brain while we sleep
Vaughn explains that he has several `folders’ for the things we have going on in our lives. One folder is for our family, another for our work and hobbies, there’s another for our worries and fears and so on.
“When you sleep, the subconscious can just run freely and pick something totally random [from any of those folders],” Vaughan said.
“It can be an ex [partner] from eight years ago or something that’s really present, like the coronavirus.”
The important thing here is that we can’t stress over the occasional nightmare, as everyone experiences disruptions in their sleep from time to time.
Pandemic dreams are normal, unless you’re getting them nightly
“A poor night sleep is something that your natural sleep cycles are designed to accommodate by increasing ‘sleep pressure’ in your nervous system resulting in enhanced deep non-REM sleep the following night,” Dr. Jeffrey Durmer, a leader in sleep health care and the chief medical officer of Nox Health, told Fox News.
It’s time to worry when sleep disruption is happening every night, which can put us at risk for a few health issues – including heart disease, arrhythmias, weight gain, diabetes and depression.
“When sleep disruptions occur night after night, your natural ability to ‘respond’ is diminished and your body and brain immediately suffer the loss of sleep in numerous ways,” he said. “Initially, your mood, memory and other higher cortical functions become impaired, but in addition we now know that sleep-dependent physiological processes like removing toxic metabolites from the brain, managing blood glucose, regulating appetite hormones, resetting insulin receptor sensitivity, controlling blood pressure and immune function begin to fail.”
Talk about it
Let’s talk about it. Sharing our dreams on social media under a specific hashtag can help defuse the situation. It will also up our chances of getting a restful night’s sleep. Finally.
“Remember, our ‘new experiences’ activate our emotional and memory systems, which is natural and normal,” he said. “By reducing the emotional impact of new information on our thoughts, we improve the chances of parasomnias from occurring.”
See a specialist
Or, how about speaking to a health care physician that specializes in sleep medication.
“Treating the underlying cause of parasomnia and not the symptoms of parasomnia is essential to resolving the situation,” Durmer said. “This is why ‘trying’ over the counter medications or even prescription medications before understanding the cause can be very detrimental. Many people who have recurring sleep-related problems like parasomnias benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy where the underlying fear-evoking issue is explored and new strategies developed to deal with the thoughts and/or behavioral response to [a] specific fear.”
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