How to Sleep Better if You're Having Bad Dreams Because of the Pandemic
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There are times when your dreams don’t make any sense at all. But more often than not, your dreams are likely to be highly relevant, with everyday concerns like money, love, job stress or events like birthdays or anniversaries showing up in them, featuring people you actually know rather than people you’ve dreamt up. This reflection of what happens in your everyday lives in your dreams is known as the continuity hypothesis of dreams.
Proposed first by Calvin Hall, an American psychologist, in 1971, the idea that your dream life is continuous with your waking life is now one of the most widely studied models of dreaming. A new study published in the journal Dreaming links this continuity hypothesis of dreaming with the COVID-19 pandemic by pointing out that the pandemic is not just affecting your sleep but also your dreams, so much so that there’s a marked increase in dreams about anxiety, negative emotions and the virus itself.
The study, which was a meta-analysis of four other studies about the effects of the pandemic on dreams, reveals that the levels of anxiety have increased globally during the pandemic and concerns about illness, death and caring for family and loved ones during the lockdown have been constant. This has led to recurrent dreams about how the virus is affecting your everyday life and worries that are persistently arising from it.
The study also notes that this worry and excessive dreaming about COVID-19 is more prevalent among women than men. People with more education and awareness, sick people or those affected by a job loss and financial issues had a heightened dream recall, more negative emotions and a greater risk of developing mental health issues.
If you too have been plagued by persistent dreams regarding the pandemic you should focus on overcoming these issues to get better sleep. Better quality and duration of sleep is not just important for your mental health, but also your physical wellbeing. The following are some tips you can use to calm your mind before you go to sleep:
- Avoid reading, listening to or watching the news on television or social media before you sleep. Keep your phone away and television switched off at least an hour or two before bedtime. This will keep your mind from racing with thoughts about the pandemic.
- Avoid coffee, alcohol or any other stimulant before bedtime. Instead, drink a soothing bedtime drink like turmeric milk, warm almond milk or chamomile tea. These drinks have a calming effect on the mind.
- Don’t eat a heavy meal right before bedtime. A heavy or rich meal may lead to gastric issues, which can further disrupt sleep, lead to wakefulness and might even increase negative emotions before and during sleep. There should be a gap of at least an hour between your last meal and bedtime.
- Get more exercise, fresh air and at least 10-15 minutes of sunlight every day. These will not only keep your mind and body fresh and light but also increase the vitamin D levels in your body, which is important for your mental health and better sleep.
- If you don’t feel rested enough after a full night’s sleep, take a power nap of 20 to 40 minutes during the day. However, make sure this is not in the afternoon or evening. A nap during the day can take some of the load off your mind and make you feel more rested throughout the day. This can help take some of the pressure off your nighttime sleep.
For more information, read our article on Sleep during COVID-19 pandemic.
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