LOUISVILLE, Ky. — If you’ve been having really weird and vivid dreams lately, you’re not alone. Researchers have tracked an increase of nightmares and dreaming by almost 40 percent since the global pandemic hit.
"It’s a little like being on a drug trip, but it’s natural," Dr. David Winslow, a sleep specialist with Norton Healthcare said.
Dr. Winslow says dreams are thought to help with memory issues and process things that are important to us during the day and right now, it's all about the new coronavirus. It's increased stress and disrupted many of our routines.
"During periods of stress and not sleeping as well, your patterns are off, you wake up more, and your dreams tend to focus on more emotional issues. You can begin to have nightmares. Right now, people are dreaming more about death," Dr. Winslow said.
Social distancing the last month hasn't made sleeping any easier. Dr. Winslow says when you're isolated from others, your dreams tend to go back in time, to events where you were with family and friends. But not all of those thoughts are happy ones and can lead to more traumatic dreams.
So, how can we prevent these dreams? Dr. Winslow says the key is to wind down before sleep. Turn off the TV. Put down the phone and start to think of positive thoughts. Some people advocate for meditation or deep breathing before bed and good exercise when you wake up can also help you sleep at night.
"In the morning, I usually advise folks to try to smile. Say something like, 'I feel happy. I'm healthy. I feel terrific.' That process every day can surprisingly change brain chemistry and make you feel better and be more positive," he said.
If you’re having vivid nightmares, there’s a process called dream mastery.
"They tell you to write down your nightmare and reconstruct it to something pleasant that would diminish the effect of the attacker, and then think about it and go to bed," Dr. Winslow said.
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