Everyone has bad dreams from time to time. During the age of COVID-19, bad dreams may become more common, as everyone struggles to adjust to the new realities of living life in a pandemic. A Straits Times article published on 12 July described various bad dreams Singaporeans suffered as a result of increased stress during these strange times.
One lady dreamt of hand sanitisers and toilet rolls falling from the sky. Another lady dreamt of an anthropomorphized virus-person serving her pizza. A man dreamt he was barred from sitting for exams because he forgot his face mask.
In this article, we tell you about 5 types of bad dreams everyone has had sometime or another and crucially, what they may mean.
Being chased by something. According to a study published in 2010 by the European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, falling and being chased are the top two most common bad dreams. Richard Nicoletti, a psychotherapist trained at the Jung Institute in Boston, describes these dreams as “universal” and “natural”. According to him, dreams of being chased may indicate that the dreamer is avoiding an issue or person that makes them feel fearful, annoyed or pained.
Feeling like you’re falling. This strange sensation, which tends to happen just before you fall sleep, is called a hypnic jerk. When your brain is preparing for sleep, parts of it begin to shut down for the night. Sometimes it accidentally turns off the part that helps you to process gravity, so you get that feeling like you’re sinking through space.
Looking for something. Maybe you dreamt that you’re about to travel to an important event but you can’t find your ez-link card or your wallet. You’re turning your pockets and your bag inside out and panic is setting in. What could it mean? In an article published by The Guardian in October 2018, researchers stated that stress dreams may serve a function. They could be the brain’s way of rehearsing bad outcomes, leading us to anticipate and avoid them. This is called threat simulation theory. For instance, the article described a student who woke up from a bad dream where she was sitting for her exams and realized belatedly that there was an important chapter she had yet to digest. So she woke up and began to study.
Amazingly, students who’ve had stress dreams the night before the exam scored better.
Insects. In the same Straits Times article mentioned at the start of this article, the woman who had dreams being served pizza by the coronavirus itself also started to dream about little green bugs. It turns out that creepy crawlies are another common theme of bad dreams. According to Steve Joordens, professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, bugs may translate into fears relating to cleanliness, viruses and losing control of our environment.
Feeling trapped in your body. Again, like the hypnic jerk, where you feel like you’re falling, this one isn’t related to dreams per se. Instead, it’s a quirk of the brain where your brain hasn’t unlocked your body yet. When you go to sleep, your brain locks down your movements so you don’t act out your dreams. Sleep paralysis happens when your body is in sleep mode but your brain is active. Although it is terrifying, it is also harmless.
That’s it for this article. These are the top, run-of-the-mill bad dreams your brain either will or has already thrown at you. Do you tend to remember your dreams? What was the last dream you had about?