For the past few weeks, I've been waking up dazed and confused.
My mornings follow a similar pattern: alarm shrills, eyes shoot open and brain slowly tries to register the weird dreams it has just conjured up. I sit upright, a frozen expression of "what the actual hell was that" across my face, as I attempt to scribble them all down in the notes section of my phone, so I can tell my boyfriend all about them, in great detail. I'm sure he finds each one as fascinating as the next. Ahem.
"My mornings follow a similar pattern: alarm shrills, eyes shoot open and brain slowly tries to register the dreams that it has experienced the night before."
One dream saw me being chased by a giant, vicious hyena/liger hybrid through a safari/water park, which was so vivid that I woke up with a hammering heart. Joe Exotic may have had something to do with that one. Another played out what felt like an hours-long stand-off with a gang who waved about an impossibly long knife, which they'd been using to fish with (seriously, I know) before they started on me and my friends. And last night, I dreamed that I got ridiculously drunk at a party, at which a horrendous naked ghost attended, but nobody else batted an eyelid while I freaked out. Oh, and sheep lined the garden outside. I told you the dreams were mental.
Before you ask - no, I didn't eat cheese before bed; I've taken to fitting my daily intake of cheese into my new tradition of breakfast burritos (way better than porridge, screw healthiness right now). So, I've been left baffled as to why I'm suddenly having these vivid, disturbing dreams that are causing me to question my sanity. I mentioned it to friends, who instantly shot back with, "ME TOO!"It's not just me. Something is afoot.
A quick Google later and I was enlightened by the wonders of science. An article on the National Geographic goes as far as to coin this new phenomenon as "coronovirus pandemic dreams". Yep, you can't even escape this bullshit while you're catching some zzz's.
When it's broken down though, it's really rather interesting. As psychologist Deirdre Barrett told The Cut, our new slower-paced lifestyles are spiking dream recall. Apparently it's called REM rebound; a surge of Rapid Eye Movement as we catch up on sleep, which is the phase in which most dreaming occurs.
It also makes sense to consider the impact of an increase in stress hormones like cortisol, and the fact that dreams are experienced while the so-called rational part of the brain is deactivated. “We have these unprecedented levels of arousal [due to the stress of the pandemic] operating in a system where your brain isn’t telling you things are crazy,” explains Jessica Payne, a Professor on sleep and the influence of stress, to wired.com. These vivid, unsettling dreams are a result of your mind trying to work its way through the manic chaos its soaked in throughout the day as a result of our so-called new normal (or New Abnormal as The Strokes new album puts it).
In a nutshell, for those like me who feel like they've taken a hit of acid before hitting the hay: this is actually...grand. Our subconscious is simply reacting to the fact that our lives have turned into what can feel like a disaster movie at times. But, like the pandemic itself, this too shall pass. At least I really feckin' hope so.