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Vivid dreams in times of stress

Filed in
  • stress
  • Sleep hygiene
  • Dreams

Lynn Celmer  |  Jun 24, 2020
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Dreams Sleep Education

If you’re experiencing an increase in strange, vivid dreams, you are not alone.

“Your experiences and interactions during the day can affect your dreams, and right now many of us are spending time watching the news or reading articles that are downright scary,” said Jennifer Martin, PhD, a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) board of directors. “It’s natural that the fears and stressors of daily life make their way into our dreams.”

Dream incorporation occurs when a stimulus you encounter in real life makes its way into your dreams. In addition, changes in sleep patterns, like fragmented sleep, may mean people are sleeping less soundly, causing them to remember more of their dreams.

“Most of your dreams take place during the ‘rapid eye movement’ or REM sleep stage,” said Dr. Martin. “Typically, you’ll need to wake up during or shortly after a dream to remember it.”

The key to reducing the disruption of dreams is to sleep more soundly. Dr. Martin suggests the following to get a better night’s sleep and keep nightmares at bay:

  • Establish a consistent bedtime and wake up time. Even if your bedtime or wake time has changed due to the pandemic, maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Adults should sleep 7 or more hours per night on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
  • Reduce time with social media or the news. Minimize your exposure to stress-inducing news near bedtime to avoid dwelling on new stressors before sleep.
  • Schedule time to unwind before bed. Take at least 30 minutes to unwind and help prepare your body for rest. Listen to soothing music, read a book, or try meditating to prepare your mind for sleep and expose yourself to more positive stimuli.
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol consumption. Both caffeine and alcohol disrupt sleep quality.
  • Take steps to deal with your worries and stress during the day. Writing down what’s on your mind can be a great way to release worries so you’re not holding on to unwanted thoughts when you get into bed.

If disrupted sleep or strange dreams continue to be a problem, get help from the sleep team at an AASM-accredited sleep center near you. Many sleep professionals offer telemedicine services.


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