Community Psychiatry’s Dr. Pavan Madan was featured in Real Simple discussing dreaming, particularly strange dreams that are brought on by anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With everything happening in the world right now, anxiety dreams are on the rise. Experts weigh in on how to get a better night’s sleep.
By Elizabeth Yuko, Real Simple | June 08, 2020
Though we may have started 2020 with high hopes, the year has been one challenge after another so far. Anxiety really started to climb along with the death toll from COVID-19, and has been an issue for many for the past few months. Adding to that is the more recent acts of police violence and subsequent demonstrations around the country. Whether or not you realize it, all of this impacts the quality of your sleep—and that includes your dreams. In fact, if you’ve noticed that you’ve been having particularly strange dreams since the beginning of the pandemic, you’re not alone. But why is this, and is there anything we can do about it? We spoke with several experts to find out what you need to know to get a better night’s sleep.
We also need to keep in mind that dreams are often a reflection of our subconscious mind. “Given that a lot of pretty unprecedented events have occurred over the past few months, it is not surprising that many people are experiencing weird dreams,” says Pavan Madan, MD, a psychiatrist with Community Psychiatry. “Part of it is control. Most people have had almost no control over how the pandemic has spread and affected their lives.”
And although cognitively, we understand and accept the public health recommendations, like wearing a face mask in public and practicing social distancing, and what we can do to protect ourselves from the virus, our mind does not like to deal with things that it cannot control or predict. “Another part of it has to do with anxiety,” Dr. Madan explains. “Even if we are not consciously thinking about it, many people are anxious about yet another bizarre crisis that is beyond their control. It is possible that our minds are now weaving possible absurd scenarios that can play out, perhaps to prepare us in case we face another crisis.” Plus, with so many people out of work or working from home, and not traveling or socializing as much as they used to, we’ve had fewer distractions to occupy us and more time to reflect on our lives and what’s going on in the world. “These reflections may also be playing a role in bringing strange thoughts and dreams,” he adds.
Also, as Dr. Madan notes, acceptance is the first step in dealing with these types of dreams. “We must acknowledge that these are a result of the stressful times we are in,” he says. “Take good care of yourself and try to lower your stress level. Try to talk through about your thoughts with a loved one or a therapist. The more we process these thoughts consciously, the less they might bother us at night.”
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