Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital
The pandemic has many people on edge every day. Fear and uncertainty about our jobs, our health and the future are rattling our waking hours. So it’s no surprise that some of us are experiencing restless sleep, complete with bad dreams.
While these nightmares may contain no reference to the coronavirus, it’s anxiety about the pandemic that’s causing the restless sleep and vivid dreaming.
Why we dream
We still don’t know exactly why we dream, according to the American Association of Sleep Technologists, or AAST. A leading theory is that our dreams help us consolidate our memories and make sense of what we learned during the day.
But a flood of sad or unpleasant memories can overwhelm our brains, says the AAST, causing strange dreams and waking us up.
Frequent waking after dreams may be part of the reason we remember these vivid dreams more during stressful times, according to HelpGuide.org. So the more often we wake from dream sleep during the night, the more likely we are to remember what we were just dreaming.
If you’re getting tired of waking frequently from bad dreams, there are steps you can take to sleep soundly.
What you can do
First, try to rein in your stress and anxiety. Some things that might help:
Practice relaxation techniques. Engage in deep-breathing exercises before going to bed to help you relax and prepare for sleep.
Schedule a time to worry. Postpone your worries until a set time during the day. When you feel yourself starting to worry at night, tell yourself you can worry about it tomorrow during a scheduled “worry time.”
Get regular exercise. Physical activity can help reduce stress and anxiety. It also can increase the amount of time you spend in deep, restorative stages of sleep.
Engage in good sleep habits. Get up and go to bed at the same time every day, even if you don’t have to go to work in the morning. Choose a time for bed when you usually feel tired. This will keep you from tossing and turning, trying to get to sleep.
Adopt healthy daytime behaviors. If COVID-19 disrupted your daytime routines, make new ones.
Patrick Moody is the director of marketing and public relations at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital. For more information about local community health programs, visit HenryMayo.com.