Why did we have weird dreams in lockdown?


Many people reported having weird dreams during lockdown. The UK first enforced lockdown restrictions in March 2020 and finally lifted them in July 2021. After nearly a year and a half of intermittent lockdowns, it’s no surprise we started to have vibrant dreams to fill the time.  

Nearly half the UK’s workforce was operating remotely in the pandemic, and many of them were dreaming about work. A recent survey by flyer and leaflet printing specialist instantprint found that four in five of us visited the workplace in our lockdown dreams. However, a staggering 75% of people reported that these workplace dreams were, in fact, nightmares. Many workers had nightmares about quitting their jobs, getting trapped at work, never arriving, or showing up late for their workday.  

Dr Sarah Jane Daly, a senior lecturer in social psychology at the University of Huddersfield, said: “For many of us, COVID-19 has brought work into our personal spaces. We think of home as a place where we can relax and shut out workday stresses and strains. The fact that many people work from home now means that our homes have become literal places of work. Kitchen tables, coffee tables, beds, sofas – all places that were once stress-free are now sites of work production. Getting away from work has never been so difficult.” 

As workers struggled to maintain a work-life balance in lockdown, much of their work stress infiltrated their dreams. The most popular lockdown dream was being unprepared for a task at work. These stress dreams likely stemmed from the pandemic and the uncertainty of the future. Many workers worried whether they would have a job to return to or whether their industry would survive. 

Lockdown also disrupted our normal sleeping patterns and lifestyle. UK workers would go to bed stressed and wake up feeling less than rested. The pandemic infiltrated every element of our daily life and made it challenging to work as usual. 

In the instantprint survey, 15% of people dreamt about never arriving at work, and 11% dreamt they showed up late. The subconscious mind can bring up our internal anxieties when we are feeling extremely stressed and run down. It seems UK workers were under a lot of pressure to keep their jobs, manage financial difficulties and live through a worldwide pandemic. Only 6% had a dream about a pay rise, promotion or bonus, with most lockdown work dreams falling into the nightmare category. 

As restrictions in the UK have lifted and offices start to reopen, UK workers should regain control over their careers and finances. Once this stability is restored and the separation between work and home returns, our dreams should settle back into their usual rhythms.   

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