How Are You Sleeping?

Dreams can be unnerving and disconcerting at times. ‘Was that real?’, ‘did I dream it?’, ‘did that really happen?’ can be troublesome questions after an especially weird dream.

Many people have reported disturbed sleeping patterns and weird dreams, especially post-pandemic, and its legacy still affects many. It's hardly surprising that during times of disruption, disturbance and crisis people struggle to calm their minds and enjoy a restful, beneficial night's sleep.

Stress at work, relationship difficulties, financial pressures can all weigh heavily on our minds. Then the effects of lockdown have caused upheaval to all our lives. So much that was familiar or secure has gone and no one has been left unaffected by its presence. The cost of living crisis, heavily inflated energy bills and a miscellany of government regulations combine to deliver additional pressure to many people’s lives. Everyone’s been affected to a greater or lesser extent.

Our unconscious minds latch onto things that are troubling us and will then oftentimes use metaphors, symbolism, whatever’s uppermost in our minds to find a solution; a recent film, conversation, event may well provide a means with which to resolve and hopefully deliver a positive outcome to things that need attention and help.

Whilst the last two years have provided the opportunity to re-evaluate our lives and our priorities the ensuing uncertainty has brought many worries, causing disruption to our sleep and dream patterns.

Dreams allow our unconscious minds to process what's going on each day, to review and sometimes revise our perspective as a consequence. You've no doubt heard the phrase, 'sleep on it and see how you feel in the morning', meant to advise us not to make any rash or hasty decisions. And  often, after a good night's sleep a new way of thinking or feeling emerges.

Overnight our unconscious minds work through issues and concerns in an effort to reinstate some semblance of control back into our lives. As such, they may include unusual resources, where we're flying, jumping or leaping from one place to another, or perhaps feature a monster, mythical creature or celebrity who introduces special attributes and abilities.

Feeling stressed and overwhelmed may well, in our dreams, be represented by something that echoes our trapped, helpless, negative way of feeling. Unexpected skills and talents may well appear to provide solutions to often stuck situations.

But, there are ways that support better sleep if you're experiencing weird dreams;

- Establish a positive daily routine. Order is an important contributor to feeling in control. Get up at a regular time, shower, get dressed, work, stay hydrated. Some people find that making a list is a useful discipline. Even if new things crop up you’ve a plan of action with which to start the day. Lists introduce order into your life and help you feel more in control.

- Exercise, especially in the fresh air, is important in relieving stress and supports better sleep and dreaming. Being exercised mentally and physically allows us to tire and feel ready to sleep. If there’s little opportunity to walk, maybe spend time in your garden or use one of the free online exercise classes which offer something for all abilities. Quizzes, challenges and stimulating conversation support mental exercise.

- Be vigilant about diet, including quality fresh fruit and vegetables. Cooking from scratch can be fun and provides an opportunity to catch up and converse with other family members. If you’re stressed, avoid the temptation to drink alcohol earlier each day, or consume too much coffee.

- Ration the time you spend checking the news or social media. Nothing significant is likely to have happened in the last hour so avoid constantly searching for updates. Start to focus on other, more positive ways to spend your time.

- Count your blessings. There may be much to be concerned about, but worrying won't change that. Focus on what you do have; discover benefits, gratitude and positives throughout each day and notice your stress levels gradually lessen. Helping others can also provide a way to feel good and remind yourself of your good fortune.

- Allocate specific time to work and be productive. Set up a work station for work or study. Switch off at a reasonable time each day and wind down. Maybe commit to learning a new skill, foreign language, practice a musical instrument, read or enjoy craft work. Treat yourself to important me time.

- Keep in contact with others. A phone call or online group can be a pleasant way to share advice or discuss how you're feeling, especially if you're alone. Keep in touch and maybe send a 'thinking of you' card to someone who's on their own. And many business owners are finding that by being more flexible they're able to build good relationships with customers and continue trading in a more personalised way.

- Record your successes and achievements each day and schedule rewards. A leisurely bath, walk or pamper session are important ways to relax, manage stress and invest in a good night's sleep.

Lockdown has been an unprecedented time. Be gentle with yourself and work towards achieving a more positive mindset. Doing this supports a better night's sleep, with consequently fewer weird dreams.

Susan Leigh, counsellor, hypnotherapist, relationship counsellor, writer & media contributor