You go through a stressful, regular day at work. Maybe you're handling angry clients or a tall stack of paperwork. You get off at work, go through your usual nighttime routine, and now you're in bed. Dozing off into sleep.... and then you start to experience a Déjà vu moment: your dream is a replica of the stress you experience throughout the day.
In Markham Hied's article, Why You’re Having Weird Dreams During the COVID-19 Pandemic, he mentions the theory of how our dreams are a replay of the stress we experience throughout the day when we are awake. The theory discusses that due to frequent questioning and analysis of every task we have on our to-do list, our brain is constantly working to memorize and dissect each piece of information that we concentrate on. In other words, the more we overwork ourselves, our brain subconsciously does the same and thus throws our dreams into a wild ride that relives the trauma or stress.
In order to take control of your dreams to the best of your ability, Hied suggests checking in with yourself emotionally, physically, and mentally throughout the day. Taking breaks to relax and calm yourself, gives your mind the time it needs to recharge before processing another load of new information from your daily tasks.
Make sure you're eating properly and healthy by cutting down the coffee or alcohol, especially when it's getting closer to bedtime. Studies have found that the lingering effects of coffee, a stimulant, and alcohol, a depressant, can have a significant effect on your body even during sleep. Simulants and depressants have opposing influences on one's blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate, which may affect how restful your sleep can be.
Try out different behavioral or habitual routines throughout your day and document the changes you make, as well as the effects from the changes if you notice at the end of the day. Take time to sit down and reflect if there are any underlying, repressed stressors that could be causing your body to involve your mind in an uncontrollable ride of anxious dreams.
While the dreams we have are not typically in our control, unless you are a successful lucid dreamer, the activities and behaviors we engage in throughout the day are items we can regulate. Experiment with adding more positive, restful habits or breaks throughout the day and reflect on how your body/mind responds to it.
Soon you will be happily dreaming again!