In mid-April, after a month in self-isolation, I woke up from one of the most bizarre dreams I have ever had. It had a complicated plot involving a diner where I became a part of a time travel conspiracy and joined a cult. I then participated in a mission to rescue a herd of dolphins from the back of a semi-truck and fought a battle with wetsuit-clad pirates on an old-fashioned ship in a swimming pool.
It was not a singular incident. During self-isolation, I have regularly experienced vivid, strange and stressful dreams that are an extreme departure from past experience. I have dreamed of everything from angels and demons having a war in my high school gym, to having my dorm transformed into a fancy hotel room.
This strange dream phenomenon is not unique to me. I recall texting with some friends when one person asked if we had also been experiencing weird dreams during quarantine. This encouraged the whole group to recount stories of strange things they had dreamed of and share screenshots from Twitter and Instagram posts discussing similar experiences. I was relieved I was not alone but troubled by the implications of this apparently fairly common ordeal. I have come to believe that crazy quarantine dreams are a reflection of feelings caused by the compounding issues that impact our daily lives, like living through a global pandemic, the election, fires and even schoolwork.
We do not fully understand why we have dreams or what they do for us. There are few concrete answers and many theories; some argue that dreams encourage creativity, help store important memories or assist in processing emotions. I believe that dreams are reflections (albeit confused and distorted) of our lives, thoughts and feelings, being processed by our sleeping brains. The past few months have been incredibly stressful and have raised feelings of despair, alienation and fear. Deprived of everything from social interactions to feelings of safety during our waking hours, it is unsurprising to me that all these intense feelings are leaking over into our dreamtime psyches.
Strange quarantine dreams also impact our waking lives. My dreams often wake me up in the middle of the night in a daze of fear, confusion or stress. Instead of the occasional bad dream, these are happening all the time for me during quarantine. Issues with sleep, such as waking up in the night and not completing sleep cycles, can cause problems that ripple outward through people’s lives. Increased fatigue, mood problems and difficulty with focus and memory can be side effects for people who have dream experiences similar to mine. For college students who are often already stressed, issues with sleep worsened by bizarre dreams can begin to have impacts on students’ academic and personal lives.
Though many LC students have returned to campus, we are all still coping with the difficulties of being so removed from one another. As we ease cautiously into this semester, we will continue to deal with feelings of anxiety and confusion caused by the changes around us. I think that for those of us whose dreams in isolation are so clearly impacted by these stressors, we might not be able to shake the weird dreams nor their ill effects during such uncertain times. However, it is meaningful that we are not alone in this as we continue to try to understand and cope with the ever-increasing uncertainties and issues in our lives.