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The Meaning of Your Strange Dreams

Shmuel Fischler, LCSW-C · August 19, 2020

If you are like millions of other Americans, you have been experiencing strange dreams during the pandemic and turbulence of 2020. You also might be wondering what your dreams mean. Entire industries have been created around dream interpretation and meaning, but is there any truth hiding behind your dream about wandering around a grocery store with a chicken on a leash?

Why Do We Dream?

Dreams occur during specific stages of your sleep cycle, and they are most prominent during REM sleep. When we sleep, our brain is surprisingly active cataloging and storing memories. Researchers know a lot about why sleep is so critical, but dream science is much more mysterious. When we are awake and thinking, our thoughts typically happen in a logical fashion. The same is not true of our dreams! Strange dreams can contain things that have never happened to you, that couldn’t happen or that have no basis in reality.

What Influences Your Dreams?

A wide range of factors can influence the dreams that you have at night. Nightmares, for example, are more likely to happen when you are experiencing increased stress, going through an emotional situation or even taking a different medication. Many researchers think that dreams are influenced by things that happen in our daily lives, and that they are a way for us to deal with emotions, process memories and think about information that we learned during the day. Some studies have found that almost half of the characters in dreams were recognizable by name, and that our dreams often contain things directly related to our daily lives. For example, pregnant women are more likely to dream about childbirth and pregnancy than people who are not pregnant.

Do Strange Dreams Mean Anything?

There’s been an uptick in people wondering if their strange dreams mean anything, or if they are just a byproduct of these uncertain times. Some doctors think that dreams are a type of self-therapy, where we work through our feelings and process experiences during sleep. High levels of stress can cause more REM sleep, which can lead to a greater number of dreams and more vivid dreams than usual. The contents of your dream might not mean anything by themselves, but they could indicate that you are trying to process a traumatic event, stressed out or merely coping with a change in routine.

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https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2009/2009030.pdf